Wow. I have been drinking from the fire hose of information for the past two days here in New Orleans at An Event Apart. The conference was organized by Jeffery Zeldman and Eric Meyer and according to the website:
“Their new conference wouldn’t be just for designers. It wouldn’t be just for coders. Attendees would gain a deeper understanding of web standards, of course. But they would also encounter a world of emerging best practices and inspiring new ideas.”
I didn’t know what to expect. Would the code be over my head? Would the design be beyond my skills? Would I be able to grasp the conceptual nuggets they would throw? I mean, these people are the best in the industry.
They’re internet famous, right?
As it turned out, each presentation was amazingly clear, surprisingly understandable and completely worth the price of admission. The difference between the presenters at An Event Apart and your run-of-the-mill web experts is an overwhelming sense of passion for their craft. Some of the highlights for me were:
Andy Clarke‘s astute observation about how comic book design can be transferred to the web to control pace and user engagement was refreshing, if not brilliant. It was one of those ideas that made me whack my forehead and wonder why I hadn’t thought of that. Andy’s a smart fellow. I added his blog to my feed reader immediately.
Brian Oberkirch, beyond being an extraordinarily nice guy, has an uncanny grasp on what humanizes the web. His talk Thursday afternoon was a lot like eating really good dim sum. I was filled with delicious savory tidbits about how sites can create human connections and positive social interaction with their users. Not shallow marketing, but real connections. The web would be a better place if more people listened to Brian.
I thought Eric Meyer’s CSS presentation, if any, would be the one that stumped me. I am, by no means, a CSS expert; and I feared his material would be tailored for people with more experience. However, Eric did such a good job of presenting his material in a way that made it easily digestible. I took away some very useful tidbits about how to use CSS to debug your markup. Very handy stuff.
I had never paid much attention to how beautiful data & information design could be until Jeff Veen spoke on Friday. His slide showing Google searches throughout the world as pinpoints of light on a globe was amazing. He spoke about data like some artists speak about color or texture. Data is simply another artistic medium.
Robert Hoekman Jr switched things up a bit. He did live usability assessments for people in the audience who needed some help with their sites. Usability issues fascinate me and Robert was very good at recognizing usability issues with a short glance at the site in question. I plan on checking out his book.
What can be said about Jeffery Zeldman that hasn’t already been said? Jeffery is the patriarch of web standards and has been fighting the good fight to make the web a better place for designers, programmers and users alike. He addressed a room full of designers as Yoda addressed his Jedi. Use your powers for good He was also very humble and approachable, something I hadn’t expected.
Here is some additional information about the speakers at An Even Apart 2008 in New Orleans:
Andy Clarke – Author, Transcending CSS
Dave Shea – Co-author, Zen of CSS Design
Cameron Moll – Author, Mobile Web Design
Jeff Veen – Design manager, Google
Brian Oberkirch – Publisher, Like It Matters
Aaron Gustafson – Co-author, AdvancED DOM Scripting
Stephanie Sullivan – Co-author, Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3
Aarron Walter – Author, Building Findable Web Sites
Robert Hoekman Jr. – Author, Designing the Obvious
Jason Santa Maria – Designer, Happy Cog
Eric Meyer – Author, CSS: The Definitive Guide
Jeffrey Zeldman – Author, Designing With Web Standards
If web design, development and standards interest you then I would recommend checking out An Event Apart. I had a blast and hope to attend again in the future. It was good to hang out with Tim and the rest of my pals from BarCampNOLA in New Orleans.
Hope to see you all again soon.