People & Places, Thoughts & Ideas

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Something Austin has that Houston lacks is a Russian restaurant. That’s one of the main reasons for my visits there—I need my fix of pickled herring once every six months. A week ago, however, the main reason for my—and several from Herring’s team—visit was the An Event Apart conference. The two days at the conference consisted of 12 exciting lectures by some of the most respected people in the Web world, as well as meeting other designers, developers and people simply interested in the field.

Some of the biggest take aways for me were:

  • Design with the user in mind. In the end, it’s not about the looks, but how effective the site is at delivering the right information to the user. As with any other form of design, if it’s gorgeous but fails to inform clearly and in a timely manner—it’s just meh.
  • The right pronunciation of “GIF” is still a very heated subject.
  • Do everything you can to make your site as light as possible. Nobody goes to a site to watch the loading animation. If your site is image-heavy, you could optimize your images using the free app ImageOptim. Choose your image formats wisely.
  • Don’t assume that your site will be used a certain way on a certain device and only by certain people. Make it fully accessible by everyone from everywhere.

That last point is probably the one that stuck with me the most. It was a common thread throughout all of the lectures. One speaker in particular, Eric Meyer, was especially good at delivering this message in a way we could all understand.

Through personal and other real-life examples, Eric illustrated that designers (think “design” in general, not just Web) and their clients sometimes lack the understanding of how people in different circumstances will react to their product. It would be a mistake, for example, to design a children’s hospital’s site thinking it will only be visited by calm parents of slightly sick children—the design we create needs to be as effective for people under distress. Empathy is the key!

Of course, there was much more to learn and enjoy at An Event Apart. More insights from Jon Thompson and Stephen Starr coming soon!

And yes, I did get my fix of pickled herring.