Smashing the Web Experience

Some of our Netcentric frontenders went to Smashing Conference recently. They share what they learned and the vital messages the speakers had to the audience.

Smashing Conference is an event for sharing resources and insight on web design and development, with quite a plethora of interesting and diverse speakers that thrive to make the web a better place. Subjects generally gravitate around design considerations, user interaction, web performance and insight/inspiration on how the web experience can be improved overall.

With a diverse cast of prominent speakers, the conference is sure to offer useful ideas and insights on how the web can be both more innovative and more efficient in delivering an engaging experience to the end-user.

Speakers like Jessica Svendsen, Stephen Hay, and Jen Simmons, challenged attendees to create more engaging designs, layouts and art direction for the web. Jessica provided insight into how unpredictability and innovation can be introduced into design. Stephen reminded us the importance of not losing the Big Picture. The advent of component-based design should not impede us from telling a unified and meaningful story: focus on what are we telling the viewers and how we are telling this story. Jen gave a glimpse of how new CSS features like Flexbox and the upcoming CSS Grid Layout can provide us with powerful tools to offer the web more innovative and engaging layouts.

Field specific tips and insights were offered by speakers like Val Head, Laura Elizabeth, Jonathan Snook, Adrian Zumbrunnen and Sara Soueidan. Val showed how web animations can be more meaningful. Laura spoke on the utility of Design Systems (Living Style Guides and Pattern Libraries). Jonathan spoke of CSS container queries and how they are necessity if we really intend to enable a fully responsive layout in a website made of a myriad of component combinations. Adrian Zumbrunnen spoke of Choice and the tools we have available to properly design a User Interface in order to improve user experience and influence user behavior. Sara had a revealing glimpse into the redesign of the Smashing Magazine website and the challenges that a developer may face when dealing with a demanding design requirements.

Hard data and great ideas were provided by Tammy Everts and Christian Holst. Tammy shared a wealth of information on web statistics and gave insight on which stats are the ones that require more attention, rather than facing the (inefficient) task of improving performance across the board. Tammy gave expert advice, backed with strong data, on which areas of the website require the most attention (like product detail and product information pages). Christian Holst performed a similar feat but focused on the Checkout Page. With years of professional counseling on all things e-commerce, Christian gave a wealth of information on how the Checkout Page can be improved and how Amazon is not necessarily the golder reference for checkout pages, a business that focuses more on the returning customer instead of the new customer might not be the best exemplar for different king of e-commerce site.

Maciej Ceglowski, John Allsopp, and Jeremy Keith gave many insights on the web as a whole, with an overarching perspective that we seldom consider when we are in the midst of the nitty gritty details that often demand our attention when developing for the web. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, John spoke on the importance of ‘going to where the puk is heading’ and how we can try to predict the future of the web by finding the technologies that have exponential effects on the present. Maciej offered developers a sanity check showcasing a wide collection of, bloated, overweight web sites and the potential dangers of an unchecked explosion of the Internet of Things, and thus entrusted us with the duty of making the web less bloated and more relevant. Jeremy gave inspiring insight on the origins of the internet, how it’s robustness and resilience changed the world and how this same resilience must drive the development of web apps and the web itself.

In the end, the Smashing Conference covered such a wide gamut of subjects and provided so much in techniques, inspiration and expert insight that we left the event being even more excited about our profession and with a doubled intent on making the web even better.