Responsive Day Out 3
Friday 19th June was a brilliant day, partly because of the glorious sunshine and partly because 12 codebar Brighton students spent the day at the 3rd and final Responsive Day Out ‘The Final Breakpoint’ thanks to ticket giveaways from the lovely people at Clearleft.
What is Responsive Day Out?
Responsive Day Out is a day conference comprised of topics branching responsive web design. It gathers designers and developers sharing their workflow strategies, techniques, and experiences with responsive web design.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive web design is the practice of building a website suitable to work on every device and every screen size, no matter how large or small, mobile or desktop.
The conference was held at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, anyone who has been to Brighton will know that this is a beautiful building, well located between lots of nice places to eat and drink. The staff were friendly and helpful and the breaks made for a great opportunity to get to know some of the other attendees.
There were 12 talks, all of which were engaging and of high quality. Talks were grouped in 3s (around 20 minutes each) followed by a quick chat between conference host Jeremy Keith and those speakers before breaks for sun and coffee.
As codebar is an event aimed at encouraging diversity in tech we were pleased that there were so many inspiring female speakers on the bill. To us it signifies women holding strong presence in this industry. It is encouraging for other women either starting out or further into careers, when it is actively projected that women should be present, seen, heard and their knowledge shared.
The audio recordings are already available on the Responsive Day Out 3 Page but here is a quick overview of a few of the talks:
Alice Bartlett -
Alice is a front end developer at GDS and her talk title was ‘What is the business case of accessibility?’ She opened the conference, creating a great atmosphere as her speaking style came across very confident and naturally funny. She spoke about the alpha and beta stages of the GDS site and the process of making the site accessible. Ideas were developed with an objective: Not to frame what people may lack but instead to design in terms of what they (GDS) should provide. Through her experiences and through writing this talk, Alice found that accessibility is not the easiest businesses case to make but morally we should never need a business case for it. She recommended quick ways to improve accessibility to a site are running a screen reader over it and adding Aria. She also recommended joining discussions on the GDS Hack Pad where design ideas are shared.
Rachel Shillcock -
Rachel is self employed, often designing for entrepreneurs with a focus on female entrepreneurs. She spoke about accessibility and how it isn’t something that can be tagged on at the end - no body should be left behind. She shared useful tools for making a site more accessible which will be especially useful for codebar students looking to make improvements in that area. These tools included Contrast Ratio an online colour contrast checker that gives an A, AA or AAA accessibility rating for a colour against a background colour. Another was tota11y which lets you add a checklist to your page which will rate and advise your pages’ accessibility. Plenty of advice can also be found on a11yproject. She concluded that ultimately testing on real life people will help you achieve the best results.
Alla Kholmatova -
Alla is an interaction designer at FutureLearn. She spoke about taking a modular approach to design. She had found that a lack of shared language had hindered the original design process. They focused on perfecting the language used when naming components. A key takeaway was about how it was much harder to design ‘a kit’ than it was to design a whole page but the results were worthwhile. Another interesting part of their design process was that they actually handed away control from solely the designers and involved team members across disciplines. When working with users they worked with paper cards displaying the components which gave a more tangible and creative experience.
Jake Archibald -
Jake spoke about Modern Progressive Enhancement. Jake began by talking about performance and how the part to focus on is the time between the 1st render and 1st interaction. He spoke about the frustration of ‘lie-fi’ aka when your phone is telling you that you are connected but in reality the page never loads. He introduced the Service Worker API and how this will open up possibilities to browse offline. He demonstrated an app that allowed the user to make Wikipedia pages available offline. The problem then occurred if the user wanted to click on a link from the offline page and were not connected. In this instance, Service Worker could ask if the user would like to be notified when the page is available to view and could then send a push notification when the user next become connected. This seems like it would be very useful… especially for train journeys.
Ruth John -
Ruth’s talk was brilliant as she had prepared lots of demonstrations for using different web APIs. These included the geolocations API, web animation API, web audio API, ambient light API and more. There is a Web Audio API book by Boris Smus available to read for free online which comes recommended. Hopefully this triggered a few project ideas for codebar students!
Rosie Campbell -
Rosie works as a Technologist at BBC Research and Development which we thought seemed like a very cool job to have. She spoke about a research project they had undertaken with smart electronic wallpaper. The idea is that this wallpaper covers the walls in your living room and then when you watch tv the wall paper can change to give more of an immersive viewing experience spilling beyond the boundaries of the TV. You could be watching Glastonbury and there could be festival maps or set times or maybe a ‘Blur’ wall if Blur were playing with artwork from the band, possibly a crowd wall too. If there was a build up to a TV show you liked, maybe the photo frames could be slowly filled with character images over the course of the build up. This seems would also be great for parties if music videos could be projected all around the room.
Rosie spoke about designing with constraints to breed creativity which is why they kept a TV in the design. We recommend you read more about the Unconventional Screens project here.
Lyza Danger Gardner -
Lyza was great to watch, very engaging and brilliant at telling the her story. She spoke about the conflicts she felt around being a generalist and working as a software engineer. When she discovered HTML in 1993 she felt huge excitement - that she could reach the world with some p tags on a page. She loved pursuits with tangible results and felt the web was a generalist paradise. The web took a big leap when CSS was introduced and over time she began to find the complexity of the web tiring.
Before the web, if you heard lyrics on the radio you couldn’t just google the song. You had to look up academic information in reference libraries, but now with the web we are the reference library. More and more new frameworks are released and it can lead to demotivation and feelings of incomplete mastery making it much harder to be a generalist.
Lyza mentioned that she loved the word ‘developer’ which is something that resonated with some of the codebar students, it is great to be able to develop and carry out ideas. She spoke about how it takes bravery to feel like a beginner again and again as changes happen in the web. It is comforting to know that everyone feels out of their depth at times when learning.
Responsive Day Out was a fabulous experience and we are slightly sad that this was the last one! Thank you very much to Clearleft and all the speakers. We came a way with a lot to think about and plenty of ideas to incorporate into our own projects.