WebDU 2012

It’s been a few years since my last webDU so this year’s conference was a reunion of sorts with familiar faces, friends and dear old colleagues. I should point out that as a daemonite alumni I was a guest, so yes I am biased and I do think this conference is awesome. The staging was great, the food better and the speakers stellar. Did I mention there was ice-cream?

There is no point in me sharing the 16 pages of notes I took over he 2 days—that would be a pretty tedious conference review. So, what I thought I would do is share the reasons you might want to follow up on the session slide deck and speaker profile. So here goes …

Terry Ryan from Adobe evangelising device testing then showing us Shadow

Terry Ryan, Adobe, Keynote Day 1 and Semantic HTML
Reason to click

Shane Morris on Microsoft’s Metro design language
Reason to click

John Bristowe – Make awesome web
Reason to click

Alex Danila (Google) – on the new shiny of HTML 5
Reason to click

  • Updates on new attributes and native applications of HTML 5: camera, microphone and more.
  • <canvas>

Mia Horrigan – The unsubscribed: designing for conversion
Reason to click

Dale Rankine – Mr Spock! Consumerise the enterprise
Reason to click

Marcus Shappi– the internet of things
Reason to click

Matthew Hodgson – The trouble with time travel
Reason to click

  • Case studies on two different agile project frameworks and the lessons learned in using them to create collaboration between UXers and developers.
  • Follow up for user workshop/design research  ideas.
  • Slidedeck

Of course, the above is just my view of the conference. I’m not a developer so if you want to follow up on the techier talks check out the the webDU site. I also have neglected to divulge the hilarity of Dmitry Baranovskiy’s you’re just not doing it right JavaScript comments on the speaker round table and the inspirational and thoughtful Colin James day 2 keynote. That deserves a blog post all to itself.

Until next year.

Design Events

Designing for Touch Screens

I was totally enamored by the Microsoft Surface at WebDU. Here is a mix of what I learnt, filmed and experienced.

Touch Design Principles

Shane Morris outlined some design prinicples when designing for the Surface, but many would apply to designing for smaller touch screen devices.

  • Don’t deploy a desktop application to a new device, consider the specific requirements of a touch interface
  • You may be designing for more than one simultaneous user. Users may be interacting from different directions so the app should be ‘direction-less’.
  • Non functional gestures need to be acknowledged. (Vapour trails have been built into the Surface platform to orient the user and show non consequential hand gestures.)
  • Use large targets. Avoid traditional controls.
  • Design for the super real i.e. design digital objects using real world objects as inspiration. Think about how the object  behaves in the real world, to design how the virtual object responds to touch.

Below are some amateur video clips of me and others playing around with the Microsoft Surface.

Switching it on

The Surface is not a magic table. Under that huge resistive touch screen is a machine. Weirdly, a convenient button to switch it on, located on the outside, does not seem to have been included in the design brief.


People are happy to clean up the debris left by other users on the Surface, and its all part of the fun and learning.

Hold on! Those 2 demos show it working great but …

One handed, while I was holding the camera, I was having a bit more trouble than the peeps in the Lonely Planet demo. I had objects spinning out of control all over the place but it was still fun.

The point of the Lonely Planet Surface app is to load a passport with information, like photos and videos from the store, that you can look at later online. Each “passport” has a barcode type sticker so the machine can read it. Each Lonely Planet book also has a “barcode”, so as soon as you plonk it on the table it reveals relevant content.

Lonely Planet passport and guide with Microsoft Surface &quot;barcode&quot;

Lonely Planet passport and guide

Resistive Screen

Touch devices are either resistive or capacitive. The Surface is obviously resistive, so the pressure you apply affects the interaction as this simple Ribbons app demonstrates.

Design for the Super Real

This wine store didn’t quite work for me. It used pretty conventional controls, and I kept trying to do something with the bottles themselves. The workflow seemed kinda busted too.

But the piano app works great.

Another learning from this blog post is that videos take forever to upload on Youtube. FOREVER!


WebDU 2010: Start-up, How to Get Going as a Web Entrepreneur

Collis Ta’eed spoke at webDU a few years ago on how to start a web community. He should know, Collis founded the Envato network which publishes PSD TutsVector TutsActive TutsFreelance Switch amongst other titles. It’s inspiring to hear about web success stories. The Envato network employs 25 people and attracts ‘a few million visitors a month’. Impressive.

