WebDevConf 2014

Last WDC took place in Bristol on the 10th of October. It was followed by an choice of afternoon workshops happening the day before. The talks and the range of topics covered were really impressive, covering everything from building personal projects to how to deal with user complaints. It was also my first time in Bristol and I took the opportunity to explore the city on Saturday. I walked around the docks, took a few pictures of Banksy’s graffiti (see above) and visited the Clifford Suspension Bridge.

My favourite session was Frank West who opened the conference with his talk “Think inside the box”. I found the title a bit controversial as it sounded like it might be a contradiction of creative thinking. However, his argument was actually that giving boundaries to our projects helps us to challenge our creative solutions and focus on solving the right problem.

Frank compared building a website to playing a game, where learning new skills is like collecting treasures or defeating an end of level boss. Frank walked us through his presentation from the perspective of a character who was gaining knowledge and overcoming new challenges to be able to progress to the next level. He pointed out that often when we feel comfortable with certain tools, we forget to explore other (better) possibilities and never level-up. We should challenge ourselves more often, stopping to evaluate whether our solutions are actually a good fit for the project we’re working on, or whether they’re just convenient.

Towards the end of the talk he drew our focus onto user testing, reminding us that testing our work frequently gives us the freedom to try new approaches without the risk of delivering something unusable.

I really liked the approach Frank took towards web design, and enjoyed listening to the talk. It covered things I already knew but presented them in a way that made me rethink my attitude towards developing and designing websites. Do I need to build page elements the way I’ve done it previously? Maybe it’s worth trying developing them in a different way? Challenge yourself! Gain some new skills by changing the path you usually take.

If you’re interested, full presentation is available online.