Smashing Conference take-aways


The Smashing Conference was held in Freiburg, Germany in September 2012 by the people at Smashing Magazine. It was a great conference overall, awesome speakers and a beautiful old city.

Here are our main take-aways from the conference.

Responsive is not a trend

Unfortunately, we took what we knew from print and applied it to the web without realizing that its a totally different medium.

First we designed for 640x480 sized screens, then 800x600, then 1024x768 and when the iPhone came out we created special mobile versions of our websites.

With all the devices and screen sizes today we have finally realized that the web was always supposed to be fluid.

Our processes and tools are broken

A common way to design web sites is to open up Photoshop, make a pixel-perfect comps and hand it over to a developer for implementation.

The developer re-does the whole design in the browser using html, css and javascript. Finally, slaps in some media queries to make it all responsive.

This process is slow and painful for the developer and will never produce in great responsive experiences.

Enter the responsive process

As I understand it, its a ground-up approach. Start by planning on paper and experimenting in the browser.

Focus on content, typography, mood and colors before even thinking about the layout.

Don’t confuse design with layout Andy Clarke

Experiment with small screen sizes first (mobile first) and work the way up to bigger displays. Make grids that fits the content and make it look good on every possible screen size.

Its actually a very iterative and fun process.

Not so easy

Responsive is not just about different screen sizes.

Its about many things such as adapting to different device capabilities, progressive enhancement and optimizing performance.

To have big impact, improve performance Jeremy Keith

We also can’t know what devices are coming up next and making assumptions about user devices is not future friendly.

The best way to be future friendly is to be backwards-compatible. Jeremy Keith

..and as Brad Frost put so elegantly:

Who knows what will be under our Christmas tree two years from now ? ..but its likely to be connected to the internet Brad Frost

Good craftsmanship is timeless

It seems there are two big design trends going on today.

One is to emulate old physical things like Apple does in their apps such as the Notes app.

The other is a futuristic approach such as the Windows 8 user interface.

Trends are bullshit Mark Boulton

We should shift our attentions from these trends and focus on doing good things in a good way.

Pick appropriate typography, design materials, visual hirarcy and put a personal touch into the things we make.

Designing in the present is about finding the balance between borrowing from the past and looking towards the future. Oliver Reichenstein

Quality never goes out of style.

Other things

There were also so many good ideas, techniques and resources shared on the conference.

Jake Archibald talked about the application cache, it became obvious that its a total douchebag. Do not use it unless you really, really, really, really need it.

Rachel Andrew talked how we should not give clients CMS systems with WYSIWYG editors that can ruin our web designs. Content editors need to understand the web, focus on structure only and storing content as Markdown is a good idea.

Jonathan Snook, Lea Verou and Nichole Sullivan talked about CSS. Its possible to do so amazing things with CSS these days. Using OCCSS practices seems solid for structuring CSS and pre-processors such as SASS are powerful but we should still care that the CSS output is good.

Wrap it up

It seems the web is reaching puberty and we have a second opportunity to get it right. Now is a great time to be a web worker as we re-discover our tools, processes and the things we make.

This conference was well worth the money and I hope we will make it next year.

Well done Smashing Magazine.

About the Author

Hjörtur is a creative web developer and co-founder at 14islands.

You can follow Hjörtur on Twitter

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