Update 2011 Conference Recap

I spent last week in beautiful England attending the Update 2011 Conference, thanks to all of your awesome donations last month. I wanted to make sure that I jotted as many notes and photos as possible for those of you who were unable to make the conference.

The conference, put on by Aral Balkan, was fantastic. I finally got to meet Sarah Parmenter, Jeremy Keith, Geri Coady and Remy Sharp. I also made some new friends, Laura Kalbag and Scott Coello. I also enjoyed seeing the Clearleft office in person and having a long tea break discussing politics and religion with Aral.

I do admit that I missed the first set of talks due to the airline “forgetting” to put some luggage on the plane and the hubby not having anything to wear. Luckily, we made it there by the first break.

Let’s get started on the talks, shall we?

One Web by Jeremy Keith

I’ve read a lot of books by Jeremy, but never heard him speak until this conference. The man is as stubborn and loud as me and I loved it. His talk was very passionate and I was able to follow along. At one point, he even called iOS developers “fucking peasants”. It was fantastic.

Jeremy stated that the web was created to be open, and unlike anything else, you didn’t need permission from anyone to create content on it and that anything could be published. The links were open and you could link from one site to another without asking anyone for permission. The internet’s primary design was universality and was meant to be used on any device or with any handicap.

The problem with native app design is that it takes us back 20 years before the web was born. Native apps may be great, but how long will those resources lasts? When you create content on the web, it lasts for forever, as long as you pay for hosting, but it’s harder to keep content alive when it’s tied to a specific device. All a web needs is HTML, HTTP and a URL.

Back when the web was new, it’s competition came from CD-ROMs like Microsoft Incarta, but the web was able to succeed because of the links and it’s updatability. Today’s competition comes from apps, but it can be argued that because of links, web is really the “killer app”.

The internet is real time communication and it threatens publishers and content controllers like magazines, news providers, music and film makers because it allows anyone to publish. These outlets are excited about the popularity of native apps because it brings back control and exclusivity.

What is the web for? For for fun? For users? Merely to make money (which Jeremy argued, is no better than a prostitute)? The web is meant for humans in order to contribute to a better world.

Steve Jobs once said that you don’t need to be permission to be awesome – but you do with native apps.

Geek Ninja Battle – or Jeremy Keith vs. Everyone Else

This WAS the best talk of all, which was more like a debate between Jeremy Keith and everyone else on the panel. The other members were Aral, Kevin, Martin, Matt and Seb. Basically, the battle was about which is better, native or web apps. Jeremy being a hardcore web-only kind of guy, basically ended up arguing with everyone, especially Aral, and there was seriously a part where I though punches were about to be thrown. It truly was a battle and quite entertaining (and informative of course). It’s interesting to see how we all geek out over little stuff like this that the rest of the world never thinks or cares about.

Aral asked Martin, who works at Microsoft, why we should use their new Windows phone. Honestly, I thought the guy gave a pretty weak answer, which basically boiled down to “you can build apps quickly and we’re a big company”…riiiight…..

Matt, and iOS developer, thought it was important to just make the commitment to get something out and that it was more about delivery than the type of platform you used. He cited the example about how when you subscribe to a newspaper on the Kindle, it’s automatically delivered every morning.

Kevin, a Titanium developer, suggested that native was better, because in web it’s difficult to integrate with the phone’s system and all of its features. He suggested using something like Titanium, which is a cross-platform tool and allows you to be more productive by creating one app for all platforms.

Jeremy Keith said it was important to not focus on one platform and limit your user base, but to create a progressive website that can be accessed by everyone, even crappy browsers (at this, he pointed to Martin, the Microsoft guy). Jeremy said that by creating a baseline that worked for all devices and browsers and then enhancing it for a few, it gave you a competitive advantage against those that created an app for only a select few. He also stated that what you’re getting natively on apps now, is what will soon be the future of the web. He also stated that we need to stop trying to make web apps look native, in order to avoid confusion.

Seb agreed with Jeremy Keith’s view that progressive enhancement was a great tool for mobile, but that it’s limited and not for interactive apps.

At this point, it was less about questions from Aral, and more about a huge debate between Jeremy and everyone else. Aral and Jeremy debated about optimising for features, not devices, to which Jeremy disagreed with both. Aral brought up the issue of making money from web apps, which is not as easy to do as native apps are. Jeremy stated that making money this way is outdated. Not sure how I feel about that!

Angry Exorcist – Seb Ly Delisle

This talk was a step-by-step on how to make an Angry Birds clone in under 30 minutes using the Corona SDK. You can find the source code at Seb’s website and follow Seb on Twitter to find out more about this hilarious project. Hopefully, he’ll post a video of how he did it, it was fantastic!

Design Challenges – Sarah Parmenter

Sarah Parmenter laid out 10 design challenges that you’ll face as an iOS designer.

