@Media 2006

Originally posted 18 June 11:27 – I recently attended a conference for web design and related subjects call @Media 2006. I thought I’d give a brief summary of the sessions I attended and then my overall thoughts.

Day 1

Keynote Presentation

– Eric Meyer

Fun look back on the evolution of CSS and the varying support in today’s browsers. Nice little pep-talk before the rest of the conference.

Using DOM Scripting to the plug the holes in CSS

– Jeremy Keith

Hmm, not so sure about this one, just who was this one aimed at? I liked the way DOM methods, such as getElementById, were compared to CSS but then it quickly went down hill. The first couple of examples were mechanisms to insert code into a source document that would be repetitive (and perhaps ugly) to do by hand. E.g. the "zebra effect" where every other row in a table is a different colour. What struck me about these examples is that you’d be much better off to do this on your actual source, using a macro or pre-publish script, rather than relying on the javascript support of the client.

The other point that puzzled me was that he kept making the point that the code he wrote wouldn’t be the code you’d use since his knowledge of Regular Expressions wasn’t up to it. I could understand that you wouldn’t want to pollute example code with RegEx’ but I’d hope you’d show at least one example of how to do it correctly. He then mentioned a couple of points about controlling document size by looking at the browser and some 101 tips about detecting the browser support.

The most interesting point he made was that Dean Edwards has a page of scripts to make IE 6 act more like IE 7.

Rating, 4/10 and don’t bother with the "humour" next time

Fine Typography on the Web

– Dave Shea

Probably best known for starting up Zen Garden I was keen to see his view of typography. Very odd session. Talked about the fonts he liked and disliked making some very odd statement about fonts been boring because they’re overused. Talked about fairly obvious (you’d hope) points about the sort of fonts that users (i.e. Windows and Mac) would likely to have on their machines. Talked vaguely about why fonts like Verdana don’t always work – what about the fact that they are screen fonts, perhaps that’s why they don’t print well! Now for the interesting stuff, how to ensure the user has the font you want to use…basically you can’t. A few technologies were mentioned but basically they’re all rubbish. So you’re stuck with using the most standard fonts because you’ve got no real choice.

Rating, 4/10 – "yes we all know Comic Sans isn’t great if we didn’t we wouldn’t be here" – anon attendee

New Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0

– Andy Clarke, Patrick Lauke, Gez Lemon, and Ian Lloyd

I admit I’ve not read any of WCAG 2.0 but I think I know the basics of accessibility. The discussion was interesting because it showed that the guidelines were just to odd to simply take and use without a second thought. What I took away from this was, be practical and do you best not to alienate a visitor but rather than attempt to implement every guideline. Then if you have a particular target audience then ensure their guidelines are met.

Rating, 7/10 – the panel seemed at odds over some points and re-enforced my belief that guidelines are too weak to adhere to.

Designing the next generation of Web apps

– Jeffrey Veen

I nice motivational speech about web applications, although I couldn’t help thinking that bulk of the audience are here for web design, rather than web applications, but a nice keynote style session.

Day 2

Bulletproof Web Design

– Dan Cederholm

A decent enough talk about the basics of good web design, but again, if you didn’t know this already what are you doing here? A few people asked questions about the age old problems of how to structure your page one way but present it in a different order. Although the answer was correct, it wasn’t anything new.

Rating, 6/10 – good but basic

Beyond a Code Audit

– Robin Christopherson

The first think to say about this session was that the venue mucked this one up. No network for the presenter, bits of stage falling down oh what a mess. However, the talk itself was excellent and really well presented. I must admit I’d never considered the problem of dyslexia and fully-justified text…although fully justified text on the web is a sin so I’ve never done it.

Rating, 9/10

Internationisation: Awakening the sleeping giant

– Molly E. Holzshlag

Lots of enthusiasm from the speaker with a very…American, style that’s not to everyone’s taste, I didn’t mind it though. However, although she made a few interesting points (First impressions are very important, Internationalisation is a form of accessibility) the basic result was that you need to employ skilled people in your target locale to correctly design the site. Is that really news to anyone? Ok so I live in Britain and the majority of the sites I’ve had a hand in are English only and if I lived in Brazil or South America perhaps I’d feel different but I didn’t really learn anything new here.

Rating, 6/10

Yahoo! vs. Yahoo!

– Nate Koechley

An interesting look at a few Yahoo! applications. Again, all about applications rather than web design per se but it was interesting and had some real world points to make. Sometimes what he said seemed contradictory (as picked up by some of the questions) but it did reaffirm my feelings about web 2.0 style applications and coming from such as big company that was good to know.

Rating, 8/10

Microformats: Evolving the Web

– Tantek Celik

On the face of it this is a weird subject. Microformats look useful and I dare say a number of them will be common place soon but I’m not overly sure much of the audience really cares about creating them…but I could be wrong. I know I’ll have a go at using some of the most common ones though so I guess it served its purpose. I can’t create this on this blog since it removed my attributes <grrr>.

Rating, 8/10

Overall Impression

A quick note about the facilities…poor. Registration was chaos itself, the lunch was very poor, and there were no refreshments between sessions…not even a drink a water.

I think the problem with @Media is that it fails to explain who the sessions are aimed at. I kept thinking, "if you didn’t know that, then you wouldn’t call yourself a web designer therefore what are you doing here?". But then what is a "Web Designer"? What experience do you need to have to attend a session? I come from a coding background with little typography or layout experience so the Web 2.0 applications stuff is interesting to me, but it’s really the non-coding stuff that I want to see. Whereas I’m sure the opposite is probably true of the artistic web designer that wants to know how better to render their designs for the web with all this strange javascript code. So while I got the odd nugget of information very rarely did I feel that I was actually learning something. However, what I did feel reassured about was that not even the experts really knew the answers to the problems that most people face, so at least I know that I’m not alone or missing some obvious "fix" to the problems I see. So would I recommend going next year? If they explain who their intended audience was then I would recommend it, otherwise I think you’d be better off using the web to look for the resources…with the possible exception of Robin Christopherson who’s session really does need to be "seen" (the obvious irony is that he’s blind) to get the full impact.

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