Front End Design Conference 2017

My sunburnt shoulders aren't the only memory of a great week at the Front End Design Conference in St. Petersburg, FL this past week. Although this was my first time attending, the 9th annual FEDC had some fantastic talks in a unique venue, but from what I've heard this is the norm for organizers at Unmatched Style.

A common thread throughout many talks was how to work more efficiently on projects and within our teams. Matt Griffin talked about the mindset and approach to the complicated process of designing for the web. Defining the difference between the goals of websites and web apps, identifying the intent of the project, creating personas, and starting with user needs are all easy ways for a team to begin a project before jumping into the design phase, or even prototyping.

“If we want to be better at our jobs, we have to be better humans.” - Ben Callahan

Amber Stickel, front-end developer at IBM, spoke about validating the prototyping process and started with a great point that the perception of this phase in a project is that it isn't a necessary added cost when it needs to be viewed not as more or extra steps but focusing time on validated solutions. She explained the IBM process of the “loop” of Create, Refine, Review and gave examples of the tools she uses for which phases in their agile and iterative workflow. Bottom line, there is no “right” method for doing this – it's not the time to be a perfectionist or reinvent the wheel. Setting clear guidelines and finding what is most efficient for you as an individual is what will make or break your prototyping process.

Libraries and tools come and go but great practices will stay great.” - Sergio Cruz

A few talks centered mostly around culture and personal life, not very “technical” stuff – but I almost enjoy hearing about these topics more. Ben Callahan explained how the team at Sparkbox views the value of their employees as investing in a skillset, investing in a person, and investing in a life. Diversity of perspective, empathy, and valuable collaboration will all lead to better results amongst our teams and for our work.

What's your one piece of advice for someone in the field right now?” - Audience member
“Hustle. There's no secret or shortcut to this stuff.” - Josh Higgins

Sort of a personal bit here – but I often struggle with not feeling smart enough, not really knowing what I'm doing or what to learn next. The I went to school for design, so what makes me credible in development or user experience? – kind of thing. When talking about things like UX, research, those beginning steps of design – we are applying the same problem-solving skills that astronauts and other types of scientists use. We all share the commonality of just doing the best we can. In the web industry, we're doing things that haven't been done before, thinking about things that didn't need to be thought about before. We aren't only putting in time to do the work at-hand, but additionally putting in the time to learn new things and solve problems. I identified with all of these points various presenters made throughout the conference, but also the idea that it can't be done alone – our teams and the community are our best advocates for moving forward. I also need to work on not telling myself I'm not smart enough for things (adding that to my vision board - created via Ela Conf.)

“Science isn't just for heroes, it's for all of us” - Matt Griffin

I'm looking forward to sharing what I learned at FEDC this year, and hoping to get more involved with Unmatched Style events as a volunteer in the future. A big thank you to the presenters, organizers, and attendees for making this an all-around great (and very much needed) experience. Not to mention, sunny Florida is not the worst place to travel and pick up a few pointers.