When I took a break from working to pursue the MSc, I wanted to dive into theoretical academic research. After 8 months, however, I felt like I was missing out on current digital practice. So, the conference was a great way to re-engage with current topics, such as website performance budgeting or minimum viable products (MVP), and all in the context of companies that have pioneered digital in the past decade: Facebook, Buzzfeed and Tinder.
The importance of coding
The focus of the conference was the intersection of design and web development via the user experience. One of the highlights was the first keynote speaker, from Buzzfeed, who talked about how they made their designers learn to code to create a more fluid development process. They also shape their job descriptions to ensure coding is something they all worked on.
Accessibility considerations from the BBC
Other case studies followed, such as how the BBC News app was developed, which was a very insightful look at the constant iterative process (something all presenters brought up.) They also shared how they cater for great variability of user preferences, as well as accessibility challenges e.g. how the site will load in poor internet regions or translate to other languages like Welsh (long names don’t fit in buttons!) or Arabic (different reading directions).
I am particularly interested in the cultural and heritage sector, and having experienced how resistant to change it can be, it was very insightful to see case studies about the recent digital transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the V&A museum. Primarily, how they successfully used A/B testing to secure senior stakeholder buy-in on major innovations.
There’s more to it than mobile, tablet and desktop
Another of the highlights of the conference was a talk on the need to stop thinking about just 3 devices when designing the web: mobile, tablet, desktop. But rather, the importance of universal design, as browsers can now be found on everything: televisions, game consoles (a huge source of internet browsing traffic for 16-24yrs old and growing), gym equipment, cameras, etc.
Presentation aside, I chatted to several other attendees, mostly from agency backgrounds like my own, with whom I discussed each presentation. This really enriched the experience and I even bumped into some familiar faces.
Overall, it was a valuable experience that has complemented by studies and re-engaged me with the digital sector in Edinburgh.