Web Directions North – the nitty gritty

Day 0 – Workshop (Tuesday)

Attended Derek Featherstone’s – Accessibility 2.0 workshop, which ran all day. Learned a lot more about accessibility and got to see a few screen reader applications in action such as JAWS. Derek used several existing websites as examples of how certain features on the webpage could be improved upon, or have been improved vs. previous versions.

Learned several do’s and don’ts when doing webpage markup that will be read by screen readers. Touched on Flash accessibility, HTML 5, WAI-ARIA. Discussed user testing as something that should be done first, then followed by the technical testing.

Day 1 – Conference Day 1 (Wednesday)

Molly E. Holzschlag – WSI:Vancouver – Crimes Against Web Standards

A zany, laughter-filled talk by Molly showcasing the HTML markup hijinks she freely confessed to doing during the early days of the Internet. Hilarious video cameos by Eric Meyer and others featured in her talk of their transgressions, followed by confessions by several people in the audience of similarly heinous crimes.

Design and Coding at the cutting edge

Originally to be hosted by Doug Bowman and Cameron Moll. Due to unfortunate circumstances Doug wasn’t able to make it, so Tantek Çelik stepped in to do a talk about microformats in Doug’s slot.

Cameron Moll did his talk entitled “The Disciplined Designer”. Touched on several major points, which seemed to me like he was discussing what the current trends appear to be for web designers. Prevent rather than fix. Draw inspiration from all things. Design to embrace mobile. Context is king. Forget WML, think XHTML. Give back as much as you can.

I’d heard about microformats but it took Tantek to really help illuminate the possibilities of what you can do with these open data formats. And I also learned new things about microformats. Did you know, for example, that the resumes you build in the networking website LinkedIn use the hResume microformat?

Transcendent design with Javascript and CSS

A very cool session by Andy Clarke and Aaron Gustafson about CSS and Javascript, with some examples from Andy’s new book Transcending CSS: The Fine Art Of Web Design. Saw some tantalizing examples of CSS3 in action, or what the examples would look like in a CSS3 compliant browser (such as multi-column support).

Accessibility in the design process

The very first “wireside” chat I’ve ever been to, and it was a fun one, held by Joe Clark. He used the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) website as an example of how accessibility can be included in the design process using 5 steps: observation, ideation, evaluation, refinement, and presentation.

Day 2 – Conference Day 2 (Thursday)

Designing for Lifestyle

Great keynote session to kick off the day by Kelly Goto. Touched on how design has influenced us differently over time. Practical vs. emotional experiences with products across different interfaces, such as web and mobile.

Web Apps 2

A joint talk by Paul Hammond and George Oates. Discussed the relationship between web designers and web developers. Cooperation and communication between a designer and developer is important. Flickr was touched on as an example of the relationship between developers and users, through the use of the Flickr API. Also discussed geotagging images.

The Design Process

A fun, informative talk by Dave Shea and Veerle Pieters about the workflow and design processes they use. They discussed in depth what each of them do when taking on new projects and how they interact with a client. They did a mock simulation of a client-designer interaction, from project inception to project completion of a website.

Closing keynote

Jared Spool discussed the concept of experience design. IPods, and Netflix.com were used as examples of successful experience design. What sets them apart from the competition in their industry? What factors are involved in successful experience design? Successful experience design is multi-disciplinary, is cultural, is invisible, integrates the user and the business. It also involves good communication, constant feedback, and most importantly, the right people on the design team.

Notes and presentation slides

Most of the speakers at the conference had presentation slides and have made them available for download. You can also go to the main Web Directions North home page for blog entries with detailed notes for several sessions.

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