Future Insights Live Conference – Day 1

I’m in Vegas this week for the Future Insights Live conference. It’s front-end web, back-end, web, and all things mobile. This isn’t a conference I’m presenting at, it’s all about learning, and in an effort to share my experiences I’ll be recapping each day of the conference and the sessions I’m attending.

The opening keynote was “Visual Semantics: Color and Shape in Universal Design“, by Molly Holzschlag. She went through various colors and shapes and talked about their meaning for user. Past uses of the shapes and how that impacts their recognition (the star used by Nazi’s to tag Jewish and other groups of people) was also discussed. I didn’t really get anything new here but it’s a nice reminder that these are things that are important to consider in design, both for the user impression of the sites, but also for usability and accessibility.

The next session I attended was Brad Frost’s “Beyond Media Queries: Anatomy of an Adaptive Web Design.” This wasn’t a super-technical session and it talked about a lot of known issues, but also raised a lot of concerns about future use cases for the web – we think phones are challenging, wait until you see your site on Google Glass or the dashboard of a car. He did talk about some good enhancement strategies and though there was a bit of a dearth of technical examples he was a GREAT speaker and his slides were kick-ass. Can I say “kick-ass” on a work blog? Meh. No one’s going to read this anyway.

Next up was a hands-on lab session, “From Desktop to Mobile: One Small Step for You, One Giant Leap for Your Website.” It was nice to get some hands-on stuff and the examples are in Git, which is excellent (https://github.com/moovweb-demos/hackernews-demo/tree/demo) but the tool being demoed is proprietary and knowing that we very likely can’t afford something like this put a bit of a damper on my excitement. We’ll have to keep working on responsive (sorry, Brad) adaptive design the “old-fashioned” way.

After lunch I attended the panel on “The Future of Online Learning.” You’d have to have your head under a rock to have missed the tidal wave of attempts to provide online courses/training/education that have popped up recently. I’ve been staying on top of that, but have somehow missed the emergence of several web-specific training companies, including Treehouse and CodeSchool, both of which were represented here (no Lynda rep, which is an IT training source that more people are familiar with).
The conversation didn’t meander too far towards Higher Ed, which was my primary interest, however they did mention that they feel like they are a more supplemental resource versus a replacement for colleges. That being said I do wonder about the effectiveness of these courses without any personal connection or in-person meetings. I’ll be curious to see how these types of trainings/companies continue to grow (or not) and evolve.

Next up was “The Future of Smart Business” which turned out to be a tactical error since it didn’t contain too much of interest for me (I had high hopes, long story).

In the late afternoon I went to “Responsive Web Design: What’s Next?” by Bruce Lawson, which was great. He covered some upcoming and proposed changes to W3C and his perspective as an employee of Opera (web browser) was very interesting. He gave a demo of the usefulness of the “viewport” tag and showed off the upcoming modified flexbox CSS, which is a grown up and super sexy version of the box model. Lots of good stuff I can’t wait to get home and play with.

Last but not least I attended the evening keynote, “Designing a Business that Won’t Kill You” by Carl Smith. Carl told his story, from his first job through starting his own business and the ups and down that go with it. I felt like the presentation was kind of uneven, and there were a lot of “lessons” along the way but it did end up on a high note.

Immediately following the last session was a networking event complete with an open bar – huzzah! I managed to get past some of my nerves and make some small talk with strangers and eventually worked my way into some very interesting discussions with several of the presenters, as well as some interesting colleagues from all over the US. Great evening activity.