  1. Fluid design – She stated how important it was to make sure your designs are able to be stretched and to watch out for gradients and the slicing of buttons and background elements.
  2. Use familiar behaviors – A great touch reference can be found at Luke W’s website.
  3. Clean up your environment – Properly name your groups and layers, keep folders neat and keep a scratch folder for all the elements developer’s will need, like buttons.
  4. Progressive disclosure – Hide actions that don’t need to be shown. Clients often don’t like this, but users do. For example, the pull down to refresh action.
  5. Tap targets – Make sure they’re big enough for fingers to push without accidentally hitting something else. The minimum hit target is 44×22 pixels.
  6. Orientations – Users have a preference for using either landscape or portrait, so don’t force them to use one or another. Make sure your app is flexible and can adapt. A popular layout technique is using 3 columns in landscape mode and 2 in portrait.
  7. Keep designs relevant to its OS.
  8. Beyond human interface guides – Know the limits of the OS, even the smallest actions and gestures matter.
  9. Retina display – Don’t ignore the retina display, it only takes basic math to do. A trick is to use shapes in Photoshop, as this allows you to resize the PSD easily without distorting it.
  10. Automator – There’s an add on you can find online for adding the suffix to the file for the retina display to work.

Arse Over Tit or “How designers/developers have perfected the art of making things backwards” – Relly

I wasn’t too big a fan of this talk, I’m not really interested too much in content myself and Relly talked much too quickly so it was really hard to understand her.

Relly noted that content strategists normally don’t come into a project until the end. She asked, “What if books were made like apps?” You would first decide to make a book, choose a format, design a cover, pick out fonts, figure out the type of paper you’d want to use, pick a title….and then come up with the subject and content of the actual book??

You can’t make a hit app, but you can think up a plan for one. You’re only as good as the components you make and writing doesn’t scale. Relly suggested breaking up the large content projects into smaller pieces in order to get through them. She reminded us that the plan is not the work.

Ronald Wayne

Apparently there’s a third founder of Apple–I didn’t know that, did you? He met Steve Jobs while working at Atari (and Steve wrote my favorite game, Breakout). Ronald has never owned any Apple product, so he was present with an iPad 2 by the Update crew.

“We are designing for humans and they are central to what we do”

Beyond Delicious – Joachim Bondo

Delicious apps are those that devs put extra work into the UI. They’re the apps that users recommend, love and purchase.

  1. Make code more beautiful than the UI. Delicious apps go beyond skin deep and into the code.
  2. Under-state, Over-deliver.  Move focus from the user interface to the user experience.
  3. Quality takes time. Respect users by taking your time in development.

The Digital Nature – Anna Debenham

Studies show that students who use tech are better with their studies. Unfortunately, schools are more likely to over-monitor the students. For example, a teacher couldn’t show his students the “view source” feature in the student library  because it had been blocked by the school for “security risks”. Over monitoring of students pushes them to hack their way around the systems.

Computer science isn’t taught as a standard in the UK, instead they teach how to use the software, but not how it’s made. Interest in software development is lower than ever. Today’s software and hardware focuses on hiding its design, because it’s thought to be too scary for users.

You can view the slides of this talk at maban.co.uk/dn


Geek Ninja Battle 2 – Design Challenges

Consisted of Joachim, Cennydd, Relly, Sarah, Remy and Aral.

Aral asked, “What are some of the unique design challenges to mobile?” Sarah answered that less is more and you should try to strip out the process to only three or four screens to make it easier for the user. Cennydd asked, “What do you mean by mobile? It could be the property of the device or user. Is the person using his iPhone at home mobile, or is the person using his laptop on a train mobile?”

Aral then asked, “What about ergonomics then?” Cennydd replied that ergonomics are limited, there’s a big difference between touch screen and using a keyboard and mouse. Anything more than one touch on a real mobile user is difficult to do. Joachim said to always strive for simplicity. Only put five buttons or less in the toolbar (which is in the Apple user guide).

“What are some copy restrictions?”, Aral asked. Relly said that the “people don’t read” belief actually depends on the context. Consider what the main task of what they’re doing is and how to let them get to that chunk of information. Mobile is “not what we can cut out, but what makes the most sense” to show.

Aral turned to Remy and asked him what some of the development challenges were? Remy said that if the app isn’t designed to be on the desktop, then it’s designed to be mobile. He recommended using libraries like jQuery mobile for quicker developer, although he also suggested using barebones development. If he can use a library to accomplish what he’s doing quickly though, he’ll use that. Apps should be as small and lean as possible. Cennydd said context is king in theory, but difficult to figure out in reality. Only way to figure out is by extensive researching.

The Things of the Future – Cennydd  Bowles

Many of the things of today don’t do anything. We plan for obsolesce now and we create a lot of crap and artificial demand. We;ve become complacent and allow advertisers to talk to us like idiots, making a dilution of value.

The audience is changing, however, only 12% of consumers have high opinions of big business. People are now more connected and can find out the truth about your products easily. They’re no longer satisfied with the consumer role. The web builds societies, educates and frees us.

The things of the future will:

  • Be human and consider how products talk with the user.
  • Mobile phones will have sensory input
  • More clues for designers to interact with
  • Tackle wicked problems like energy consumption, health and financial management.
  • Disrupt by uprooting existing way of doing things

Sites are now cross-channel where media, form and function are now separated. Users don’t see why they should be different from being in-store to on the web or in an app.

Designers should now forced to think about the entire lifestyle of an item and create fewer, better things.

Photos from the Update Conference & Royal Dinner

I again want to thank all of you who made it possible for me to come here! It was fantastic!