Often it is difficult for speakers to share lessons learned in work, because of client confidentiality, and because sometimes it’s not good business to give too many secrets away. To solve this dilemma Collis delivered his presentation on how to start a web business by discussing a hypothetical case study. His words of wisdom are summarised below.

How do you come up with an idea?

  • Solve a problem you have yourself experienced.
  • Observe and look for audience niches that experience this problem.
  • Your solution should help other people make money
    • e.g. the 37 Signals Basecamp application wasn’t making money from the consumer market but became a success when it was marketed to business.
  • Test your idea with research.

How do you do good business?

  • Not all businesses are equal. The Envato network has dual business models of publishing and market places.
  • Don’t underestimate marketing. While its essential to have a good product, it’s vital to have great marketing.
  • Spread the word. Present and blog about tangential topics that appeal to people who want to use your service.
  • Build your user base with free content then add paid services.

Collis was one of the highlights of weDU for me. Keep an eye out on the webDU site. They will be publishing audio of the talks in coming weeks.


WebDU 2010: Flash highlights

Adobe were a little self aware post Steve Jobs anti Flash rant but not defensive at this year’s webDU conference. Why? Because Flash continues to improve and there are few haters in the webDU crowd. Gone was the spiel about the quick uptake of flash and flash penetration in the market place. The emphasis this year was on performance improvements in Flash beta 10.1. Expect more fan fare after the official release later this year.

Flash 10.1 beta talking points:

  • touch apis
  • improved audio support
  • performance improvements
  • Flash mobile applications run on various platforms and devices.
    App stores for flash developers on these platforms are more open to developers than you-know-who.

The touch capabilities of Flash were best illustrated by this video, developed by Struck Axiom, that I crudely caught on my camera.

In the keynote Mike Chambers went on to demo various tablets and mobile devices running flash applications including a live demo of Wired magazine running on a resistive touch tablet. Mike hinted at some sort of workflow from the publishing suite to create interactive flash. At least, I hope this is what he was hinting at.

Greg Rewis, the Creative Suite evangelist went on to outline more flash goodies such as:

  • improved text handling e.g. text boxes can be linked for flowing text
  • full support of 32 new character sets e.g. asian character sets and left to right, vertical text layout.

Greg was most passionate about the new code snippet library which tackles the learning barrier of action script to newbies. This is best exemplified by his quote: “All the Flash bashing that goes with actionscript 3 — shut up now!

  • Libraries can be imported and exported. This should be a boon for flash communities
  • The sample code snippets are generous and code can be exposed and includes instructions

WebDU 2010: the year of touch

I have been to 4 webDU conferences and this was the first year that I was not on the Daemon organising team. It felt strange to not have to do anything but enjoy myself, and that I did.

In the Day 1 keynote Mike Chambers from Adobe came out at the gates in defense of Flash (hi Mr Jobs). Acknowledging how CPU intensive flash video can be he spoke of Flash performance improvements on mobile and the desktop. He also demoed the new flash touch apis on tablets, phones and larger screens. Microsoft were there and to the delight of many brought along a Microsoft Surface. It was a blast to play with. It was interesting to hear from Shane Morris about what constraints were put into the behaviour of the Surface. In his talk Shane outlined design principles with case studies of applications designed for ANZ, Lonely Planet and Cochlear. This was my highlight of the conference. Other more technical sessions that I did not attend talked more specifically about touch technologies e.g. Dmitry Baranovskiy demonstrated the gestural capability of his Raphael javascript library.

I am pretty much a wannabe geek, i.e. not very geeky, so I left the tech streams up to the developers and spent most of my time in the UX/team stream. There was a good mix in this stream of usability, design sessions, specifically design for mobile, wireframe design, and a mix of broader project sessions. These included:

  • Robin Hilliard introducing a framework to define problems and come up with sound requirements
  • Mathew Hodgson evangelising agile. This is a hot topic, but especially relevant to a developer audience from where the concept arose. It was helpful to see this explained through a warts and all case study; and
  • Tim Buntel from Atlassian talking about managing developers.

What was great about this year’s webDU was that it was not a tutorial conference, nor were the sessions so general that you came away with nothing but a new vague idea. The sessions introduced applicable principles and approaches that rang true with real life case studies and inspirational examples.

Anyone who knows me knows I take A LOT of notes so instead of trying to summarise my favourite take outs from WebDU in one post I will try and publish a series of webDU posts over the coming days. OK. Weeks.

Until next year!


Geek Tees at webDU