After visiting the Future of Web Design last year, I thought I’d attend again this year taking my trusty sidekick Jack along for the ride this time. Once again it was a very interesting day with top-quality speakers.
The format was almost identical to the previous year’s offering (right down to identical main sponsors), but I felt the spread of topics was ever so slightly better with subjects such as design inspiration through to getting sign-off. Even the sponsor spots felt a little less trite with Adobe showcasing Flex via a “Is it Flash or is it Flex?” quiz and a real-world demo of what Microsoft’s Silverlight is capable of. That was the first of many car customisation tools on show that day.
Things got off to a great start with Patrick McNeil’s presentation, Finding Inspiration for Design. He’d categorised sources into two neat packages — direct and indirect. It was pleasantly refreshing at times with references to classic art and altering your mental perspective showing that there is always a different way to approach a design problem. Patrick also nailed the current trends, but his future trends predictions were a little on the safe side (pale colours and video). But if predicting future trends was easy we’d all be millionaires… maybe.
Next up was Andy Clarke and Steve Pearce with their User Experience versus Brand Experience which ended up (almost by their own admission) being more like User Experience versus Brand Experience as it would seem the conclusion is that the experience is king. It’s very rare that the brand experience flies in the face of the user experience and almost in every instance a good user experience enhances the brand experience. This was pretty much the crux of this discussion.
Following on with the theme of experience, Andy Budd was up next to talk about designing the user experience curve. He tied in, rather neatly, real-world experience with online experience, drawing parallels with a hotel visit, muesli and (the default conference example of) the iPod with online experiences. For example, it’s the little touches in life that make an experience memorable and pleasant (like a doorman hailing a cab, or the bar staff remembering your drink) and, as web designers, we should be including these in our online worlds. This could be as simple as having form validation that is a little more intelligent than just telling you you’ve missed a field.
Next up was Larissa Meek to talk us through her tips for getting your designs approved, including how to deal with subjective opinion and how to explain non-interactive visuals amongst other design speed-bumps.
After lunch and an amusing bout of Photoshop
Tennis Battle (which ended with the sun shining out of Andy Clarke’s behind) Elliot Jay Stocks was up with his controversially titled presentation “Print is the New Web”. He spoke about getting inspiration for web design from the offline world. Seeing that at Dusted we are often creating integrated communications, the inspiration from across the media happens almost naturally here as we create solutions for clients simultaneously across the media. However it was interesting to think about the difference in terms of the restrictions and freedoms that apply to the different areas and the possibilities of reversing these. So for example, using large areas of white-space online — typically a no-no.
Paul Farnell’s talk on unconventional ways to promote your site was, for me, one of the most interesting of the day. Once he’d established the conventional methods he went on to talk about some interesting alternatives focussing on satellites and communities. Whilst satellites is mainly for those selling an actual software product the communities aspect could apply to any business. The idea is to get involved in communities that revolve around your business and be active and helpful within that community. Alternatively you could create your own community if a relevant one doesn’t already exist.
Overall, this felt better than FOWD ’07 with less emphasis on individual speakers showing off their latest work and more emphasis on thought-provoking opinion. It certainly wasn’t made worse by the continued support of Microsoft (and their Xbox 360s) as I’m sure Jack will testify to!
- Web Design.