Respond 2016

Posted by Annelise Rhodes on 14 April
Annelise Rhodes

In its third year and bigger than ever, Respond Australia's Responsive Web Design Conference, was held for the first time in two cities, over two days. Kicking off on the 7th April at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.

Respond2016

Attending 'Respond' fuelled me with an overwhelming sense that you can never stop learning or being challenged. 

Attending a conference like Respond isn't something I'd usually consider. As an Experience Designer, it probably comes down to an assumption that I would not understand a lot of the code rich talks and that these talks would scare me. Ironically, one of Karen McGrane's leading themes throughout her presentation was advising us not to make assumptions about a user's context based on any single factor. Thankfully through a stroke of luck I won tickets to Respond during Web Directions 2015, and was able to attend the conference despite my assumptions.

Greeted by new, friendly faces sharing a career and a love of coffee just like my own, I began my solo adventure into what I'd assumed would be a daunting two days that looked something like this:

confused-goat

Those assumptions I made were completely wrong. The topics that were spoken about were very timely and relevant, and I even found myself eager to attend code rich talks. Not so scary after all!

Throughout the conference I picked up on some common underlying themes - opening our minds, challenging industry trends and a friendly reminder to update our passwords.

Adaptive design

What is it? How should we use it? And why is it any different from Responsive Design?

The term 'Adaptive Design' was mentioned quite a bit, most notably by Dina Gohil and Lucinda Burtt's presentation from Fairfax Media on the latest SMH re-design, still under betaKaren McGrane defined Adaptive Design as serving something different. The concept is used to serve content to a user based on their specific device and context.

"Adaptive and responsive solutions work together - they're not competitors."

Karen summarised, "Adaptive and responsive solutions work together - they're not competitors." Yes it is important to deliver contextual variables to users, but the device type alone shouldn't be what changes the experience a user might see. Many other factors come into play - analytics, location, velocity and time. Above all a seamless experience should be delivered across all devices. Don't compromise on this experience by making assumptions.

Accessibility

Never forget accessibility, including catering for assistive technologies. At Bilue we believe accessibility is so, so important, we've written about it a few times before. People are using devices to access content more than ever. It is our job to make a product accessible, and we're not just talking bigger fonts and AAA colour passes. We're talking, making sure screen readers will be able to clearly communicate tasks and flows to their users.

Russ Weakley really brought it home that it's our duty to ensure our sites and our digital products are truly accessible. Reminding us that small, simple steps can have huge rippling benefits for users that need them the most.

respond-audience

Security

Digital security stakes have never been higher than they are now. Rachel Simpson from the Google Chrome team reminded us all that we are only as a safe as our weakest link when it comes to tech. Ensuring our users are secure and their experience is still pleasant can be a complicated balance to reach. It goes against human capabilities to expect users to remember different login credentials for each and every online account they've ever created. Often users end up falling short and expose themselves to security breaches. An important point made by Simpson was to understand that as your users are stepping through a flow they are also being expected to make a number of quick decisions. It's important to be timely and meaningful when it comes to the safety of their accounts.

Performance

Performance of your site is directly affecting your revenue. Peter Wilson considered this hard truth, stating that performance is a hot topic in the industry and so it should be. Currently it takes 15.2 seconds on average to fully load a webpage, using a fast desktop network connection. Factor in poor mobile connections, and EFS interference, you will be losing revenue fast! Get rid of the baggage and set performance as a high priority when creating your product.

Be different

A number of speakers challenged why everything is looking a bit the same online these days and motivated us all to question exactly why that is. Navigation systems, layouts and modern frameworks together are creating websites that have become clones of each other. Be inspired by things outside of the digital world, it's up to us to change that.

Respond has left me filled with motivation to learn, be involved and stay connected. Web Directions are holding a number of great conferences over the year, check them out here: Transform, Code and Direction.

Topics: Development, Web, Conferences, Design