An Event Apart Denver

December 2017

In December 2017, I attended An Event Apart Denver, an annual design conference.

From a learning perspective, it was definitely one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. All of the speakers were really engaging, and I absorbed something new in every lecture. The conference ranged widely in topics, from usability research, animation, image optimization, CSS techniques and Progressive Web Apps. Design leaders spoke of numerous ways to improve the performance of sites by making them smaller and faster, more user-friendly and how designers could express their creativity as well. The topics that stuck with me the most are research, customer experience, and accessibility. Below are notes from some of my favorite speakers:

Jeffrey Zeldman kicked off the conference with talk about how research saves time and money and how it allows us to build the best solution. Research is frequently overlooked in the design process. It’s better to spend time researching at the early stages of a project than to spend time building the wrong product. We can only identify and solve problems when we know who we are designing for and the market we’re trying to reach. It helps us discover what we should be solving. Jeffery also said, “Data is only as good as the people analyzing it.” Data doesn’t provide answers, it helps us ask better questions. Designers don’t always know the answers; we should be asking questions.

Gerry McGovern provided a good explanation of why we should measure the time and effort a user takes to complete a task while using a product.  Combining quantitative and qualitative data will help assist in decision making. McGovern instructed us to identify the goal first. Next, outline the user’s journey. Then, talk to users to find the differences between assumptions you made and their actions. From there, iterate, improve the experience and retest. If you can save a user time, you will win their loyalty.

Derek Featherstone spoke of the importance of accessibility and how it’s vital to the design industry. He said don’t aim for perfection, think “better” instead. Designing for accessibility starts with researching people, the process and tools. It’s not good to make assumptions for accessible designs. It’s important to do testing with people who have disabilities. We should construct accessibility decisions into our design systems and stick with the standards.