Web Directions is one of the major stops on the global circuit of web design and development conferences, particularly for those who understand that web standards matter.
It attracts overseas and Australian speakers who actually have something to say: an insight, a perspective, an opinion or a technique they want to share.
With four tracks of sessions occurring simultaneously over two days, I chose the logistically convenient approach of staying in the auditorium for every session.
This gave me three Design, three Business and two Development sessions over the two days, as well as each day’s opening and closing keynotes.
Here are my 10 second reviews, in chronological order.
Keynote: Matt Webb (UK): Escalante. An ideas man who talks about radios, science fiction, cardboard tubes, south-western American topography and how the web can contribute to culture. Design is about more than problem-solving.
Design: Mark Boulton (UK): Font embedding and typography. Explained the nine elements of typography, screen versus paper and why Georgia looks better than Times Roman. Tried to drum up some respect for Comic Sans. Design is about more than problem-solving.
Development: Ben Galbraith (USA): The state of developer tools. Was meant to come as head of Mozilla’s tools development team, but joined Palm just before arrival. Ended up doing a great job enthusing and explaining where browser-based tools are going.
Design: Pete Ottery (Aus): Designing for suits. Videos of Australian middle corporate managers talking about how they work with designers. Quite brilliant. Asked the right people the right questions.
Business: The state of the web as platform. Hosted by journo Nick Galvin, a panel representing Microsoft, Opera, the W3C, Mozilla/Palm and Adobe failed to find anything to disagree about. Even Flash. The future is exciting. Apparently.
Keynote: Cameron Adams (Aus): Making waves. Conference success story spilled on how, why and what Google Wave is about (hint: a lot). We’re his kind of audience.
Keynote: Kelly Goto (USA): WorkFLOW. Soemone who grabs experiences, wrestles them down for a good look, sucks out some insight on effective business practices and passes it on. Impressive.
Business: Deborah Schultz (USA): It’s the people, stupid. Social networking, marketing, communities, advertising, passion, connection. Sincerity works. But you have to mean it.
Development: Elliot Jay Stocks (UK): Progressive Enhancement. Does not believe every site visitor’s experience has to be the same. Does not believe every site has to validate. Does believe websites should be beautiful. Design is about more than problem-solving.
Design: Christian Crumlish (USA): Designing Social Interfaces. Fast! Like a talking Bruce Petty cartoon. It did all make sense, but I’d have to see it again to tell you quite how. Handy ukulele player.
Business: Lachlan Hardy (Aus): The open web. This was a revelation to me, fitting together OpenID, microformats, OAuth, hCard and the like. Logic, context and passion. With a quiff.
Keynote: Dan Hill (UK): 15 years in … Up to now, the web has been influenced by existing media, technical delivery constraints, static design principles and non-web mindsets. Hill is using the web to influence urban design, architecture, service delivery, product development.
There was also a Birds of Feather breakfast (I hosted a table on being a jack of all trades), a range of full day workshops (I did two: one on how we can educate and train the next generation of web designers, and one on the design process with Elliot Jay Stocks – both brilliant days), an art exhibition (Yiying Lu, the Australian who created Twitter’s fail whale), information stalls, a Mozilla Labs Q&A, WE Rocks, WebWiz, WebBlast and WebJam, all of which fitted together into the first Australian Web Week.
And design is not just about problem-solving.
I’m already looking forward to the next one.