Future of Car Customisation Software Conference
Careful! This post is looking a little old and could be inaccurate in many, many ways
Well the event that I have been looking forward to for the past two months has ended, and overall the experience has been a good one. As I’ve posted previously I will try to answer some of the questions most newbie’s have about conferences as well as going through my own experiences in as concise a manner as I can:
Wednesday 16th April
Attending the after parties were the one part of the conference I dreaded the most. The ability to network and speak in such an environment is a difficult job for me; I fully expected to arrive, make use of the free bar and leave after an hour, having maybe tried to approach people. When I arrived simply stating the name of the conference granted me entry (so anyone else reading the FOWD blog could have easily attended for free). After a few minutes stood in the corner nursing a drink I was the approached and managed to hold down a not totally boring or techie conversation. With someone to speak to the night went well, with more people coming up for a chat.
Thursday 17th April
Arriving at the Conference
With the hotel close by I was easily able to arrive at the conference to register in plenty of time, really too much time. As with most things of this nature a lot of people turned up to register with little time before the start of the conference. In this case arriving 20 minutes before the start of the conference would ensure you little or no queuing
9.00 – 9.10 Welcome Note – Paul Boag
I did actually miss the start of this due to poor time keeping and trying to find a seat, however I don’t think I missed a great deal.
9.10 – 9.50 Finding Inspiration for Design – Patrick McNeil (Design Meltdown)
This was a good start to the day, the session was not too taxing and went through fairly standard methods of finding inspiration, although categorising them for easy digestion by 850 hungry web types. Between advertising utilising his own website (Design Meltdown) to talk about his own experiences in finding inspiration, Patrick also covered his views on current and future trends of web design. This turned out to be the only mention of specific trends through the conference day.
9.50 – 10.50 User Experience Vs Brand Experience – Andy Clark (Stuff and Nonsense) & Steve Pearce (Poke)
Essentially this session was intended to show how the brand experience (design) and user experience (programming & interaction) are not competing ideals. I don’t think this idea is anything new but the speakers and their presentation made the session more interesting than the subject. The highlight here had to be Steve Pearce’s use of hand drawings in his presentation rather than textual slides.
10.50 – 11.00 Microsoft Session – Benedict Ireland (Splendid)
This session, taking place later in the day, was possibly the disappointment of the day. Luckily only a 10 minute session the presentation was essentially a showcase of the Aston Martin car configuration website. The idea of car customisation software became a running theme through the day with mention in Adobe session and Jon Hicks hopes for creating a chesse configurator. Other than a passing mention of the site utilising Silverlight there was no other information on the software. Although in most people’s view allowing sponsors to talk at these events may be devaluing the conference to me it was the blatant ‘sales pitch’ nature of the session rather than being given useful information about the product that disappointed me.
11.40 – 12.20 Designing the User Experience Curve – Andy Budd (ClearLeft)
After the break Andy started the session slowly but he soon gathered pace to present one of the better sessions of the day. A lot of the time we take little consideration of the user experience and at times do not think about the language and presentation of feedback or the learning curve of new users. This session provided me with a lot to think about in how to improve the user experience and the user’s emotional feeling to a site.
12.20 – 1.00 Getting your Designs Approved: 12 Simple Rules – Larissa Meek (AgencyNet)
This session is the one I was most looking forward to. As well as knowing about Larissa through her blog the issue of getting designs approved was one that had great relevance to me. Larissa competently ran through her 12 rules, all I think which are valid ideas, although I think they apply in varying degrees for different agencies and clients. One rule that I especially took notice of was that of submitting only one design direction to a client. This actually helps the client a lot and confirms the process I actively undertake, which previously I thought was an uncommon practice.
2.00 – 2.30 Photoshop Battle – Jon Hicks and Elliot Jay Stocks Vs Hannah Donovan and Jina Bolton with commentary by Andy Clark
As Paul Boag alluded to; the first session after lunch is commonly known as the graveyard shift, and they certainly didn’t have anything of great worth for this session. The premise was for two teams of two designers to take it in 5 minute turns to work through a design in Photoshop while the other team had a beer and a friendly chat with Andy Clark. The interview section was good as it allowed the audience more insight into the speakers themselves. The Photoshop section really had little purpose other than to poke fun at Andy Clark. There was no commentary of the use of Photoshop, however not many advanced features were used, the final piece was not greatly applicable to the web and the final piece, due to the time constraints, was not of a high quality. This session really just served its purpose of being a bit of fun and light entertainment. I think next year they should consider making more of the interviews, as this would be a more worthwhile session while not being too taxing for the graveyard shift.
