Thoughts from the FOWD conference 2012, London

Carole, one of our front-end web developers, went along to the Future of Web Design (FOWD) conference in London last week and here’s is the low down as to what was talked about..

Responsive Website Design
The main buzz at FOWD 2012 was around the creation of responsive websites and was touched on by all speakers. Basically it’s no longer enough to create an adaptive website with 3 break points as new devices are being released every day so your site will be outdated overnight. According to Laura Kalbag, a freelance web and digital designer, responsive design is something we should be doing as standard; we don’t need to go into great detail about it with the client and it should be an expected requirement like accessibility. Websites are no longer fixed width as they can be viewed on a multitude of devices either in portrait or landscape.

For the responsive web we need to be free thinking and adaptive problem solvers who use tools and methodologies to refine our personal ideas. When I first walked into FOWD track 1 the question being posed by The Standardistas was are you a squirrel or a cow? Are you a squirrel who hoards nuts? Or a cow that digests grass then produces milk and methane? If the former description matches you, then you are an information gatherer; if it’s the latter then you are someone who digests and creates something from the information you’ve gathered.

It’s crucial when we kick off a project that we spend time at the beginning understanding the strategic direction, asking questions, investigating, creating user personas, UX sketches and paper prototyping. According to Steve Fisher from Yellow Pencil this should never change even as we understand more about the responsive web as to rush at the beginning will be detrimental to the successful outcome of a project.

Content Before Design
Content is king and we should be asking for this up front before beginning to design anything. We should no longer be using lorem ipsum but creating around the real content. This helps with the continual thinking which needs to be done as to how to make the content work within a responsive site. We can make a more informed decision about what to keep and remove for smaller screen sizes. I’ve heard several times that we should start with the smaller screen sizes but really what we need to do is work with the various screen sizes side by side. Please don’t expect your designers to do creative for the 10 break points of your responsive site as this is an ineffective use of their time.

Style tiling is a way of thinking which is increasingly being adopted for the creation of responsive sites. A selection of tiles can quickly be created like swatches and enable stake holders to be more involved in the design process. Companies such as Star Bucks have adopted processes similar to this as they are less rigid and aid the creation of responsive sites which help to define a visual language from the kick-off meeting with clients. To find out more go to

Increasingly we are moving toward more touch devices, ideally buttons should be about 45px x 45px. According to Josh Clark from Global Moxie, we should not be using buttons and menus on touch devices but interacting with the content. A language is being created which users are starting to understand with touch devices such as pinch and scrolling through content. Toddlers are apparently very useful to watch when using an ipad as they very quickly pick up what needs to be done and have no preconceptions of what to do. With educating users on how to use touch we may need to take some learning from how games help you work your way through levels to complete tasks.

The Golden Cycle also came up several times, a term created by Simon Sinek, which is What, How and Why. We know what we are doing and often know how we are going to go about it but very few seem to completely understand the why. So why do you do what you are doing? And if you’d like to read more from Simon go to

One of the final thoughts which I took away from the day was we need to stop worrying about getting everything right first time but learn from our mistakes. Mark Boulton said as toddlers we are encouraged to fall and pick ourselves back up and to keep going until we can walk and talk. This disappears as we get older and have the pressure of getting A’s in our exam results and to be perfect. As adults we can be made to feel inadequate if we don’t make the grade. Mark used the analogy of learning to snowboard. I’m going to use my ice skating; my instructor encourages me to fall, jump, spin and give footwork a go. We both know that when I first start it isn’t going to be great but that doesn’t matter as with time, practice and experimentation I’ll get the hang of it. Leonardo Da Vinci did many experiments- some that work and probably many more that needed to be refined.

Responsive web is here to stay so be a creative problem solver, learn from others and spend the time understanding your audience.

I’ll be writing some more articles which will go into some of the topics covered here in more detail. I came away for FOWD very inspired by all of the speakers and highly recommend it to anyone in front-end development, UX or design.



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