@media — Thursday

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It didn’t take long to get registered on the opening day of @media (or Geekfest 2006 as Jane likes to call it), which opened at 8am, an hour before the keynote speech by long-time standardista and CSS expert, Eric Meyer. Here’s a rundown of the day, with links to speakers’ websites, blog posts and slides where available. It was a shame not to be able to attend all of the talks due to the two-track system, so these are just the ones I attended.

The conference took place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster. The talks and panels took place in a large conference room, with a central partition that allowed the room to be split in two for simultaneous sessions.

Keynote: A Decade of Style—Eric Meyer

  • Eric took us through how he got in to CSS before they were even a solidified standard, attending early Web conferences whilst at college.
  • He also told us how developers who refused to share information on development techniques are no longer around. Encouraged all to share, because someone else will almost certainly have the same idea sooner or later.

Eric’s comments

Good Design vs. Great Design—Jon Hicks, Cameron Moll and Veerle Pieters (Panel)

Some basic design principles, presented by a panel of well known web-based designers.

Grid-based design: Cameron Moll

  • Using a grid for design does a lot of the layout work for you.
  • Violate the grid when necessary! Be sure to accomodate the content, don’t allow the grid to restrict it.
  • Methods
    • Fixed width, uniform, regular divisions
    • Fixed width, hierarchical
    • Fluid width
    • Fluid and fixed width
    • Modular scale—experimental in web design

Type: Jon Hicks

  • Type can be design itself; e.g. Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks….
  • Use fonts appropriate for the situation; e.g. headers, body text.
  • Hierarchy doesn’t just mean bigger text; e.g. case, weight.

Colo(u)r: Veerle Pieters

  • Colour can provide funtion/guidance, balance and contrast.
  • Use rest points to help maintain balance.
  • Use colours to distinguish the nature of content; e.g. consumer, corporate.

As someone with no design training, I did find some of the points useful, although the new panel format did make it harder for the speakers to get their points across as easily. I think the idea was to stimulate discussion, but I’m not sure how useful that is to the audience. Perhaps this sort of session would be better after a related talk instead of as a stand-alone session.

Fine Typography on the Web—Dave Shea

Something a bit different here. Fonts on the web have always been a tricky thing to manage since every computer has a different selection, and various platforms come with different basic fonts, but there are options…

  • Verdana and Georgia are designed to fit the pixel grid and render very crisply. They are no longer available for Mac since OS X/IE5.
  • Common but less-often used fonts include Trebuchet, Lucida Sans and Palatino.
  • When choosing fonts, must consider usability and accessibility for screen readers, mobile devices, and Google and other search engines.
  • Font embedding can be achieved in CSS, but not well supported in browsers. Also some licensing and technical limitations.
  • Alternatives include
    • SVG
    • sIFR—JavaScript to pull out certain elements and pass content to Flash file to render and embed text. Degrades gracefully without JavaScipt or Flash.
    • Images
    • Image replacement—using CSS to hide text and set background image.
    • Some techniques work better than others in particular situations. All have their advantages and disadvantages.

The New Accessibility Guidelines: WCAG 2.0—Andy Clarke, Patrick Lauke, Gez Lemon, and Ian Lloyd (Panel)

A disappointing session. Unfortunately there wasn’t too much discussion about the features of WCAG 2.0, rather about what was wrong with the document and the controversy it’s caused in certain circles of the Web.

  • WCAG incredibly verbose (main document plus three supporting documents). Not really in the spirit of accessibility!
  • Uses very ambiguos language which makes it confusing.

Designing the Next Generation of Web AppsJeffrey Veen

The last session of the day reunited the two halves of the floor for a very enthusiastic and well-delivered talk on the new wave of interactive web applications. I didn’t take many notes for this one, but found it useful

  • Five stages to application design:
    • Surface
    • Skeleton
    • Structure
    • Scope
    • Strategy
  • "Web 2.0" is about putting users first. Involves trust between users and service.
  • AJAX provides realtime feedback and removes the penalty of navigation.

Jeffrey’s slides (PDF)

I’ll have a summary of Friday up soon!

@media Ends… for now

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@media 2006 has been and now gone, and it was another success. I thought I’d be suitably geeky and attempt a bit of a live-blog, but unfortunately the venue’s WiFi was rubbish! I couldn’t get a connection for the majority of the first session, and none at all after that, so it wasn’t too sucessful.

Below is the extend of my blogging while I managed to achieve a connection (not much). I’ll update this post with my other notes and thoughts when I get around to it.

Day Two

Bulletproof Web Design—Dan Cederholm

Current design flourishes and techniques guaranteed to become this year’s design clichés:

  • ‘Leafy’ and dog-eared (Clear:left) corners (and other simple background-image techniques
  • Expandable text boxes (‘Sliding Doors‘ style)
  • Javascript style switching for varied screen widths (CollyLogic)

@media Begins

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It’s the first day of @media 2006 tomorrow, with a pre-show party tonight. Registration is from 8am, which means an early start (bus to Brighton around 6am).

Unlike last year’s inaugral event, which took place in a single theatre, this year’s sold-out event has two ‘tracks’, meaning that, often, two seminars will be taking place simultaneously. Unfortunately, this means I won’t get to attend all the sessions that I’m interested in, but it’s always good to be spoilt for choice, isn’t it? I’m hoping to go to some of the more design-oriented session, since this is definitely where the most room for improvement is in my Web-skillset. :D

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