product designer, cyclist, armchair urbanist

Event Apart 2012 Cheatsheet

Earlier in September, I attended An Event Apart in beautiful Chicago. I had a lot of fun, learned enough to explode my mind, and took copious notes.

I'm finally settled down enough to start working back through my notes and mining them for all of the gold within. I decided to create a little "Cheat Sheet" – a Sparknotes of sorts – for each talk at the conference. The first day's notes are below, and the second day's notes are coming soon.

Jeffrey Zeldman – “Content First”

Big idea: Design that does not serve people does not serve business.

Actionable: Ask this question about every site I design: “Is this site a perfect vessel for its content, or is the site’s “decoration” getting in the way of the content?”

**Inspiring Miscellany: **Everyone in this room should speak, write, and have a personal site.

Whitney Hess – “What’s Your Problem? Putting Purpose Back into Your Projects”

Big idea: When planning a project, approach design as a problem that needs to be solved.

Actionable: At the beginning of each project, create a “problem statement”: “What is the problem here that needs to be solved?” If you don’t define the problem, your solution (though pretty) may completely miss the mark.

Inspiring Miscellany: Take the time to learn about the people with whom you’re trying to communicate. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people – the problem is “out there” – not at your desk.

Kristina Halvorson - "A Content Strategy Roadmap"

Big idea: "Nothing else matters if the content sucks."

**Actionable: **Deal with messy content issues at the absolute beginning of the site development process. Draft details for SEO, metadata, and site content before design even starts, so we aren't wrangling with these as secondary issues at the 11th hour.

**Inspiring Miscellany: **For each site you build, craft a “core message” – the number one message you want to communicate to your users. Use this core message as a filter to pass all of the site's content through.

Luke Wroblewski - "Mobile to the Future"

**Big idea: **Mobile computing is its own new form of mass media. It’s growing in astronomical numbers, and it’s forcing us to think more creatively and concisely about our designs.

**Actionable: **Our focus on layout is causing us to miss opportunities with mobile design. Ask yourself: “Do I really need all of that stuff?” Trim it down until it hurts.

Inspiring Miscellany: New forms of media require new methods of designing. What has worked for  print / radio / TV / and even the desktop web don’t necessarily work for mobile.

Cindy Li - "Inclusive Design: It’s In the Details"

Big idea: The internet is for everyone. Consider your design from the perspective of other people, and don’t kill accessibility in an effort to be clever.

**Actionable: **If it's not important enough to make it legible and accessible, why even add it?

Inspiring Miscellany: “There are baby boomers who want to use the internet too.”

Ethan Marcotte - "Rolling Up Our Responsive Sleeves"

**Big idea: **We can no longer silo our users into separate categories of device types. Now the same users are accessing our content with a quickly growing number of device types.

Actionable: Start designing with the smallest parts (navigation, patterns, etc.) and then design layout [see http://styletil.es]

Inspiring Miscellany: Device complexity is terrifying – but it can also be incredibly powerful if we begin to manage it.