An Event Apart (Boston): Day Two

This is sooooo late – my apologies in case anyone was waiting for it although somehow I kinda doubt it.

Day Two at Event Apart Boston was a little easier since we knew a little more about what to expect. Sadly it’s only a two-day event so that knowledge didn’t get me far but at least I was aware that the afternoon snack provided by the Marriott was going to be incredible (and it was — great food at Boston Marriott Copley Place).

The day started off with another of my heroes, Eric Meyer talking about how many of the old familiar ways of doing things in CSS are going to be changing thanks to CSS3 updates. The key example is the box model. CSS3 has added a “border-box” attribute to define the edge of the box independent of padding. He also talked about rounded corners that have been made available thanks to “border-radius”.
Away from the box model Eric demonstrated the @media” selector which may be the biggest take-away of the conference for me. This will allow the browser to call up different styles or stylesheets based on the browser size, without requiring a refresh. This, my fiends, is the way to design for all devices, since it can allow you to define a new stylesheet easily for iPads or smaller devices as needed.
Eric also talked about the excessive alternate code that is required to implement these strategies right now, and informed us that there is no IE solution (shocking!) but more on that later. Overall, a great presentation and certainly one of the most informative of the conference.

Next up was Jeremy Keith who talked about the interactivity of forms. He talked about how no one likes to fill out a form and yet it’s a common occurrence online. He gave some ideas on how to make forms more interesting and functional (feedback with jquery, Ajax and the like) and pretty (CSS stylings). He talked a little bit about some HTML 5 changes coming for forms – namely some new input element attributes: number, range, email, date etc. which should improve accessibility and validation.

Next up Kristina Halvorsen talked about content – specifically having a plan for it. I wasn’t really at the conference to hear about content so I wasn’t totally absorbed by this presentation, I admit. However she has a really good case study for a uniform online voice with the Ben & Jerry’s website and I’ve thought back to this presentation several times since I’ve been back in the office. As Luke talked about on Day One in his Mobile First presentation, you have to think about what content is vital to your message and how it comes across. People add unlimited amounts of text because it’s “free” but your content must always have purpose, ownership and ongoing care to be successful.

Andy Clarke presented after lunch and his was one of the most dynamic and interesting talks of the conference. This guy was awesome, and I’m not just saying that because of the British accent and the fact that he had a martini on stage. Andy told us… wait for it… we don’t have to design for IE. Yay! Andy talked about the idea of “Progressive Enhancement” which is the idea of designing pages for the lease capable website. This idea has driven web standards and design for years. Andy says “no”! The idea that all websites should look the same is outdated. We have dozens of different devices, screen sizes and browsers that all do things differently – it is impossible to make all sites look the same and we should stop trying.
To my mind and no doubt to many others this is a radical and somewhat sacrilegious concept. And in fact, at the end of the presentation someone did ask Andy “What about the 45% of people using IE?”. Andy’s response? Maybe there were 45% of people when last we looked but that’s changing all the time. And what about the 55% of people using other browsers? Or other devices? Right now the biggest growth isn’t in Safari or Chrome, it’s in Androids, iPhone and other smart devices that are getting used more all the time, especially in third-world countries where computers are too expensive but smart phones are a viable method for connecting with the world.

The final two presentations of the day were good, but not earth shattering. Eathen Marcotte talked about layout and a mathmatical solution for calculating sizes of objects. His equation for conversion is:

TARGET (goal size) / CONTEXT (total size of current object) = RESULT (end size in unit of choice: %, em, etc.)

He also made the argument to “design for the flexibility of our medium” and specifically mentioned wide screen designs – we usually think smaller, not bigger but people have some massive monitors these days, too.

I had to cut out of Jeff Veen’s presentation halfway through so I could catch my flight home but he took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. His presentation, among other things, talked about the history of web standards. He had a very interesting story on how the <img> tag was created. I won’t go into the story here but my takeaway was that sometimes you have to stop talking about things and just do them. Even if you don’t do it perfectly, if you can create something and share it with others who need it, it will be accepted. Being on a college campus I often get frustrated at all the talking and the lack of doing so it was a little refreshing to think that sometimes we can go ahead and get things done when they need to get done.

Anyway that was the end of the conference for me. I *really* enjoyed it and it seems more valuable to me a few weeks later than it even did at the time. I hope I get an opportunity to go again some day. Big thanks to Eric Meyer and Jeffery Zeldman (who I thanked on Twitter, btw and they RESPONDED to my tweet, oh my gawd! (sorry, geek moment)). Apologies for the delay on this post – just took me some time to get back to this. I have much more extensive notes from the conference so if anyone would like a peak at them, please drop me a note!