2.30 – 2.55 Print is the New Web – Elliot Jay Stocks (Carsonified)
I must admit that using print design as inspiration for web design is nothing new, however Elliot is a good speaker and takes the subject further than that of just print design by talking about the narrative in standards based web design rather than just in Flash where narrative is more common. One comment Elliot makes is that impressing is done by brave design not by good design, something I think all designers should recognise.
2.55 – 3.45 From Design to Deployment – Jon Hicks (Hicksdesign)
As Jon mentions at the start of this session, he was pretty much going to teach us to suck eggs. In the most part this is exactly what he did as splicing a design into XHTML and CSS should be the jobs of most people at the conference. However it was good to see the methods that someone as highly regarded as Jon Hicks takes in this process. In parts I think Jon took a fairly standard, clean line in the methods he took but he did talk through some interesting ways to deal with older browsers which I will definitely be investigating for my own projects.
3.45 – 3.55 Adobe Session – Andrew Shorten
This is another sponsor session, and certainly beats the Microsoft session. Although this again is very sales pitchy it did not allude to be anything else and actually gave more useful information about the software than that in the Microsoft session.
4.30 – 5.10 Unconventional Way to Promote your Site – Paul Farnell (Litmus)
As the late afternoon sessions began the conference moved on from designing and building of websites and into the methods of promoting them. However in this case Paul stayed clear of the conventional processes that everyone at the conference should be aware of and instead focused on different ways of promoting a web site. Some of the methods Paul spoke of were easier to grasp than others, but he certainly taught me some new things, although some may not be so easily transferrable to the projects I do it is still good to have awareness of what is available.
5.10 – 5.50 Evolving the User Experience – Daniel Burka (Digg & Pownce)
I think everyone knows that you must constantly evolve a website to keep the worth the website has. Daniel however goes into good detail with experiences he has had at Digg and Pownce of how he and his team have approached adding, changing and removing features through the evolution of a website. Daniel certainly made me think more about the user of a site and what the worth of things to a user. He explains well how to deal with launching new features to a site and to never take drastic action to feedback received.
Paul Boag closes the conference, mentions the after party and everyone leaves.
Unfortunately I did not attend. The combination of the long day of learning and lack of sleep the night before meant I was just too tired to go through the meet and greet all over again. I did however hear that unlike the previous night the free drinks were limited and once the music rose to unsociable levels the majority of conference speakers moved onto different locations.
Friday 18th April – Workshops
Morning – Professional Photoshop Effects (Elliot jay Stocks)
This workshop was incredibly useful in picking up tips and tricks of how to use Photoshop. Elliot focused a lot on grunge techniques which is obviously a rather common trend in the web at the moment. As well as leading us through a couple of projects he has written about for .net magazine, one of which has yet to be published he also led a discussion about how we take a common web 2.0 design and break it to great something that is more unique without having to concern too much with usability at that point. This was obviously a method of trying to get people to think a little bit differently when constructing websites. Elliot is without doubt a good speaker able to speak clearly about what he knows and confident enough to say he doesn’t know about a subject when he does not, this I something I like as I feel many people try hard to create the impression they know everything when they do not.
Afternoon – Web Design-isms (Larissa Meek)
This session was possibly more for the art fans as Larissa began by going through a brief history of art to set a scene of how trends develop through art, and how the same can be applied to the web. This developed into Larissa running through seven different design-isms. For each ‘ism’ Larissa explains their identifiable features, benefits, disadvantages and websites that fit the ‘ism’. The majority of the workshop was taken up by working through each ‘ism’, afterwards however Larissa talks through some Photoshop techniques that she feels will grow in the future. Larissa is also a good speaker, able to confidently communicate her ideas. Larissa unlike Elliot made heavy use of PowerPoint presentation slides throughout most of her workshop, reading off most slides, but did expand on the information on the slides.
Overall I think the conference was very worthwhile. I think it is unrealistic to think that all the information presented will be some great revelation that you have not come across before, as that is unlikely to be the case. Also I think you cannot just go to these conferences to network, there are better and cheaper ways of doing this. What I think the conference is good for is to learn about different processes that you may not have come across before, and also learn the methods that other designers use that you may be able to take into your own work. I will certainly be putting a lot of the information I’ve learnt into practice and this will hopefully improve the work I produce.