#FOWD Day One Review

This is my first year at Future of Web Design so I was unsure what to expect but secretly I knew it’d be pretty awesome. What a learning experience.

Below is a bit of a brain dump so I don’t forget, but I think everyone can benefit from these notes – the ideas were so strong they can persist through my writing!

Here’s what I’ve taken away from today:

Transforming ideas into Interfaces

Aarron Walter kicked off with an inspiring talk on independent ideas.

I picked up many practical snippets, the biggest being “sketchboarding“. This is a combination of mood boards, sketchbooks and wireframes. It’s biggest value – allowing others to see where projects are progressing and give their input. It’s a very visual and creative approach that puts ideas on paper.

I’ve never been much of a wireframer and that’s because my design process has been too isolated and linear. Aarron showed us many ways to prototype and fork ideas. The key being to get ideas onto paper, storing them on a shelf for later if needed.

Generate, incubate and evaluate.

Intrigue Me: Writing Compelling, Credible Content

For the second talk I switched to track two with Stephanie Hay. My biggest focus in the last few months has been to bring content back to the heart of my creative process. Stephanie’s talk was very valuable in understanding good content.

Three areas were discussed - focus, credibility and consistency. Content needs to be meaningful to avoid raising unneeded questions, thus helpful; don’t assume the user knows what to do when arriving at a website.

This talk was superb because it really cemented the change in website strategy we’re focusing on at Base Creative. Revolving around good, meaningful copy right from the start. There were some neat tips such as reading content out loud, and scattering keywords so users who scan the page still find and understand key messages – not just for SEO!

Oh, and “log in” and “sign up” are two words ;)

10 Development Concepts Designers Should Know

Rachel Andrew gave insight from a developers perspective, particularly where headaches can occur and what questions often get left unanswered. One point that resinated with me was forgetting the “else”. We always design the expected flow, but what happens if an error occurs? Considering website design from a programming point of view can often lead to good user experience questions.

I understand a fair bit about development but how much do I actually consider things from that perspective?

Web Fonts: Type Choices & Type Use

Dan Rhatigan gave a very solid talk on web type. I wrote my Uni dissertation on “An Examination into the Significance of Legibility in Digital Typography“ so I didn’t make many notes. In all honesty though, with all the excitement of web fonts I’ve occasionally forgot the rending issues; they’re big. A lot of fonts just aren’t suited for screen pixel density.

Slide to Unlock

Sarah Parmenter took us through a newbies guide to iOS design. I was too busy listening to take notes but Sarah has a lot of experience and presented a very practical guide on what needs to be considered. Themes such as common sense, simplicity and focus on the main feature, content and inspiration were reflected in all of today’s talks.

The New Design Language

Dan Rubin hosted quite a deep talk about the industry’s vocabulary with a big call to define and refine the words we use for a better future.

He recognised where our words derive from. Whether related industries like print, or archaic language removed from everyday use (e.g. “scroll”). There was particular emphasis on words like “page” and “fold” that we’ve borrowed and have caused us nightmares because of misunderstanding.

Dan went on the explain why “Web” and “Responsive Design” were such good terms. He asked us to take responsibility and pay attention to what we’re saying, especially when it confuses clients. From this we can coin new words that will define the future design language.

Design language is something many of us don’t pay much attention to.

Making the New Design Language

Aral Balkan ended the day with likely everyones favourite talk – an energetic and very funny look at the dos and don’ts of user experience.

Users have an emotional reaction to objects and devices. They can make us feel stupid – likes babies – when we can’t figure them out, or like superman when they’re so simple they just work.

Don’t introduce errors where the old systems/practices had none. Respect the users effort and remember what they’ve told you. Speak human, have empathy with the user. Have character and personality. Instructions and warnings are not a design solution, they’re evidence of bad UX choices.

There’s a lot of common sense that gets lost in “design by committee”. Design is not a democratic process and great design is about saying “no” more than “yes”. It’s important to think outside the screen and consider the context and environment of the user. Focus on simplicity – think Google search as an example – complexity is something that happens but should be avoided. Don’t expose the complexity of your system to the user.

Above all don’t settle for mediocrity, don’t be evil.

End of Day One

First impressions of FOWD have been very positive. I’ll be back tomorrow and probably in future years! The format is intense and making a lot of notes is vital for remembering the real value on offer.

I’ve often wondered how useful a conference can be – we work in the web after all; how hard can it be to find new knowledge? The truth is we don’t go searching for ideas nearly enough. Conferences like FOWD present new thoughts with such clarity and depth that they’re invaluable experiences.

Hello again if we met today :)

If we didn’t, say hello tomorrow!


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