My highlights from this years Handheld Conf

My head is still buzzing from last weeks conference in Cardiff, another sterling event curated by Craig Lockwood. Held in the beautiful Wales Millennium Centre, Handheld upped its game from a small conference room in St Davids Hotel in its inaugural year to an amazing venue with 1200+ web professionals in attendance. It’s the largest web conference Wales has seen and one that didn’t disappoint.

Highlights included an interactive game of ‘Guess Who’, comical songs from Bruce Lawson on web standards, Jon Hicks & Andy Clarke delivering Ling Valentine on/off stage in a dalek, gymnastics, a male voice choir and the launch of a new indie Phone platform. And lets not forget the reason for going: a host of rich talks from industry leaders on all things handheld and web.

I can’t even begin to do the talks justice in a short blog post but I’ll sum up the key takeaways which had the most impact to me.

Responsive Design

One of the common themes of the conference was the business of responsive design. Andy Clarke and Mark Boulton both gave their views on the subject, drawing from their experience working with clients such as Al Jazeera, Cern and STV.

They highlighted that responsive design is not just the responsibility of the designer or developer but has an impact on everyone involved in a RWD project; from the way we sign off, the way the client is involved, how we should bill for work to how feedback should be given and encouraged.

The traditional waterfall workflow breaks in the world of responsive design. We have a medium that adapts, that can exist on the train in our hands, to the desktop in our office, to the television in our living rooms, to games console in the bedroom.

Our processes need to adapt too, this can really challenge the very fabric of an organisation, those that we work for and for us here at Zengenti, the talks at Handheld have re invigorated these conversations, exciting times.

Designing with Data

I hated maths at school; I did it because I had to, not for the desire to look at numbers or solve problems. But seeing numbers in nature (Fibonacci / Golden ratio), and data visualised is a completely different story. I’ve always been a fan of data journalist David McCandless’ work and the way he displays vast amounts of data in interesting ways.

I’ve heard the name Brendan Dawes across the web, probably from the days when I tried to learn ActionScript with Flash (yes I was one of them), but never really knew of his work until Handheld.

Brendan gave a humorous and interesting talk on how “Data is falling around us all the time”, this data needs poetry, we as designers need to add the poetry. Examples of his work included using references from nature to create interactive navigation, to Digital Portraits of twitter conversations during the launch of EE’s 4G network across 11 UK cities.

If you never thought numbers could be interesting, I dare you not to be enthralled by the Brendans work.

The Ten Commandments of Modern Web Design

Jeffrey Zeldman closed the event in terrific style with his ten commandments. I’ve noted them down as they provide a great reference.

  1. Thou shalt entertain - delight, entertain and surprise. Panic.com was given as great example of keeping content light and conversational with fun and playful imagery. Panic sell boring products, but they have solid following of active users.

  2. Test everything, even assumptions - websites and apps need to work in your hand, on your lap, or on your desk. He proposed making a test plan. More info can be found in his blog, Building The Happy Cog Test Lab.

  3. Thou shalt iterate - try lots of ideas, make lots of small changes. Zeldman quoted Milton Glaser who said, “I move things around until they look right”.

  4. Thou shalt ship - “If you can’t delegate at the pixel level, you’ll never ship” and if you never ship, you’ll never get paid.

  5. Engage thy community - without people your app is nothing. Good work isn’t enough if people aren’t engaged and enthusiastic about what you’re doing. Humanise your users, don’t alienate them. Be accessible; reply to criticism, praise and questions.

  6. Love thy user as thy self - don’t make assumptions about what people want based on their device. Make sure your content gets to everyone.

  7. Love your Content - get the right content to the right user at the right time. Allow focus on that correct content and avoid any cramming which can distract.

  8. Thou shalt make magic - don’t chase perfection. Instagram uploaded the photos in the background, so even though other parts of their UI weren’t perfect, this core piece of experience made up for other shortcomings, it was magical compared to other apps.

  9. Thou shalt prioritise - what ever you are working on, prioritise. Use services like GitHub or JIRA to track issues, new features, visualising the raft of ideas you may have into manageable realistic goals.

  10. To thine self be true - If you have perfection, leave it alone!

Remember: This is Design Not Religion.

In Summary

It was an extremely packed day, yet surprisingly I didn’t feel overwhelmed with the wide range of content that filled it.

It was announced that there will be no Handheld event next year, this is disappointing, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel: there may be other events under a different name. Fingers crossed…