Web Directions North – a Review

Day 1

Keynote – Crimes Against Web Standards

Molly Holzschlag

Showed examples of bad markup. Had several people stand up and confess their own crimes. Included some funny short videos from Eric Meyer. A great way to start the day.

Session 1 – Design and Coding at the Cutting Edge

Cameron Moll, Tantek Celik (in place of Douglas Bowman)

Cameron Moll discussed coding standards, and a bit about designing for mobile devices. Talking about being a “disciplined designer” rather than a jack of all trades. Web pages should be easy to read, easily scannable.

Tantek introduced microformats such as hCard, hCalendar, hResume, and showed how they can be converted to a format suitable for computer applications. For example, hCard can be converted to a vCard, which can easily be added to an address book. In much the same way, an hCalendar can be “subscribed to” with a calendar app. Microformats use specific markup (still (x)HTML), with specific class attributes to identify as microformats. Can be styled the same as HTML, since it is HTML.

Lunch

Up on the 19th floor, the (rotating!) Vistas Restaurant. I didn’t even know it was a rotating restaurant until I got up to get a drink, and saw the doorways had moved! Started with a harbour view, but it was very foggy so couldn’t see much. At the end of lunch, we were looking towards downtown.

Session 2 – Transcendent Design with JavaScript and CSS

Andy Clarke, Aaron Gustafson

Demonstrations of the power of combining scripts and stylesheets. Scripts ideal to ENHANCE functionality of a site, not to replace it (site could be unusable with scripts disabled). Scripts should not be used for appearance – better have a good reason! Styles are for appearance. One example was using JS to slowly expand/collapse – and fade in or out – an FAQ item when clicked. Without JS, items would be fully visible from start. Another was where a list can be styled such that part of the list item (text, link) shows in a visible list, where another part of the same item (image) would be positioned elsewhere on page. Hovering link would highlight/border/expand image, and vise versa.

Keynote – Accessibility in the Design Process

Joe Clark

Joe shows why it is better to have accessibility in mind while designing and building a website, and not just add it on afterward. More to accessibility than colours or font size…Page layout, works without JS/CSS, reasonable form elemnts (shown was a VERY long scrolling dropdown list of items), etc. Primary example was a website for a Toronto Transit route planner.

Reception

Had dinner. Met people, talked with people. Adobe paid for the drinks!

Day 2

Keynote – Designing for Lifestyle

Kelly Goto

Kelly went over subjects such as designing and building for mobile devices (tying in somewhat to Cameron’s discussion), and using current, open standards.

Session 1 – Web Apps

Paul Hammond, George Oates

Paul started by discussing backend development. Likened a layered application to a trifle: one single layer is only accessible from the layer above (if any), and is the only one that uses the layer directly below (if any). Each layer is specialized, and serves one overall function. Layers are web (fruit), styles (cream), page logic – or templates (custard), application logic (more fruit), and database or data store (cake). Another interesting point was the use of templating languages, such as Smarty and PHP.

George talked about front-end developing, including subjects such as usability and navigation. Used previous work on Flickr in examples. Neat to see real examples.

Lunch

Again, in the Vistas rotating restaurant. Slightly less foggy this time around.

Session 2 – The Design Process

Dave Shea, Veerle Pieters

Together they discussed the working environment, communication issues, ways of getting inspiration and recording ideas (sketchbook…). Unfortunately the session ran out of time, and some things were left uncovered.

Keynote – Experience Design

Jared Spool

Jared showed numerous examples of bad design, or bad communication, on webpages. Very funny – a great person to fisnish the conference.

Conclusion

Web Directions North was my first conference, so I was a little unsure of what to expect. But, having been there and done that, I can say it was a great time. Sat in on some really interesting sessions, met plenty of people, enjoyed the hotel food, did some sightseeing in Vancouver. A great outing.

I’ve got some photos in my web photo gallery, if you’re curious.

I’ll look forward to future opportunities to attend other conferences…Perhaps a Web Directions North 2008…?