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'Future Of Web Design 2009' conference - our review

00:00 on Wed, 6 May 2009 | Industry Comment | 0 Comments

FOWD 2009

 

Last Thursday Annette and I were up at the crack of dawn to attend this year’s Future Of Web Design conference (FOWD 09), which is an annual event brought to us by the lovely people at Carsonified in London’s Kensington town hall.  Each year they bring together leading figures in the industry to speak about the current trending subjects in their fields of expertise.  The events are always well attended by enthusiastic web designers and developers alike, keen to collaborate ideas and opinion regarding the web and how possible to better it.
 
The first presentation of note came courtesy of Jim Coudal.  He gave us an entertaining, “off the cuff”, insight into some of the creative processes that they employ to great success at his Chicago based design studio, Coudal Partners.  He explored (among other things) the idea of finding the constant within a creative problem and then determining the best combination of variables to go with it.  Jim also shared with us this very funny short film which plays on the common trait among web developers for a short attention span and their associated flux of enthusiasm.
 
Mark Boulton later gave a fantastic, thought provoking talk on the current state of typography on the web.  In a time where CSS workgroups and browser vendors are discussing how best to implement custom fonts into web pages; he was arguing that by having the restricted choice we currently face you are intrinsically helped into making a good decision.  The fontset universally available to web developers has been purposely designed for screen, ie. The kerning of the fonts has been set to work in small point sizes on high resolution monitors.  Opening up an unlimited amount of fonts (most of which will have been designed predominantly for print, and interestingly, to actually bleed into the paper) will do nothing to improve the web experience.  I for one very much agree with this viewpoint (and secretly share his dislike for sIFR too!)
 
The next presentation more than worthy of a mention was given by Robin Christopherson, Head of Accessibility Services of AbilityNet, who despite being totally blind is a daily IT/web user.  His talk was exceptionally enlightening and really outlined how vital good practice is when it comes to front end development of websites.  He was able to point out the good and the bad of everyday websites very acutely by demonstrating how he browses the internet with screen reading software.  It has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but it did really hit home just how important getting the basics right can be (such as alt tags, anchor text, heading hierarchy, content structure, access keys etc.)  He also expressed how he was increasingly favouring mobile versions of websites; chiefly for their conciseness, making it faster and easier to get to the latest/most popular content.
 
By far and away the most inspiring talk of the day for me came from Mike Kus of Carsonified.  He gave a brief lecture on the importance of good design in modern websites, underlining how the usability experience of a website can ultimately stem from making the correct initial design decisions.  The strength of his lecture however came not from what he said, but from what he showed us.  Each of his slides had been meticulously designed and were all beautiful individual works of art in their own right.  But to top it off he concluded his talk by running a screencast of his entire slide design process, condensed to around 3 minutes and to the sounds of Sigur Ros.  It was fascinating to witness the various incarnations of design he went through before arriving at his final slides, and also reassuring to know that even great designers don’t achieve the look they’re after at the first attempt!
 
Personally I found the day to be an overwhelming success and found a lot to take home from it, besides the complimentary eco-bag, journal, poster and Goodbarry t-shirt which were nothing short of awesome!  The speakers were largely all very good; and you may be glad to hear that audio files, slides and videos taken from the presentations are already starting to appear online and are well worth checking out.
 
I look forward to my next web development field trip, the Future Of Web Apps tour, which will be hitting Cambridge on June 2nd.  See you there?

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