Our day at Handheld Conference
On Monday, Rob, Paul, Gareth, James and myself attended Handheld Conference, a day of talks celebrating all things mobile web and app related.
It seems, for us Welsh folk, web conferences are like buses. You wait around for one for years and two rock up within a couple of months of each other. And that’s great! It’s great that Wales is becoming known as a player in the web industry. It’s great that we get to show off our beautiful land to people further afield. It’s great that such high quality speakers choose to come over the bridge to share their knowledge. It’s especially great as it only took me 15 mins to get there!
Much like Port80, the conference Rob and I spoke at in May, this was the first one for organiser Craig Lockwood. I applaud him for pulling it off with what only can be described as aplomb! The timings were precise, the beautiful St David’s hotel was a fantastic venue, the food was excellent, as is normal for these sorts of things, the attendees were chatty, open and friendly, and most importantly of all the speakers were brilliant.
Among the established speakers from the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft was our very own Rob, who did one of three quick-fire 15 minute talks. He did us proud. He spoke brilliantly about content, and how it plays such a vital role in any web project, mobile or otherwise. He used some examples of how we’ve adopted a content first approach, described in this post about a project for Solas.
All the speakers can be found here, but for me the speakers that stood out (apart from Rob or course) were Dave Addey, owner of iOS App development company Agant and Aral Balkan a well known user experience designer. I think the reason why these talks appealed to me is that both speakers showed both a huge amount of detailed knowledge of their subjects and intense passion for design and detail.
As a business we try to attend conferences to help grow our knowledge, passion and connections in the industry. I thought it might be nice for the team to tell you their highlights, so over to them…
Rob said –
As a non-techy person who doesn’t code or design, I got an awful lot out of the day. It is always insightful to learn about what others are making and how they are pushing the boundaries. The range of speakers was a real coup for the day and though they each had their own expertise, there were common themes throughout the day, such as content!
It was also useful to be reminded of things that sometimes get lost as we get bogged down with just doing the day job. It was good to be reminded that there is a difference between designing websites and crafting experiences. As a speaker at the event, chatting to others before and after has really left me pondering a wealth of content related issues, many of wish I hope to blog about in the coming months.
James said –
When you go to a conference you want to be engaged, enthused and if you’re lucky, informed. I’m glad to say that handheld conf provided all of these and a few more, not only did I come away enthusiastic about the industry I’m in, but also encouraged by the feel of community and overall willingness to share and inspire.
For me there were a few speakers that stood out, Dave Addey – Great to see someone’s passion and simple idea lead to so much more, Andrew Spooner – always good to hear from such an enthusiastic speaker from such a great company, Robert Mills (our very own) Good to see he finished his slides and talk, but more importantly gave an insight to a subject most of us avoid, and finally, Well done Craig Lockwood for placing Aral Balkan at the end of the day, whose use of images, video, humour and unbridled passion lifted everyones spirit after such a long day, his was without doubt a great great end to a brilliant day!
Paul said –
Aside from the renewed motivation in myself that these conferences generally instil, I found the varying viewpoints on the Native Vs Web apps discussion to be particularly interesting. Dave Addey’s talk was a highlight for me; his insight into how Agant projects the potential success of an app project will become, I suspect, a useful template for many of us in the future.
Gareth said –
For me, Handheld Conference was a huge success. Craig Lockwood, a conference rookie, put on a great show. It ran (almost) very smoothly, the venue was fantastic and most importantly the line-up was solid.
The talks obviously catered for developers, but luckily for me – many topics included design and content. As a designer, I think it’s important that I have an understanding of how developers work, and I really got that from Handheld. None of the talks were to techy – which meant nothing went over my head. One thing I now know for sure, is that PhoneGap is the worst thing since unsliced bread.
Several talks really stood out for me.Dave Addey gave us a good insight into what makes great apps and how to become a multi-millionaire from making them (not really). His well made points really got me thinking differently, about how an app can make money.
Simon Cross, from Facebook produced some mind-blowing statistics. More people use m.facebook.com than the iOS and Android app combined.
Whilst, Aral Balkan had the tough final slot, he was the perfect speaker for this. Despite the long day, he perked the crowd up with an entertaining talk, not about great design, but about terribly, awful, horrendous design. He had picked some very funny examples of this, many in hotel rooms.
Oh, and the food was incredible. Hats off to Lockwood.
So, I think it’s fair to say that the day was a success, and we look forward to both Port80 and Handheld in 2013! Did you go, what was your highlight? Let us know in the comments.
Rob reviews ‘Design is a Job’ by Mike Monteiro
We’re big fans of the A Book Apart series of books and have previously reviewed Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter. This month Rob read Design Is a Job and has since insisted that everyone else in the studio gets stuck into it too. He told us that no matter what role we play in the team we will all get something from this book, so it is currently being passed around. In the meantime, you can read Rob’s full review below.
Before I had even opened Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro, I had heard nothing but rave reviews for this book and had high expectations. Those expectations were exceeded and it is quite frankly one of the most important books I’ve read in relation to my career.
Design Is a Job is the seventh book to be released by A Book Apart and it is summarised on their site as:
“Co-founder of Mule Design and raconteur Mike Monteiro wants to help you do your job better. From contracts to selling design, from working with clients to working with each other, this brief book is packed with knowledge you can’t afford not to know.”
