WebVisions Conference: “Explore the Future of the Web”

As an agency we at Roundarch Isobar pride ourselves on bringing digital innovation to our clients. Through our own work and research we strive to push the boundaries of what is possible in a digital experience. In an effort to learn and share new stories of user experience excellence, I was lucky enough to recently attend the WebVisions conference in Portland, OR.

The WebVisions conference is dedicated to exploring the future of design and development for the web. I attended 14 sessions over 2 days, and left feeling energized by the breadth of creativity and collaboration on display.

While eschewing the typical conference approach of themes or tracks, WebVisons prefers an Indie/DIY approach that allows attendees to sample topics from across a wide spectrum of disciplines.

That said, I did group the sessions I attended into two overarching categories:

  1. The Internet of Things
  2. The Maker Movement

The Internet of Things

There were several sessions on the power and possibilities of self-aware objects made achievable by recent innovations in sensor technology in terms of both size and cost. Carla Diana of Smart Design delivered a keynote address on how to make meaningful design decisions with the Internet of Things (IoT). Her advice was to focus on the person using the product. In her opinion, the goal is to have IoT devices act intuitively to assist the user without being asked. She described the current state of the IoT as, ?throwing spaghetti at the wall.? There are many individuals and companies experimenting with sensors to see what sticks; what has value to people for daily use.

The Maker Movement

As somewhat of a late attendee to the Maker Movement party, I was amazed at the amount and variety of objects that are being created and/or customized. Mark Frauenfelder, a co-founder of the Maker Faire and Editor-in-Chief of Make Magazine delivered a keynote address on the history of the maker movement, and the new technologies that are making it possible. In broad stokes, he argued that in the 1800?s everyone was a maker because they had to be. People had to build and maintain their own tools since there was not a giant hardware or technology store around the corner. As people in the 1900?s moved into cities, and technology and tools became cheaper and more readily available people fell out of making. Think of yourself today, is it easier to spend $150 on a new TV or learn how to take apart, fix and reassemble the one you have? He argued that as making became a choice or hobby it led to a rise of a DIY subculture that has now taken off as people explore what is possible with those same innovative technologies, like sensors and 3-D printing, that are making the IoT possible.

This intersection of the IoT and Maker Movement, based largely on sensor technology, was for me incredibly thought provoking.

On the one hand, the IoT aims to simplify our lives by displacing some of the complexities we deal with every day into ?smart? objects. On the other, the Maker Movement encourages us to embrace and understand complexity by learning how to build and customize our own objects and tools. This is a topic I?d like to explore in a further blog post. If you have any thoughts you?d like to share please leave a reply.

As we build the future of digital design, opportunities like WebVisions allow us to step away from our computers and share and connect to the benefit of our future design decisions.

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