A Recap of The Future Of Web Design, NYC 2014

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November 12, 2014


The Future Of Web Design (#FOWD) took place in NYC last week and I was there to learn what some of the brightest people in the field think about how we build the future of the web. Since we at Contentful pride ourselves with helping you make your content more future-friendly, we take this stuff pretty seriously.

This is some of the key take-aways I made from the talks I attended. There were two tracks going on at most times, so I unfortunately missed some great talks.

Sara Wachter-Boettcher opened the ball with her talk on “Orchestrating Content”. Right down my alley! Sara is a content strategist and consultant with lots of experience in dealing with structured content. My key takeaways:

  • Educate - You can’t just create a fancy content model and think that your clients will happily follow it. You have to educate your clients so they understand WHY they have to enter content in a modular way so they actually keep doing it after the first week.

  • Content First - You need to think strategically about content from the very beginning of a digital project. Plan for what content your users need, at what time and in which format to get value from your digital property.

I recognise these challenges from talking with many of our clients as well. It seems the majority of people don’t want to spend time on modeling their content, so we need to do a better job in educating the market.

Barry Clark is the Technical Director for DoSomething.org, a platform for engaging people around social causes in their local communities. Barry clearly has a strong love for static pages and hence his talk “Simplify Your Site With Static Page Generators”. He asked the question “Do you really need all of that Wordpress overhead?”.

The obvious answer was “in most cases, no!” Barry walked us through the general benefits of static sites (like speed, security, hosting, local development, simplicity) and the more specific benefits of using Jekyll, a static site generator that's great for creating blogs, portfolio sites and simple client sites. I grabbed Barry after his talk and told him about our Middleman plugin, which he has already checked out and he was very excited about extending the management of static pages to non-developers.

Joe Leech continued the show with a great talk about the relationship between Psychology and UX and how you should be careful when getting cash from an ATM in Argentina (See below). His main point is that we, as users, make mental notes of how the world works and apply it to new situations. In short this means that it’s often wise to play on recognisable patterns rather than always trying to create something.

Day 2 opened with a blast with Denise Jacobs’ talk on creativity and inspiration. I think we all left the room feeling inspired to go out and focus on the things we truly enjoy doing and leave the rest behind. At least I did. You can see her slides, but you should rather write her on twitter and meet her!

Responsive Web Design (RWD) was the next topic I followed with great interest as Brian Fegan from AKQA followed up with insights into how we can provide sites that adapts to any user regardless of their browser, device, or abilities. By using device and network API’s as media queries, Brian described how we can deliver optimized content based on everything from the users screen brightness and network speed, to their speed of movement or proximity to the device. Futuristic stuff! He finished up by encouraging designers to think beyond the browser, to which I had to let out a small cheer. You can find his deck over at Slideshare.

There were a lot of amazing talks over the course of these two days and I can highly recommend the #FOWD to anyone who cares about the future of the web. In addition to the talks highlighted above, here’s a shout out to Richard Banfield for his fresh take on mobile strategies, Ben Jordan for his lecture in prototyping, Jon Setzen for a fantastic workshop and presentation on brand strategy and Yesenia Perez-Cruz for making designers keep developers in mind and avoid bloated heavy designs.

Hope to see you all next year!

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