I was excited to have attended An Event Apart 2013 in Seattle this April – one of, if not the most well known conference for web design. It was both exciting and intimidating to be in the same space as such great players in the web development and design industries.

The conference itself spanned 3 days, with speaker sessions on the first day and a workshop on the third. The swag came in the form of a metal lunchbox with Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer illustrated as Star Trek characters, looking into the depths of space. It was clearly drawing parallels between to boldly go where no one has gone before and the unexplored territories of the web. This theme of embracing the unknown and adapting to it was a theme present throughout the speaker sessions (which were all fantastic).

Mobile first, multi-device

Adapting to the unknown was a common theme in many of the speaker sessions. Luke Wroblewski talked about how we need to focus on designing for the multi-device world now that what we call a phone, a laptop, a tablet are all begin to overlap together. We cannot design for a device based on screen size characteristics alone, instead we need to focus equally as much on the ergonomics and accessibility.

Making it accessible

On accessibility, Karen McGrane pointed out that the digital divide has essentially been erased by the mobile phone. There are a significant number of people that have no broadband internet access, but own a mobile phone. Karen dubs this demographic the mobile only user, meaning they only (or mostly) access the internet via their phone.

Furthermore, Ethan Marcotte introduced us to demographics we have not even considered. In his session The map is not the territory, he introduces an entire population of people in Dhaka, Bangladesh who have recently been enlightened with access to the internet by the feature phones only recently available to them. While these phones may seem like a flashback to us, they are changing the way these people interact with information.

Adapting our process to changing times

Jason Santa Maria talked about what he calls the Nimble Process, and how designers today should adapt their process to the type of project, from sketching / conceptualizing ideas, to jumping straight into the code to implement the design. The process he describes bares some resemblance to SCRUM and agile development frameworks.

I was also glad to here this idea of embracing the generalist. Jared Spool called it the rise of the UX generalist and the Design Unicorn – a term thrown around a lot that describes the person that is skilled in all the areas that exist in the overlap of design and user experience. He went on to say that these types of designers have a competitive advantage in getting the positions needed by the more innovative technology companies.

Steering the ship

After experiencing each fantastic session, it’s of no surprise that An Event Apart through its heavy hitting speakers, is one of the conferences that will continue to change and mold the direction of the web industry.