ConvergeSC Video Footage

The ConvergeSC speaker videos were just posted today. Watching clips from them, I am reminded how much fun it was, how much I learned, and how much I have forgotten already! The speakers were EXCELLENT, and I am so glad there is video footage so I can go back and watch these presentations again.

If you weren’t there, consider this a free web conference – fantastic tips, fun presentations, and maybe a little humor too. Here are a few of my favorite design talks from the conference, though it is honestly hard to name favorites as each presentation was excellent. To see the rest of the videos, go to the Vimeo page. Enjoy!

From Decent to Great – ConvergeSC #4

Let me begin by saying that I cannot come close to providing a decent summary of this speaker.  Matthew Smith (from SquaredEye) did a phenomenal job when he spoke on Saturday, as was evident by the massive amount of nods, tweets, and chatter that broke out during and after his presentation.

On a non-internet related note, Smith is a fantastic rhetorician.  He is very comfortable, witty, and organized in his thoughts and presentation material, though he comes off very casual.  It seemed as if everyone in the audience found him very easy to listen to, and he was able to identify with everyone in the room – whether designer or developer.

SquaredEye is all about the details.  Sure, every designer is, in a way, a perfectionist.  Let’s face it – whether it’s a personal or business project, chances are you won’t be able to even take a break until it’s exactly how you want it to look.  I honestly believe that designers have a gift (and a curse) that other professionals don’t have – they are devoured by their desire to make something look good.  Smith, however, seemed to emphasize a different sort of design detail.  The not-so-obvious things take a website from decent to great.  Double borders, gradiant shifts, 3D effects, etc.

In a few ways, Smith said a lot of what Jason Beaird had mentioned earlier – websites need great balance, good color management, and clarity.  He talked about the importance of whitespace, de-cluttering your content, and simplicity.  You need to make room for your site to breathe, letting the content flow and becoming unified with the rest of the page.  Just like good beer, design is all about the nuances – the little things that are hardly noticable, yet make it so enjoyable.

Matthew said something during his presentation that really stuck with me.

“You need to stop learning web design – learn design.”

For designers, this can be a bit difficult.  Admit it – there’s a sense of pride when you throw around the words “web design”.  But design, be it web design, print design, or building design, is fundamental.  When something looks good, people listen.  If Carrie Underwood was trying to say something to me, she’d have my absolute attention.  When a CD cover looks neat, we pick it up.  When an Apple commercial comes on, we watch it.  When the latest 460cc driver teases us from the magazine adds, we buy it.  When a website looks neat, we come back.

Power of Content – ConvergeSC #3

To continue the package of ConvergeSC summaries, I’ll talk a little about Jessica Cook‘s presentation on content. To those who were in attendance, you might notice that I’m not going completely in order (I’ve skipped a few). This is for a few reasons. First, I’m not planning on recapping every speaker – some just wouldn’t make for great blog posts, and a few are just enough above my head that I don’t want to explain anything incorrectly. However, I’m planning a separate posts to recap these and list any notes I’ve taken.

That said, let’s talk about content.  I think it was very fitting that Jessica stood up and presented without any visuals.  Whether she meant to or not, it’s a perfect example of her topic – the power of content regardless of design.  Throughout her presentation, she was very adamant in saying that great design is nothing without great content.  Here are her words, which were tweeted, retweeted, and discussed for hours after the conference.

“People don’t want websites anymore.  They want answers.”

Jessica advises web designers (especially companies) to seek content first.  From that, designing is easier – you get a feel for your site and can see what the finished product will look like along the way.  She also encourages you to include content specialists in your quote price, so as to avoid customers passing off content writing as a less important aspect that they can handle alone.  Let’s face it – once the site is done, it’s your name that’s credited.  Bad content can ruin a well designed site that is backed by your company name.

Ms. Cook listed 8 ways that web designers and developers can start changing the way we designs sites and influencing content.

  • Realize that content is not a feature.
  • Get an expert involved.
  • Answer key questions (Who is the target?  Audience?)
  • Start seeking content earlier.
  • Start with a strategy.
  • Look beyond the homepage.
  • Embrace consumer generated content.
  • Stop lying to yourself by saying “content isn’t a big deal”.  It is.

