Future of Web Design Conference – Day 1

First, I would like to issue a very special thanks to Melissa Penta. Melissa your absence from this conference is my gain… but I think you would have gotten more out of the jQuery session that you signed up for than I am. More on that later.

The Millennium Broadway Hotel, New York

I’m here. I was able to find my way through the hotel to the conference by following the trail of dudes dressed like bums in the nice Midtown Hotel.

My first impression is annoyance. The Future of Web Design Conference doesn’t have wi-fi because the hotel charges for it.

Cheap bastards.

Seriously though, it is pretty pathetic and it reflects poorly on both the Conference and the Millennium Broadway Hotel.

Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy Session

Kristina Halvorson is the President of a content writing/ information architecture agency known as Brain Traffic based out of Minnesota. Coincidentally, my childhood friend Chris Farrar works for Kristina.

Kristina’s session was enlightening. I do a lot of web writing and information architecture, so this was right up my alley. I didn’t feel like I learned much that was new, but she put a lot of things I know and do into concrete terms. I found the whole presentation rather soothing.

Here are a few key takeaways about content strategy and information architecture:

  • People read print differently than they read the Internet (I will be writing more on this at a later date).
  • Readers of your company’s website don’t care about your company. They don’t care about your “about us” page, or all of the time and effort you put into creating everything. They want what they are looking for.
  • All to often pages are designed for the company, not the reader.
  • Content is often an afterthought. It should be part of information architecture and design.
  • It’s very hard to make good content out of processed, legalistic, techno-babble or other forms of soulless garbage.
  • Good web content doesn’t win awards. It conveys information efficiently.
  • You aren’t a copywriter on the web, you’re a publisher. People expect you to take care of what you create and publish.

Like I said, I didn’t learn a lot of new things, but Kristina did point out a few things that I would like to improve in myself. So you should see some small changes and improvements in my writing.

The Group Project From Hell

Kristina broke us up into groups to redesign Quicken’s homepage. I was grouped with three designers. They were very nice, but they didn’t seem to understand information architecture (or at least their understanding was different than mine), and they especially didn’t get writing. After 16 minutes of circular debate where they never articulated anything past their initial ideas, or made any decisions we rushed to finish something… and didn’t finish much. Fortunately no one actually looked at our “finished product.”

This made me really appreciate the team I work with, especially our lead designer RJay. He designs with copy and architecture, not around or over them.

Karl Swedberg – How to Use jQuery to Enhance Web Design

To pull a bit from Karl’s blog, “In the words of jQuery’s principal developer, John Resig, ‘jQuery is a simple JavaScript library that helps you to write the code that you want to write and really simplifies the interaction between JavaScript and HTML.'” Basically jQuery helps developers code cool stuff. 

I’m not a web developer. At all. My coding background was pretty much limited to desktop software, and I haven’t seriously coded in nearly a decade.

Needless to say I didn’t get much of anything out of this session. Karl seems like a very nice and knowledgeable guy. The people in the room seem like they are learning. He is making code jokes, and people are laughing… and I’m scratching my head wondering what was so funny. Everyone has limits.

At least this session is giving me a chance to write this post. Unfortunately I will have to publish tonight because of the aforementioned wi-fi situation.

Learn more:

The Future of Web Design

Kristina Halvorson & Brain Traffic

Karl Swedberg – Learning jQuery

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