Tag Archives: theatre

An Event Apart, Boston 2008

Over the past two days I have been at An Event Apart in downtown Boston.  Just as I did last year, this two day conference provides an overview of the best of what is going on with web design and strategy today My batteries were recharged and I felt inspired. 

Two days of presentations and speakers saturated with useful information would be too much for me to recount in this brief format.  Instead, it would be better to read Jeffrey Zeldman’s post that includes several useful links.

Like most people who work in a group context, when I return from a conference, I am often asked to briefly summarize either the major point or even the top three points I took away.  At the Boston An Event Apart in 2007, I found myself contemplating Cameron Moll’s presentation, “Good vs. Great Design” most of all afterwards.  After working with arts organizations and non-profits for many years now, I have found myself thrust into areas of problem solving.   Moll’s presentation was particularly useful because it focused on how the articulation of the problem impacts the probability of finding a solution.  The essence of it was about the strategic approach to problem solving and how coming up with the most effective solution depends on whether the problem has been truly discovered and articulated.  To read more about how this impacts web design and strategy, I would recommend his article on A List Apart, “Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign”.

So, what did I take from the 2008 version of An Event Apart?

First of all, I was really interested in Jeffrey Zeldman’s first session “Understanding Web Design”.   I was pleasantly surprised to learn the results to hear him to present the findings of the 2007 Web Design Survey. The core of what Zeldman presented was how those who work on the web must, as a community, advocate for the respect the strategic integration of web technology in an organization.  To be more succinct, working on the web is a profession where the members have a significant amount of strategic knowledge they employ.  It’s not just about learning HTML or Dreamweaver just like a high school or college student. On doesn’t become an expert social media strategist by spending a lot of time on Facebook.

Yet cash-strapped arts and non-profit organizations are often obliged to  rely on the kindness of volunteers, unpaid interns, and high school students looking for community service hours.  Over the past few years, I have been wondering when things will change so that professional staff and resources for web strategy will become a commonplace priority for organizations of all sizes.

Secondly, I found three sessions useful under the subject matter of “Design Strategy, Process, and Inspiration” which included Jason Santa Maria’s “Good Design Ain’t Easy”, Doug Bowman’s “Design to Scale”, and Christopher Fahey’s “When Style is the Idea”.   I grouped these three session together because, to some degree, the content provides tension and contradictions.  They each provided a different lens or perspective on the idea that design as a problem solving, scalable, visually persuasive, and ultimately compelling experience for the end user.  Doug Bowman drew from his experience working for Google (and their strategic rules or guidelines for solutions) while Fahey discussed design inspiration and process (among other things!).  Jason Santa Maria was, as I’ve come to expect, inspiring and provocative in discussing how, oftentimes, design for the web hasn’t been as compelling a medium for storytelling as print. He believes we need to set goals for viewing web design as an art and hold our design solutions to that high of a level.

Last, I would group together Jared Spool’s session “The Scent of a Web Page: Five Types of Navigation Pages” along with Andy Budd’s “Designing the User Experience Curve” as “User Experience and Usability”,  I have always considered satisfaction and pleasure in a web experience a key component of usability so, for me, these two sessions had a natural synergy.  Too often, it seems usability is regarded as creating a bare-bones interface instead of creating developing a solution that is user-focused.  As with any usability insight I found  myself absorbing it—storing it for future use as part of the many ways to look at website effectiveness.  Learning Spool’s stats about “pogosticking”, searching, number of pageviews before an item is placed in a shopping cart, and linking strategies while also considering Budd’s storytelling of customer experiences in hotels, restaurants, and other stores reaffirmed my own beliefs in pushing for user research and storyboards.  The more user data that can be contributed to the design and development process, the more successful the solution will be.  And, as Jakob Nielsen has mentioned before in an AlertBox column, the potential ROI for non-profits from usability is quite high.

All in all, this was two days well spent.  Inspirational and informative—a good way to recharge batteries.  Catch An Event Apart if it comes to your town.

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