And there  you have it.  Content is king.  You can have a fantastic looking site, but it doesn’t do any good without great content to match.  So often, designers and developers alike get lost in making sure that every little nuance of the site is perfect and pleasing to the eye, yet they miss the one aspect that’s staring them in the face on every page.  This applies to everyone – from big design firms to the casual blogger.  Create good content, make it look good, and use it.

Design for Developers – ConvergeSC #2

Jason Beaird did a great presentation on web design for a developer’s mind.  Developers, he explained, often have a very different mindset than designers.  Coders have a methodology, whereas designers have a specific mentality.

Design is all about constraints.  This is by far one of the best things I heard at the conference yesterday.  Without constraints, there would be no point.  Good web design is about pushing the envelope and discovering how to make something better within the constraints of our technology and resources.

Jason listed 5 basic aspects of web design: layout, color, texture, type and imagery.

Layout

Grids are good. They help organize your content and images.  960 pixels is a great time tested starting width for your fixed layout site.  This also works well with the three-column layouts that are becoming more popular, since 960 can be easily divided evenly.

Colors

Too often, designers pick colors that, while they might be complementary, are both too bright, and result in an unbalanced site.  Good colors should be picked within about 3 places between each other on the color wheel, or carefully chosen from opposing colors in the triangle.

Texture

Texture is one of the things that can take a good site to the next level.  Textures should be unobtrusive, flow easily, and be consistent to the feel of the site.  A great texture used in the wrong place, too much, or on a non-related site can ruin the design.

Type

Font selection is perhaps one of the most important, yet most abused, aspects when designing a site.  As Beaird described in his presentation, lots of young designers are opened to a world of thousands and thousands of free fonts – and it’s dangerous.  Of all these, very few are actually appropriate for an actual site.  For in-site text, use only the basic ones, as older computers and browsers might not have newer fonts.  If you must use a crazy font, use it in an image first and display the image on your site.

Imagery

Images make or break a website.  Too often, stock photos are selected and used without a thought to the audience, feel, or purpose of the site.  If you’re designing a site for a business, don’t rush straight to the picture of the girl with a handsfree headset.  Use images sparingly, and use good images.

Read more and get Jason’s book.

Jason’s talk was one of my favorites from ConvergeSC – and after talking with a few others, I know I’m not alone.  He left us with a charge as designers.  It is our job to expand the industry.  Push the envelope.  Make stuff look good and have fun in the process.

Creating a Brand Movement – ConvergeSC #1

ConvergeSC was, in my opinion, a huge success.  Sure, some of the presentations were over my head, but they were still very interesting.  For the next few days, I’ll be posting some summaries from the many pages of notes I took throughout the day.  Thankfully, most of the speakers used lists, so summarizing will be easier.  Either way, their talks will hopefully be very helpful and informative.

To start things off, I’ll talk a little bit about the first presentation by Geno Church.  He talked about creating a brand movement (as opposed to other marketing tools like simple ads, etc).  In this type of approach, word-of-mouth is biggest determining factor for your movement.  It’s not just telling about your product, or even showing off customer testimonials – it’s about creating an entire customer base that really loves your product, site, or service.

Church used the example of Fiskar – a household name and the maker of a classic product.  However, until recently, they had no movement.  No one talked about them, though many people used their scissors everyday.  Thanks to the people at Brains on Fire, however, all that changed.  Within 20 weeks, there was a 600% increase in the number of online mentions of “Fiskar”.  Fiskateers was born, and there are currently over 5000 regular users.  All because of a movement.  Geno lists ten characteristics of movements.

Movements…

  • are built on a passion for something.
  • begin with a first conversation.
  • have inspirational leadership.
  • put passion to the test (perhaps by using invitations).
  • empower people with knowledge.
  • encourage ownership.
  • have powerful identities.
  • live online and offline.
  • make advocates feel like a rockstar.
  • GET RESULTS.

Read more about the Fiskateer project.

As you can tell, I loved ConvergeSC.  I got to meet a few really cool people, and I learned a great deal.  So, if you were there (and even if you weren’t), I’d encourage you to do just one thing – subscribe to my blog.  I mean, really – it works for both of us.  You want some mildly informative, sometimes humorous, but always sexy (you’ve read this far, why not throw that in?) posts to read.  And I want loyal readers.