Web Directions North – Days 3 and 4

So after 2 days of workshops on Monday and Tuesday, the official part of the conference started Wednesday.

With conferences like this, with so many interesting topics, it is always hard to decide between two interesting sessions. After all you need to pick one, and the other one will be recorded anyhow and the slides will be put online. So, in fact, you are not missing out that much. So here is a quick summary of the sessions.


Opening Keynote: Return of the King of Web Standards (Jeffrey Zeldman)

I have never seen Jeffrey Zeldman speak, so I figured that this is going to be interesting. Jeffrey gave a quick summary what kind of developments in the past led us to where we are today in terms of Web Standards.

Real World Accessibility for Real World People (Derek Featherstone)

Derek more or less gave the same talk that I have already seen in November at @media Ajax in London (with the same jokes…kind of). But no big deal. It was good hearing again how he tackled the problem that Google Maps is not accessible at all and how he and his team fixed it. And, I believe, it is always good to get a shot or two of accessibility guidelines once in a while cause they tend to be forgotten about in daily business life.

Five Essential Composition Tools for Web Typography (Kimberly Elam)

That talked turned out to be something I was not really expecting. Kimberly is coming from a very print focused background and is Chair of the Graphic & Interactive Communication Department at the Ringling College of Art + Design, Sarasota, Florida. In her talk she explained how she teaches her students what makes typography good typography. I felt that many of these things are highly applicable when it comes to print, but sometimes are kind a hard to translate into the web world (especially with variables like increasing or decreasing font-size, different screen resolutions etc.). But I found her slides very good and I wished we would have had those back at uni.

“Plays Well With Others” (Brian Oberkirch)

In his talk, Brian talked about ways to overcome the huge amount of different social sites and user credentials we need to remember and always have to go through the hassle of setting up a profile, inviting your friends etc. Solutions to that could be OpenID and OAuth.

What makes a design seem intuitive? (Jared Spool)

Jared is just great. Even if you have no clue what Web Usability means, you can just turn up for his talks and leave with an entertained mood. It is just the funny and compelling way that he presents. What he covered was how can a great design be intuitive to the user? It always depends on the target user audience and by knowing about the “knowledge gap” between current knowledge and target knowledge. So bridging what the user currently knows and what he needs to know in order to complete his task.

Better Gmail (Gina Trapani)

Gina, who works for Lifehacker.com, described how she discovered how it is possible for developers to make their favorite web applications better using Greasemonkey and fix issues that the original developers maybe have not thought about. Finally, Google released the Greasemonkey API for Gmail which makes it more easier for developers to add additional functionality on top of Gmail (e.g. keyboard shortcuts for most executed user actions, like ‘delete’, ‘move to inbox’).


What was really nice of the organizers was that they rewarded people who put blogposts on their web site, uploaded photos to Flickr etc. to spread the word about WDN. And the first site John put up on the projector (in the main audience hall with about 300 people), on Thursday morning before the second day started, was mine. I was flattered and felt very happy (although it also reminded me that a redesign might be a good idea). Anyway, so the reward consisted of a very nice WDN 2008 T-shirt and 3 books. Awesome – thanks again for that.

Innovation is Overrated (Indi Young)

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