WebDevConf 2012

On the 19th of October I made the short journey to Bristol for WebDevConf 2012. I had attended the previous year and, as well as being one of the best value conferences around, always has a great blend of experienced speakers and new faces sharing their thoughts and opinions.

This year was no different, with a great range of talks from David Burton, Jack Franklin, Keir Moffatt, Shane Tomlinson, Syd Lawrence, Andrew Spooner and Robbie Manson. All of the talks had something to take away from them, but a few really stood out for me.

Keir Moffatt's talk on the Wild Wild Web was spot on in many respects, looking at how our industry shares many characteristics to those seen in the Wild West.

Pointing towards the pace of change, he remarked how Kickstarter and app development has created a gold rush of sorts, with many developers believing that creating a startup or app is the way to instant success. I agreed with Keir in this being somewhat of a fools gold; with every famous KickStarter project, there are hundreds more that aren't successful.

The point he touched on that resonated with me most was when he looked at how the web is evolving how people think, behave and interact - some of us are growing out of touch as this evolves, while children growing up now have this technology all around them. In my opinion, this will become increasingly important for companies targeting specific demographics and understanding their audience will become even more important than it already does right now.

Syd Lawrence's talk implored us to just get out there, learn by doing and just make some cool stuff with the tech at our disposal. Syd is the envy of many a web developer, as his job allows him to play around with new technology on a daily basis;and it shows. Iit was great to hear someone so clearly passionate about what he does.

He showed a number of examples of things he had made that didn't require much time to put together, but have led to bigger ideas or have been rebranded and sold onto clients. One such example is instac.at, the tech for which he has reskinned for a number of clients.

I won't talk about all of the things he showed off, but checkout the beer-o-phone, and Kinect Virtual Disco Deathmatch, all of which he put together to try out tech that he wanted to explore.

The last talk of the day can be a hard gig, but Robbie Mansun from FreeAgent absolutely nailed it with his talk on the power of Empathy. Robbie immediately comes across as someone who is hugely passionate about what he does, with a great deal of knowledge in the craft of great design.

I thought the content he covered was very thought provoking, touching on points around how we can ensure our sites consider empathy by speaking to users, ensuring feedback is easy, learning by testing and the correct use of personas. One of my favourite points from the talk was that design doesn't solve problems, as that presumes a definite solution. As there is no clear right or wrong, design should instead seek problems.

His final takeaways hit on the importance of documenting work better, so we can see the value of our decision making - using Fi showcases as an example of this to aspire towards. He ended by stating that if we want to do our best work we need to think about why; always start with the experience and work back to the tech, and this will in turn build more empathy in your work.

This rounded off a great day of inspiring and thought provoking talks. A big thanks should go out to Alex Older who again organised an excellent event - one which I hope to attend once again next year.