The 10th anniversary of Front End Design Conference kicked off with Ethan Marcotte's talk “The Map and the Territory” where he presented the idea that we should be meeting people where ever / when ever they are using an example we all know well, maps. He touched on designing for sustainability in web design, once again hitting on the subject of performance and progressive enhancement. As always, his storytelling abilities resonated with the audience in the best way and left everyone eager to learn from other presenters how we can best design for reach.
“What works is better than what looks good.”
In my current role at Listrak, I'm wearing a lot more hats than just front-end designer, which has given me some of my first exposure to leading entire projects with teams outside of our company. With this in mind, I definitely took different things from the talks as I had the previous year, listening in particular to tips on project management, communication and team structure. Rob Harr of Sparkbox talked about how their team runs Discovery Projects as a key element of their process. This phase happens before any work takes place and involves a great deal of discussion. He talked about the key people who should be present during these conversations and some tactics for recording information. It's a little late for me to implement some of these things into my current project-at-hand, but I certainly have some strong strategies in my pocket for the next time around.
Another talk that really resonated was from Kuan Luo who spoke about “How to Kick Ass While Wearing Many Hats”, a problem that many of us face. Some of her points I had heard previously – being T-shaped and understanding what makes up your T. She dove in a bit deeper, explaining how we should make lists for ourselves of what's for us and not for us, and use that to embrace our skills and where we're at. Our industry more than many others is always changing which causes the future to be a big unknown; but that also gives us the ability to keep transforming and changing our own skills.
I extended my stay in Florida a few days after the conference and got to visit a few places that will stick in my memory for a long time. Clearwater Marine Aquarium (most well-known for being home to the stars of Dolphin Tale) works to rehabilitate and give permanent homes to animals harmed by careless humans. Blind and broken-shelled turtles, dolphins scarred from third degree burns, missing limbs and missing mamas – all in a beautiful facility filled with knowledgeable and friendly staff. Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary for big (and small) cats surrendered or rescued from circuses, drug raids, or as attempted pets. Many of them can’t return to the wild since they don’t know how to “cat” (abused, declawed, injured) so Big Cat Rescue is their permanent home where they receive lots of specialized attention and care. And finally, ZooTampa – for a reasonable additional charge, the zoo offers many different up-close encounters and the chance to learn a little more from the animals' keepers themselves. I was able to see an elephant training session, feed a rhinoceros, and get a tour of their veterinary facility all before seeing the exhibits. Zoos can be a controversial subject but it's clear that Zoo Tampa puts the safety and well-being of their animals first and foremost.