We’ve been absorbing all that we learned at the first ever Build conference in Belfast last Thursday and finding that we’re battling with a heady mix of ideas and perceptions. It’s been said in previous reviews that the day’s talks seemed to ‘build’ upon the previous one to a crescendo and that was most certainly true, if not perhaps intentional. If it was a happy fluke then it was a great one and is perhaps an idea that can be utilised in future years. It gave the conference a unique slant and kept the audience engaged throughout.
Tim Van Damme did a job on us, reminding us that the web is still in its infancy and that we need to continue the road of progression and passionate commitment that has made it grow so far in such a relatively short period of time. Also he was very honest about the problems that are faced by the people in our industry and it was nice (if scary) to feel that even someone who has reached the heady heights of being asked to speak as an authority still faces the same problems as some us of who are perhaps further down the food chain.
Andy Budd was a pro, talking about seductive design and how the web is a great medium for sucking in an audience and keeping them there. It made us think a lot about the landscape out there on the web and how we can improve upon what we’re currently doing to make every site we make a better offering.
Mark Boulton then took on the task of delving into @fontface and how the new capabilities for type are changing the web. This is unfortunately something that looks to be beset by problems as the font foundries do their level best to protect their traditional income streams and seek to avoid devaluing their fonts by making them widely available to anyone.
It’s a thinker, but like the example of the music industry and .mp3 sharing it’s something that will have to be addressed before it gets worse. Here’s hoping that the foundries can come to a mutual agreement and not start going all Metallica on us! There are also fledgling practical problems with using fonts on the web that weren’t created for it and that is something that us as designers will have to overcome if a richer typographic web is to become a reailty.
The good news is that many more web specific fonts are becoming available and that prices are beginning to come down for these, even if they do have a long way to go before web fonts enter wide usage. Also, and this is a rare pat on the back for designers, Mark pointed out how well we’ve all done with a very limited font set and how the limitations of typography on the web has forced us to innovate in other areas, making for better interfaces and better layouts to compensate. It’s something we hadn’t considered at all but it makes for a great landscape if we can combine all of the things that we have been forced to learn with true open typography. The result will be a far more usable and beautiful web, and that’s something we can all look forward to.
Next up was Ryan Sims who advocated the idea of having personal projects to work on in order to try new ideas and new technologies and he makes a fantastic point. In an ideal world for web companies this would be your own website but for many reasons it never quite works out that way and practice is something that, in Ryan’s mind, you simply must do in order to keep on improving. We’re going to take him up on this and already we’re sketching out ideas in our heads for geekriot.co.uk and what we can do with a pretty cool domain name. Finding the time will be difficult of course, but we’ll reap the rewards in progression. Cheers Ryan, we hope it does you proud.
To our lasting regret we missed Wilson Miner and his talk, phone calls and such getting in the way but we’ll check it out when the video goes live on the Build website in the coming days or weeks.
And last up was the mild mannered, slightly sardonic being that is Eric Meyer. We’d had the priviledge of having lunch and dinner with Eric during his time in the build up (sorry!) to the conference and he’s a warm and funny man with some right on views on healthcare and, well, just about everything really.
Eric talked about ‘A More Tangled Web’ and refused to give away the contents of this until the talk itself. We’re glad that he kept it to himself as when it unfolded and a huge ‘THE WEB HAS WON’ dominated the big screen it was a truly inspiring moment. Eric talked about how HTML, CSS and web technology has started to infiltrate devices such as the Amazon Kindle and iTunes LP and how core web technology was expanding beyond the web and is replacing software in everyday devices and how this is set to continue. From our side we were thinking about our AirPOS Point of Sale spinout company and it was great to know that it’s not only us crossing the chasm so to speak, but that major hardware and software manufacturers such as Apple are also on the bandwagon and are using web technologies to do amazing things with what might be termed more traditional devices.
The idea of web technology itself as being a disruptive tech and a legitimate replacement for the grey box software of old is massively inspiring and makes web designers and developers so much more than we have been in the past. Also blurring that line between web development and software is a great and inspiring thing and will help to accellorate innovation into previously unchartered waters. And in that regard Eric is right, the web has won and is bleeding from our screens into everything everywhere. What a thought and what a moment.
And that was Build, an international design conference / festival / happening or however you want to describe it and it was on our doorstep and we should be proud and appreciative of the downright crazy endeavour and balls of Andy McMillan for putting it there. He truly pulled it off and moved us all one step futher to having a city of culture to be proud of. No awards, no icebergs, no gurus, no methods and no preachers. Just hard hard work, vision and willingness to take a huge risk and put it all on the line.
The speakers may have got the majority of the applause on the day but the web community in Northern Ireland should save one resounding pounding of hands for Andy. We for one applaud you mate.Permalink