Last Friday was Responsive Day Out 2: The Squishening, the follow up to last year’s inaugural Responsive Day Out conference in Brighton hosted by Jeremy Keith. The event takes a very different approach than most, cutting back on everything from lunch to lanyards and even an after-party, opting for cheaper than average tickets and focussing on a great speaker line-up instead. However, nothing seems lacking on the day; attendees adorned only with a small Clear Left sticker flocked to the event even more readily than many I’ve attended.
The day also has a slightly different format to many other conferences; shorter talks on a similar theme, grouped together and followed by a discussion between the group of speakers, moderated by Jeremy with questions from himself and some from the audience. It made for a much more flowing day, it never felt like there were too many talks or a talk out of place in the flow of the day. I think more could have been made of the discussion sections though, it would have been nice to have more time with the three speakers sharing ideas and discussing each other’s points, they seemed to come to an end a bit too quickly for me, an opinion shared by the few people I spoke to after.
The content of the day overall was great as well with not a single talk failing to bring something to the conversation. Talks grouped into themes of planning/process, technology, and the bigger picture all gave a different viewpoint to the subject of responsive design. Stand out talks for me included Ida Aalen‘s case study about the work she did for the Norwegian Cancer Society talking about the Core Model, as well as Oliver Reichenstein‘s talk about information architecture (well at least I think that was the main topic).
These two talks stood out for me because of their joint focus on content and about just how much that has an effect on the work we do. Regular musings by Oliver that of course we’re all “doing things the right way” acquiring content first and building from it. While of course tongue-in-cheek, it a reminder that there’s a reason content architecture can end up very backwards; the result being hideous trees of content that often get deeper and more complex the more time/money is put into a project. This is why I liked the core model idea Ida spoke about. Core content decided on by mixing user needs with business goals and letting it help define the structure of your site, then pushing the lower priority business goals to be connected through outward paths from this core content.
A technical side of responsive too
I was really happy to see Dan Donald‘s talk about element queries come to this setting. I’ve seen the talk before at the more technical conference State of the Browser (his talk was recorded there too), but to see it in a more design/big thinking conference was good. A lot of talk afterwards mentioned that elements queries talk might be at the point where talk of responsive images was 2-3 years ago, where browser vendors saying it can’t be done and well look at it now. If this is going to be taken seriously it’s important that we keep talking about it and pushing browser vendors for these features.
Another technical talk, this time from Rachel Andrew spoke about the Grids layout module spec in CSS3 with some practical examples of how it will work. The implementation is only in Chrome Canary behind a flag at the moment but it’s great to see it starting to appear in browsers. The implementation seems to have evolved well since when Rachel first wrote about it in 24 ways when it was just an Internet Explorer implementation. I’m really looking forward to this coming to more browsers in the near future, it really will make a huge difference when laying out content. I’m also inclined to agree with Rachel when she mentioned that grids would be a better implementation for overall page layout as opposed to flex box which will be more useful when it comes to UI components. Rachel has also written up her experiments with the Chrome implementation of Grids.
Too much good to choose from
It would be easy to keep going and say great things about everyone’s talks but I want to keep this to a short post. For more there’s already some great coverage from Ida and Orde if you want to find out more about the rest of content from the day. I enjoyed every talk and took something away from each, I have 20+ pages of scribbled notes in my notebook, there was so much great content that came from the day.
One little bonus for me was Sally Jenkinson using Batman as a role model in her talk as well as showing the original panel with the famous “with great power comes great responsibility” quote. Nice one Sally!
More conferences should take note here, I see a lot of conferences doing blind submissions and audience voting as a way of promoting fairness in submissions, which is great. But, to get the best out of your conference, to do the best for your attendees and for your speakers, good curation and planning will always win out. Jeremy puts together two fantastic conferences in Responsive Day Out and dConstruct, both of which I will have attended for the first time by the end of the year and I don’t think there’s a coincidence in that. Responsive Day Out was a truly fantastic conference, and it was all down to the curation of the conference, because quite literally there wasn’t anything else. Thanks Jeremy, I look forward to dConstruct and seeing what you have planned for Responsive Day Out next year.
The recordings of the talks have been released, I highly recommend listening to Oliver and Ida’s talk if you get chance, as well as all of the discussions at the end of each section.