That’s so true. There’s nothing like hearing about the experiences for someone who has been there and done it and Monteiro certainly has.
The key thing I took from the book as a whole is that it was reassuring. It was reassuring that we were doing a lot right at Bluegg but also reassuring that the issues we face as a creative agency aren’t isolated to us. That leads to the second thing that I took from the book, confidence.
It’s easy in any job to fall into a routine and be reactive. We’re all guilty of that at times. Design Is a Job was a nice reminder that we need to step back and look at what we are doing and how we are doing it. It gave me the confidence to tackle certain issues and make changes as needed. Not being afraid to say no, standing your ground with certain decisions and sticking to your process are all vital, which the book details.
That’s not to say that we trample all over clients in a stubborn manner. As Monteiro says in the book:
“Clients are the lifeblood of a healthy business. They are the oxygen in your bloodstream that keeps everything going.”
He’s so right of course and the book really did hammer home that we have a responsibility to educate clients rather than blame them and moan about them. I found the sections about relationships, feedback and payment to be especially useful and informative as they are things I deal with on away to day basis in my role as a Studio Manager.
That’s another beauty of the book though, it’s by no means only suitable for designers to read. Developers, project managers, copywriters, anyone in the industry would gain a lot from the book. With an engaging tone it was almost like I was chatting with a pal over a pint. I was learning lots without actually feeling like I was learning.
A clear sign that a book is good is when you finish reading it, open it back up and start again. That’s what I did with Design Is a Job. A must read for anyone in the web industry. If you liked this review, take a look at the ‘Designing for Emotion’ review. Have you read it? Let us know what you thought in the comments.
Rob reviews ‘Designing for Emotion’ by Aarron Walter
Here at Bluegg we always try to stay up to date with the latest technology, design trends and design philosophies. We try to read lots. We’re big fans of the A Book Apart series, and not just because they line up in a beautifully colour coordinated set, but because they’re really fascinating and easy to read. Last week we received the latest editions to the series – The web team have had their noses dug into ‘Mobile First’ by Luke Wroblewski whilst Rob bagsied ‘Designing for Emotion’ by Aarron Walter. He’s now finished it and here’s his review:
I had high hopes for Designing for Emotion before I had even opened it. The subject matter was one that interests me greatly and any book that discusses the psychology behind design is a must read for me.
Not only did the book live up to my expectations but it exceeded them. Author Aarron Walter has crafted a well researched and enjoyable read that is the perfect length to digest in a few hours but also a handy reference that I will come back to time and time again.
One of the first things that hit home for me was the importance of longevity in our designs and somehow creating an experience that people talk about long after they have moved onto the next website.
This industry changes quickly and it can often be a struggle to keep up, so whilst we are focused on making sites responsive or adopting a content first approach, it won’t be long before something else will be the focus. What Designing for Emotion makes clear in the foreword is that by ensuring there is an emotional connection between users and the websites we create, we are creating work and experiences that last and that keep people talking about them.
The book continues to discuss a wide range of topics but always links them back to main subject. Craftsmanship is one such topic and here Walters discusses how those who craft something, anything, leave a bit of themselves in their work. It’s about adding the personal touch and being passionate about what you do.
He goes on to say how we are more connected today through the web, social media and technology but not necessarily more connected in an emotional way. I completely agree with this sentiment. If anything social media is making us more anti-social, with superficial friendships and weak emotional connections between one another. With the importance of offline relationships clear, Walters believes we can bring some of that emotional resonance online and his book tells us how.
At Bluegg we focus on personality and the best way to communicate this through the designs we craft for our clients. It was great to read that Walters also sees this as being an important part of design, to show the humans behind the website. He also encourages us to keep things simple. Sure the sites we create have to be usable but that usability doesn’t have to come at the expense of pleasure (or emotion).
The book states that to make experiences pleasurable we have to look at storytelling, the attention to detail and (dare I insert a blow-my-own-trumpet plug here to my own book) the value in designing the invisible. I couldn’t resist -sorry.
As for the psychology behind design, Walters talks about the relationship between emotion and memory. He shares some great real-life examples with us throughout the book including when we hear songs, when we smell certain things and when we taste incredible food. Recall is improved when we have an emotional connection to something. There’s no need for this not to be true with websites.
Another theme in the book that is close to my heart is audiences. Walters states that ‘when it comes to emotional design, we need to tailor the personality to the content and audience’. He also says that ‘by understanding our audience we can better address their needs’. Again I completely agree and would also add from my experience of working as part of an audience research team for the BBC that there is a big difference between knowing your audience and understanding your audience. It is this understanding that brings with it more insight into those you are targeting, an insight that will allow you to create designs that they can relate to emotionally.
Having a keen interest in all the topics neatly sewn together in this book means that it was unlikely I wouldn’t like it, but that’s not to say that my enjoyment was guaranteed. Walters has written a book that all those in the industry should read, it won’t take long but the knowledge he shares and the inspiration it yields is invaluable. It’s certainly got me thinking and I’m going to make sure all those at Bluegg read it too.
Have you read Designing for Emotion? If so, why not tell us what you thought of it in the comments.