An Event Apart: Boston 2014

May 14, 2014

An Event Apart is billed as “the design conference for people who make websites” and each year the experience exceeds expectations. The conference offers an opportunity for people who are involved in any part of the web design process to come together for knowledge sharing and networking. Sessions are led by everyone from industry visionaries to master practitioners, and give attendees from a wide range of disciplines plenty of food for thought.

This year’s Boston event offered an impressive lineup of industry heavy-hitters including Luke Wroblewski, Jared Spool, Kristina Halvorson, and of course, Jeffrey Zeldman. Responsive web design continued to take center stage with a number of sessions devoted to the topic.

Of particular interest was Dan Mall’s session calling out the need for more agility in the project structure and approach to the modern responsive website design process. His six-step process transforming a traditional waterfall to an agile working style highlighted the need for teams to overlap during the transition from user experience to design, and from design to development. He champions the need for functional areas to have:

  • More “together time”
  • Maximum involvement
  • Appropriate tapering
  • Focal points during the process

Mall also called for the need to break a responsive design project out into four manageable parts – plan, inventory, sketch, assemble. He challenged the traditional workflow of building pages one at a time and gave insight about building reusable components that can be put together to create many different page templates. Each part of Mall’s process includes specific tasks that, when assembled at the end of the process, create a successful final product.

Now that responsive web design has become the industry standard best practice, thought leaders like Luke Wroblewski are already looking to what’s next. Wroblewski focused on the present and future of responsive web design and noted that it is full of complexities, particularly as “the internet of things” means more connected devices with varying screen sizes and outputs. As we build future-friendly responsive websites, we’ll need to put thought into the user’s viewing distance, input type, and environment. To prepare for the future of designing for many devices, Wroblewski gives four tips:

  • Know Your Screen – Online time is screen time and increasingly mobile
  • Output – High resolution and widescreen, vertical media queries
  • Input – Support all inputs, communicate what’s possible
  • Posture – User’s viewing distance, environment, and more

Seeing the advances in responsive design over the next year will be interesting, and even more interesting will be hearing how far we’ve come and what’s in the future at next year’s An Event Apart.

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