The Industry Conference was held at the Turbine Mill in Newcastle, April 2013.
The venue was simply awesome and in my opinion perfect for this event. Newcastle is a favourite city of mine. Originally from Hartlepool and having worked in Sunderland I always get a sense of safe and warm when going back home. The Quayside is a very beautiful place that blends the modern with the traditional working class environment.
The conference started with a traditional pre-party. This was a great night that lasted longer that originally expected but it give me chance to meet @mkjones and @alexhansford,both great people.
All speakers at the conference spoke well, provided me with so much motivation and the topics were wide ranging but useful to both designers and developers.
The talks I particularly liked were:
I first listened to Harry speak at Canvas Conference in September 2012. His talk was very helpful to me. I actually returned to work and rewrote all of my CSS into more of a granular, layered model. His talk at Industry was quite similar but more focused and explained the usefulness of the layered model and how it increases the efficiency of scalable CSS.
The approach is to look at your CSS at a granular level which in turns helps you to see or build a bigger picture. His analogy was that of building a house. House construction can be separated into different layers; 1. Foundation, 2. External Structure, 3. Internal Structure, 4. Decoration.
CSS takes a very similar approach. We start with a base, I use normalize.css, we build our framework which more often or not is a grid, we gradually add internal components and we finish with some enrichments such as CSS animations, gradients.
This seperation of files, each working independently of each other allows far more efficient and cleaner CSS when working with larger sites or applications. It is more open to change, prevents over specificity and allows controls or themes to be shared across different applications.
Another useful point was the use of /* Comments */. Comments allow you to inform others within your team why some CSS rules are a certain way, why some hacks may have been put in place and often act as a reminder. As front end developers we don’t comment enough.
Lastly is hack.css. This idea involves the creation of a specific hack.css file specifically for any quick CSS hacks. This becomes a self documenting to-do list. At the end of the day, we’ve all been there. Project deadlines approach fast and browser testing becomes a pain so we put a quick hack in place with the intention of fixing one day. In reality we don’t and we set a precedent within our CSS which allows for bad code. Creating a hack.css prevents this and gives us an up to date fix list when time is back on our side.
My to-do list from Harry’s talk:
I got the chance to speak to Jeremy during the mid-morning break. I was immediately in awe of his knowledge and it made me realise I have so much more to learn but I am excited to do so. I was also thankful for his pointer towards Steve Faulkner who works at the Paciello Group for info with ARIA.
Jeremy spoke of what we mean when we talk about the web. This talk was quite broad ranging so I only want to talk about the points that affect me as a front end designer/dev.
He touched on responsive design and the control the designer longs for. In the days of 800 x 600 resolution we decided that this was our fixed view port and everything then on is a fixed measurement. This technically was not correct, we merely did this to give ourselves total control of our environment.
We now live in an age where resolutions are endless yet we still strive for total control. When does a resolution become mobile? When does a desktop become a tablet? These are questions we can’t answer. What increases the difficulty of us gaining control is the tools we use to design and build our sites. The moment we open Photoshop it asks us for our canvas dimensions and PPI so immediately our mindset is constrained by our environment. Trent Walton also touches on this and has a very helpful blog post.
The talk of being responsive also leads on to a theory that all all websites are in fact responsive and accessible before we break them. Divs are 100% width, basic sematics are readable by screen readers and assistive technology yet we add fixed unit measurements or roles to change the appearance of elements.
So instead of making everything responsive and accessible maybe we should aim to not make things unresponsive and inaccessible?
My to-do list from Jeremy’s talk:
- A Dao of Web Design. John Allsopp; A List Apart.
It’s easy for me to say this was a fantastic conference with great speakers as both of these are true.
I think the main positive for me was the realisation of the community in which we work. We are a selfless, caring, sharing community. The minute we build we share. The minute we design we share. We ask for advice, we get some back. We ask for help, we get some back. It is a community that allows new entries to feel warm and welcome and gives everyone the freedom to ask questions which is the most efficient way of learning.
It’s a community I’m proud to be in.