Two Hundred Bearded Geeks (Hybrid Conf 2013)

For many, the idea of being sat in a cinema room with two hundred bearded geeks (web designers/ developers) would be hell, but as a bearded geek myself, I felt right at home.

On Thursday 15th and Friday 16th August a colleague and I attended the Hybrid Conference at Cineworld cinemas in Cardiff. The conference was split up into two days; the first day for development and the second for design – hence the name hybrid, bringing these two disciplines together.

The conference aimed to explore the relationship between designers and developers and share ideas to help everyone to work more efficiently. On the first day the talks were targeted towards the developers in the room. As a designer I could glean information from both days, however the complexity of some of the software techniques and programming languages, such as Ruby on Rails, was a lot to take on board for a beginner.

When asked if we were designers or developers the room raised their hands, I’d take a guess that two thirds of the room consisted of developers. Overall I think there was a lot more to take away from the conference from a developer’s point of view, as the talks were more engaging and focused on actual working techniques e.g. using software and developer tools.

On day one, a talk that really did get my attention was presented by Lea Verou, entitled “CSS in the 4th Dimension”. The lecture was a really interesting, interactive demonstration about CSS transitions and animations. Although Lea masked the truth about exactly how much code had to be written to produce the examples, she was emphasising that the outcome was worth every line.

That night we joined the conference organised bowling competition. We had met two fellow geeks at the conference who worked in Cardiff, so we had a team of 4. Unfortunately we weren’t victorious.

For designers, such as my colleague and I, the second day seemed to be a sure bet for design takeaways (apart from the goody bag and free popcorn).

PJ McCormick, UX design lead at Amazon, hosted a noteworthy talk which got me thinking about my own work. He presented us with a design he had produced for the product page of a camera website. McCormick explained how he’d self-indulged, as designers can do at times. When he met with and presented the design to his clients, they hated it. On reflection he realised just how important it is to listen to clients. Although a client is not necessarily a trained designer, they are consumers and can contribute considerably to UX. In this instance, due to his over-creativity, he had added an ‘Add to cart’ icon but the client couldn’t locate it on the page!

We then attended a talk from Cap Watkins, the lead designer at Etsy, which really resonated with me. Cap talked about the development of a new detail page on the Etsy website, and how his company went about implementing a new design. He presented around 10 revisions of the same page and talked about the feedback that he received from his customers. It was interesting to hear a story like Etsy’s. I am continually working on other peoples’ businesses, so my instincts are to think about pleasing the client. After listening to both Watkins and McCormick I will now consider the end-user first, and how the design will impact their behaviour, as this should always result in better designs.

All in all the conference was a good eye opener, but it was a shame that it didn’t focus as much on the UI / UX aspect as we’d expected.

Quick summary of the conference:

Venue: 10/10
Organisation: 8/10
Talks: 6/10
Relevance: 6/10
Popcorn: 10/10

by Austin Waddecar on 20/09/2013