Lost and FOWD

It’s that time of year again when a load of web designers converge to hear a little about what their future may hold.

Not a geek psychic fair (although there are plenty of predictions) but the Future of Web Design conference. After attending a couple of these previously I was in two minds whether to attend this year, but a crafty change of format changed that.

This year the conference was spread over two days (with one day of workshops preceding it) as opposed to the previous single day. Carsonfied, the organisers, also created a two track programme of presentations, essentially quadrupling the talk quantity from previous incarnations. As they say, quality is better than quantity, and luckily they didn’t scrimp on the quality. Here are some of my highlights.

Day One

Brendan Dawes – Play. Create. Destroy.

The day couldn’t have got off to a much better start than with Brendan. Everything from his experimental doodler presentation through to his “talk – action = shit” slide was engaging and interesting. He spoke of web designers’ obsession with rules and why, as an industry, we should loosen up, while at the same time saying that constraints are good. Although this seems contradictory, Brendan made it make perfect sense. We just need to push the boundaries occasionally and subtly to keep interest.

Aarron Walter – Emotional Interface Design

Who better to talk about adding character to design than the man behind Freddy. Freddy is the chimp that features on Mailchimp. Aarron was first to bring the quote “usable = edible” to our attention (it cropped up several times throughout the conference). You don’t go to a restaurant to simply eat edible food. Of course it’s important for it to be edible, but you want it to be delightful and pleasurable. There is no reason why a boring but perfectly usable form can’t have a bit of personality injected into it where appropriate.

Brad Haynes – Smart tips for wireframing

My first trip to track two of the conference, a setting that I preferred – smaller more intimate that seemed to draw the audience in more-so than the massive track one hall. Any presentation that includes a Bruce Lee quote – “the best style is no style” – is a winner in my eyes. What was great about this talk is that it qualified the wireframe processes that we use at Dusted. Brad highlighted the several ways of creating wireframes including low-fidelity and high-fidelity finishes, but also recommended a very interesting method of presenting designs when moving on from wireframes.

Day two

Bruce Lawson – HTML5 live demo

This was one of the only a handful of presentations that concentrated on the raw skills of web designers and certainly the only one that delved into the practical. Bruce used the example of embedding video directly into a page with HTML5. What it did highlight is that even with this technology, browser differences are going to, for the foreseeable future, make it hard work to include video with this method. This is down to fact that there isn’t one video format that all the browsers support,meaning that content creators will need to encode at least two different formats as well as possibly relying on a Flash-based fallback. However, Bruce did demonstrate what’s great about HTML5 – the semantic nature of the new elements available and the pliability of it. I’m not totally convinced that this loose approach to strict mark-up is necessarily a great thing though.

Aral Balkan – The art of emotional design

Aral gave, for me, the best talk of the conference. Back in the intimate track two room, he had just the right balance of humour, humility and information to just hit the mark for me, and it would seem the rest of the packed room. In fact he presented in a style becoming of his subject matter. Like Aarron previously, Aral spoke of going from usable to delightful – experience design rather than user experience. He discussed giving empathy to web sites and applications whilst avoiding the Microsoft Clippy approach.

Jon Hicks – Icon Design

This was a great guide to icon design with hints and tips for the season designer as well as the beginners. Jon walked us through his process showing the potential pitfalls as well as handy hints for creating better icons.

These are just a handful of noteworthy presentations and there were several others that inspired including Remy Sharp, Robin Christopherson, Dan Cederholm, Sarah Parmenter and Simon Collison to name just a few. Overall, Future of Web Design 2010 could possibly be one of the best conferences I’ve been to in recent years – and that has nothing to do with the fact that it was fully catered, I promise.

Take a look at these photos on flickr