A look back at the Smashing Conference NYC 2018

Designers, developers, and DJ Tobi?

A few members of Troy Web Consulting went down to New World Stages in Manhattan for a friendly, practical event for web designers and developers. Organized by Vitaly Friedman (Creative Director), Amanda Annandale (Event Manager & AV), Charis Rooda (Marketing & Social Media), Markus Seyfferth (CEO), Jan Constantin (Event Manager) & the good ol' Smashing family, the conference not only delivered some great food, but it also brought together developers and designers from around the world.

Map of the Smashing conference attendees

Map of the Smashing conference attendees

From producing progressive web apps to enhancing your creative process, the Smashing Conference was a two-day event packed with insightful information. Even better, if you couldn't make it to October’s NYC event, there are always upcoming events across the country and a number of useful articles on the organizer’s (Smashing Magazine) website.

MC and Smashing co-founder, Vitaly Friedman, introduced us to some amazing speakers who are experienced in the industry and were willing to share their successes, failures, and advice to better the community. We all came back with takeaways to share with the rest of the team and memories of some impactful presentations.

Encouraging clicks - How to encourage action without alienating people

Yes, every time you're on a website, there's someone out in the world who's working or has worked to get you to take some kind of action (sign up, register, purchase, etc.). Now, where do we draw the line drawn when it comes to persuading users? Too little an effort may leave your site unengaging and your users uninterested, but too strong an effort may leave you alienating your users and enabling their skepticism or frustration. A group favorite, Paul Boag (http://boagworld.com), an author, strategist, and experienced web designer since 1993 addressed this topic. His answer resonated with our Visual Designer, Tyler Flood.

Recalling the talk, Tyler states that "Trends in the industry have made consumers more cynical. People are now wary of the influences that guide their hands to do something they weren't planning on doing in the first place.”

Our Interaction Designer, Natalie Wysocki, made the connection with what Paul said to her own example: YouTube’s "Skip Ad" button. Did you ever notice that the button gets smaller right when it becomes clickable? Natalie admitted she has accidentally clicked on ads in the past by attempting to click the “Skip Ad” button too hastily.  This talk inspired us to do a little more digging to better understand where we, as a business, can draw that line between encouragement and alienation, and where we can recommend our clients draw theirs.

Yep, come back when you're done checking Youtube out for yourself…

Why we brand, why we buy?

Debbie’s Niece - "Why was Myspace so popular?"

Design Guru Debbie - "Uhhhh... I actually don’t know!"

Another favorite, Debbie Millman painted a picture of branding over the last 100 years to help us understand the impact it has on our day to day lives. She connected branding to everything from human evolution to behavioral rituals in an easy-to-follow way. It's no surprise that Debbie, the former President Emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), had been named by Graphic Design USA as one of the most influential designers working today and one of the most creative people in business by Fast Company.

In conclusion, and to answer her niece’s question, Debbie conjectured that Myspace was popular because we as human beings, love to be social and social media is like being social at scale.

"What I learned from Debbie is that although public sentiment may argue otherwise these days, people are still very social. As we developed technology that pulled our attention away from others, we developed social media as a means to stay connected while using that technology. We built these tools to connect with each other through our phones because we are social creatures, and we’re committed to connecting with one another.” - Natalie

Check out Debbie’s podcast "Design Matters" to learn some great insights as she interviews designers, artists and cultural commentators.

The Long Tail of Performance

Tim Kadlec, writer of 'Implementing Responsive Design: Building sites for an anywhere, everywhere web (http://implementingresponsivedesign.com/)', spoke on the unpredictability that happens when a browser takes over to deliver a page to the user. He shed light on issues with performance that many wouldn't even begin to think of.

“As the global marketplace on the web continues to exponentially expand, the need for web-based systems to scale is more critical than ever,” said Jon Briccetti, a lifetime developer and our CEO , “With the adoption of javascript and ‘serverless’ applications, there is an assumption that simply offloading the application to the browser is enough. But user expectations are too high and with a significant trend toward embedded multimedia into web interfaces everything needs to be optimized to create a compelling interface that will gracefully handle large-scale usage.”

The main takeaway we had is that we must take the extra time to focus on and optimize performance when creating even the simplest website. In doing so, we give the site its best chance at performing well in spite of unpredictable conditions.

Till launch do us part

Here's one idea: Bring the developers and the designers together

Dan Mall, a successful designer, and entrepreneur wants to do just that. He compares the current day development process trends to the old-school print advertisement process: the designer mocks something up, silently slips it under the printer’s door, and never the twain shall meet. Dan proposes that teams of designers and developers who communicate and better yet, collaborate, will produce better work than those who do not.

His suggestion to have designers learn enough code to maintain their own CSS stylesheet resonated with us. By doing so, the designer can engage in their craft and the developer doesn’t have to endure an over-the-shoulder back-seat pixel pusher.

Dan’s suggestion that the team not only collaborate better but also overlap their skills is a very valuable concept when looking at team involvement the way we do. Team members can contribute the most when they are engaged throughout all stages of the project’s life-cycle.  Below is a chart we use to demonstrate how our team members stay integrated with a project over time.

developer_designer_timeline_.jpg

Tactically, if team members can “overlap” their technical skills as Dan suggests, that collaboration can be exacerbated. Of course, the designers are smack in the middle so there is plenty of opportunities to develop more skills on “each side”. Since seeing Dan’s presentation, we've done more research on the topic and have begun discussing how best to optimize the processes we have in place.

What’s next...

How we can gain more from next year's conference.

This year our design team attended the event but really, the Smashing Conference is about both the design and build processes. Next year we will be sure to bring some of our dev team members as well. There were some good sessions this year on progressive web apps, serverless app configurations, scripted SVG animations and other more hard-core developer-oriented content that we know our dev team would love to sink their teeth into.

Smashing Conferences strive to support the improvement of the design and build process for the web. The Troy Web team brought back some great tips to increase productivity and strengthen the process between our designers and developers. Our Senior Technologist and Designer, Lauren Abbott said it best, “The whole idea of the Smashing Conference is "Not drawing the line between design and development”.

And we couldn’t agree more...

Besides, why draw a line when you can rock out with DJ Tobi?

DJTobi.gif

This years' speakers were extremely informed and eager to share their knowledge. We were impressed with the insights they offered and urge you to check out their full bios and the videos of their talks on the Smashing Conference NYC 2018 page (https://smashingconf.com/ny-2018/).