Webstock 2010 – Interaction design Wednesday

Most of what I do these days is what gets called front-end development so the sessions on Wednesday that I am doing are both about user interfaces. The first one is “Creating Simple: Techniques for simplifying your UI and your CSS/HTML” with Daniel Burka. The description says that “This workshop will examine and explain techniques that make complex interactions feel simpler and how to make your web applications more intuitive at the same time.” Making things simple, intuitive and usable is the holy grail of web development. Generally we’re trying to help our customers do more and more complex tasks online while making them appear simple.

Daniel used a lot of examples to get his point across and the first half or so was quite lecturey but I still thought that it was pretty good. He dropped some gems on us: “either invest the time to make it a great feature or kill it”, “validate the idea first, then follow your users”. There was a lot of ideas like focus on the one or two key features and make those work really really well. Then look to see how your users using your site/app and look for ways that you can make it easier for them or enhance what they are already trying to do with it: pave the cow paths.

I also liked his points about showing, not telling. He used a game analogy… where some games expect you to go through a tedious tutorial before play, a better way is to give you simple quests to go on that both ‘educate’ and involve you in the game at the same time. He is working on an online game called glitch.

Finally in the last half hour we got down to some practical stuff and he showed us how he uses logic (PHP) in his CSS files to simplify writing and maintaining complex CSS and some cool stuff with CSS3 that we can start using now. Things which will enhance our sites for users with modern browsers and won’t interfere with other users. Daniels website is deltatangobravo.com.

Actually I began feeling very sick at lunch so didn’t make it to the second session on Wednesday. “Inclusive Design: Accessible User Experiences on the Web” with Lisa Herrod.  I’ve done many accessibility sessions at Webstock over the last few years and they have all been very enlightening. A couple of years ago we covered the new W3C accessibility guidelines which have been somewhat contentious. I find that a lot of people talk about accessibility but don’t really know what the issues are. One of the most interesting sessions on accessibility was Darren Fittler’s in 2006.

Want to get a taste of Webstock? See the past conference sessions (workshops are not recorded).

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