@media 2009

I volunteered for this year’s conference so I was there from 6am packing bags then later answering questions and just generally helping out where needed. I did manage to attend a few sessions so what follows is a brief review of my notes.

- BTW thanks to Patrick Griffiths for giving me the opportunity to help out. I’ve much enjoyed @media and hope Web Directions will continue the good work. Also, Hi to Rik Hepworth – thanks for lunch (and your very detailed blog posts)!

Walls Come Tumbling Down (Andy Clarke)

I didn’t manage to catch all of this presentation as it was the first of the day. No problem, as the Walls Come Tumbling Down slides and transcript are already online. Andy’s rigourous stance on professionalism and payment were back in this presentation. Quite topical during the econonic downturn. In his words “we own our skills and it’s up to us to protect them, not give them away”. He attacked the use of statics in the web design process, they allow the client to falsly assume a website will be pixel perfect across all browsers. Clients then expect this without expecting to pay for it. In his latest project working for New Internationalist he was able to create 30 template iterations within two weeks, all in the browser. Quite phenomenal. His point was that you’re designing an interactive system, not a page.

The Process Toolbox (Simon Collison)

Starting at the end, Simon finished his presentation stating that this is just the way his business has developed their processes, he made the point that anyone could’ve stood and spoken about their practices. In fact, he called for a platform to share business ideas. Something that I agree we’re lacking as I don’t think it comes naturally to many web designers.

His presentation is online in PDF format and there’s even a blog post. A beautiful set of slides and a very clear structure, the notes I took were as follows (it’s a good idea to read the slides for this to make sense):

  1. Project (foster online community; stakeholder workshops; bring in the audience; user personas)
  2. Collaboration (dialogue; develop skillset; struggling with egos)
  3. Audience Grouping & Methodology
  4. Project Methodology
  5. Roadmap (simplicity; content audit; strategy; features vs. requirements)
  6. Inspiring Creativity (Flickr pools; organic collaboration process; sit with people)
  7. Conventions (scratch CSS; ultimate packages; quality control; audience hierarchies; audience grouping model)
  8. Prototyping
  9. Single Focussed Design Path
  10. Conclusion

Icons for Interaction (Jon Hicks)

Another good looking presentation with lots of examples. Thankfully Jon collected a lot of these on Delicious. He talked about Favicons (and their pronunciation?) including the Apple iPhone specific 57 by 57px sized apple-touch-icon. He trumpeted McDonald’s work on nutritional logos (see the PDF). He also gave us some sites we might find useful like: Favicon support chart; IconFinder.net; FamFamFam; Inkscape, an open source vector graphics programme; AnimatedPNG.com, there’s an editor there.

A lot of what I found interesting were the off script comments. Like the statement that some browsers still come with the ability to resize text only (not images, so be careful thinking you can exclusively use pixels for layout).

Font Embedding and Typography (Mark Boulton)

A really interesting talk, so much so that I didn’t take many notes! Mark is a very passionate and intelligent speaker. I intend to get his book (Designing for the Web). Using the following diagram he explained the interplay between the different considerations of typography.

Diagram showing interplay between layout, colour, content, hierarchy, font, rhythm, language, typesetting and the grid.

Mark made the analogy that if content is the wine then typography is the wine glass. It shapes the content but doesn’t detract from the main event. In fact he advised that good designers have a collection of half a dozen ‘voiceless’ fonts that they modify for each project. Either way, with @font-face and other type inclusion methods coming, he predicts the next few years are going to be painful.

The Web Platform Just As It Is (Chris Wilson)

The first presentation I manged to attend on the second day (due to duties). The most interesting bits I took from this talk were about Internet Explorer, despite Chris making it very clear he’s no longer part of that team. For example, with the introduction of IE7, it took 18 months to convert 50% of users from IE6. This is slow compared to Firefox and Safari’s approx two months. In his estimation we have about 2 to 3 years before IE6 is small enough not to worry about (2012 then? *cringe*).

HTML5 for the Markup Agnostic (Molly Holzschlag)

The most entertaining session of the two days. Molly had to deal with several technical difficulties, but persevered and ended up poking fun at the HTML5 crew whilst also educating. I can see why she did it, HTML5 is still a point of great contention. See Bruce Lawson dressed as the HTML5 cowboy, answering some difficult questions and doing a good job in the public relations effort. I’ve personally steered clear of the ‘bloody battles’, as Molly puts it, so was pretty open to hearing. No opinion yet, that’ll come when I start converting my sites over. Although I can see where they’re coming from but I’m not completely convinced yet. More on this in a later post.

New Approaches to a Modern, Accessible Web (Robin Christopherson)

Always exciting and eventful to watch Robin speak. The last time I saw him was at @media2006 where technical difficulties hampered his presentation. Like a lot of web designers I think I’m not exposed to people using assistive technologies on the web nearly enough. So watching a clearly intelligent man get bamboozled by a screen reader combined with MS Windows and the web browser of your choice is an education in itself.

Robin demonstrated the pitfalls of badly thought out audible CAPTCHA. Sometimes the words spoken are unintelligable, this is especially problematic if the user has a cognitive disability. There are several ways around this. He singled out G3ICT as having good CAPTCHA. Apparently they use reCAPTCHA. He demonstrated Solona, ‘a service that provides CAPTCHA solution assistance for [the] visually impaired’.

Other items from Robin’s blitz through the accessible web were: Christian Heillman’s accesible YouTube player; NVDA – a free screen reader (from Australia); Opera FingerTouch; and Google’s insertion of links to their ‘Web 1′ (accessible) version of each of their products. Put a link to a reduced version of your web application as the first thing to find at the top of your page.

So that’s the end of my notes. Feel free to add more in the comments, I don’t claim that this is exhaustive.

Posted on Friday 24 July 2009.

Posted in @media, accessibility, apple, books, browsers (UA), creativity, css, design, development tools, google, images, iPhone, layout, politics, typography, usability | Add a comment »

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