Front-End Design Conference 2012

Earlier this weekend I attended the Front-End Design Conference in St. Petersburg, FL. I would never consider myself a designer, especially not in an aesthetic sense, but it was still worthwhile trip. Here are some of the points I took away:

Jason VanLue (@jasonvanlue) talked about Three-Pipe Problems, the concept of taking your design away from trivial concerns and into much larger problem sets. He asserted that design is about solving problems—whether it is making something easier to use, or to understand, or to relate to, etc. He told a good story about Louis Pasteur. While other scientists at the time were concerned with electromagnetism and blowing up stuff in labs, Pasteur picked a bigger problem: how to make milk safe.

Jason also made an assertion that I am still thinking about. Developers, by which he means coders, pretty much have Open Source figured out. They build something, they put it up on GitHub, another coder comes along and makes it better, etc. But designers can be overly protective about their work and are far less commonly found in the Open Source community. And yet, how many projects would benefit from the cohesive, professional skills of a good designer?

Giovanni DiFeterici had arguably the highest-class presentation, with a steady stream of fine art throughout. His talk was on Conceptual Design, and I’m oversimplifying it but it boiled down to this: pick a single, solid concept and stick to it throughout your entire project. Even if the concept seems silly or weak, the attention to detail that comes with the total commitment to the concept adds a great deal to the overall experience.

He also pointed us at Mark Hassenzahl’s paper The interplay of beauty, goodness, and usability in interactive products. I haven’t read it through yet, but a quick skim tells me it’s probably well worth an hour with a tablet and a few glasses of tea.

Sarah Parmenter (@sazzy) talked about considerations when designing for iOS. It wasn’t anything we don’t already teach in our Mobile Development program, but it’s always nice to hear someone in the industry saying the same things we teach. But she did make one assertion that I really liked: stop designing with placeholder content. Stop using lorem ipsum. Make your client get you real content before you start and your entire production process will improve.

Sarah, and a few others, also talked about the shift from designing web and mobile solutions as a single, solid whole. Instead, designers need to start thinking about the individual pieces and parts: “here’s just what the nav will look like; here’s just the footer”. Of course, those parts must still come together cohesively to build the greater experience, but the focus should be the parts first. This shift is coming at us from multiple fronts, and responsive web and cross-platform mobile are just two of them.

There were many more speakers, and I have a ton of notes, but these were just the few I thought worth passing along. It was a very well-designed conference and I would absolutely go again next year.

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Categorized as Web

By Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.