An Event Apart – Boston 2013

As front end web developers we?re constantly learning new techniques to deal with the ever changing digital space. An Event Apart is always a great place to learn and be inspired as it?s run by the folks from A List Apart, the people who have convinced a generation of developers to adhere to and love web standards. For those of you who are wondering why web standards are so important – they?re how each browser knows how to implement a certain tag or CSS attribute, and what ideally mean we should have to only implement a feature once for all browsers, and not waste time on browser hacks to create a consistent user experience.

Jeffrey Zeldman kicked off the event with his talk on the 10 commandments of web design, getting an audience already committed to web standards even more excited about crafting wonderful web experiences. His talk was followed by the highlight (for me anyway) which was Jake Archibalds?s talk ?Rendering without the Lumpy Bits?, a talk on improving browser performance. As a Chrome developer he offered unique insight into using the web inspector to improve your sites performance, something that becomes increasingly important as CSS3 features become more mainstream, with powerful features such as layered gradients, blur effects, and animation that can easily bog down the browsers performance. I could list a number of the performance optimization tricks he mentioned in his talk, but I think the biggest takeaway is to always profile your applications. As browsers are constantly evolving and specs are changing, the performance trip ups of today may not be those that challenge us in the future.

One of the things I really love about an Event Apart is the mix of speakers they bring to the one track conference. While I absolutely love the technical talks, it?s very useful to also learn what our colleagues in UX and design are up to. Interestingly, this year they presented a talk entitled ?Designing Meetings to work for Design? by Kevin Hoffman. While it sounds like a somewhat boring topic, it was actually an incredibly useful and visually rich presentation on improving communication, especially in regards to using a technique called graphic facilitation to improve meetings. Essentially this technique uses quickly doodled illustrations to illustrate meeting notes taken on a whiteboard, engaging meeting attendees. It?s a technique I hope we can work into our meetings at Roundarch Isobar, once we all improve our drawing skills.

Outside of the talks, it was great to meet so many amazing people in our industry, including a few our clients and some of the speakers. Huge thanks to Jeffery Zeldman, Eric Meyer and the whole an Event Apart team.