Takeaways from Web Directions 2015

Posted by Amy Balsdon on 3 November
Amy Balsdon
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Imagine spending 2 days at Luna Park. Imagine the best views in Sydney. Imagine drinking from an endless supply of Sample Coffee’s finest cold drip. Imagine fearing for your life on the oldest roller coaster in Sydney. Imagine waves and waves of inspiration from the brightest minds in the game.

This is Web Directions 2015!

What you take away from these two days is what makes it all worth it, so I’ve compiled five points of interest from my experiences at wd15.

Annoy the people you admire

Cap Watkins from Buzzfeed gave the keynote speech. The biggest takeaway for me was his idea of collaboration and cross skilling. Whether you are a PM, engineer or designer doesn’t mean you silo yourself to that one niche. Team culture is valuable, supportive and helps everyone improve. As an eager to learn product designer, having a team full of people willing to share their expertise is a sure fire way to grow not only as an individual but also as a valued member of the team.

Prototype like it’s a prototype

Dan Burka from Google Ventures spoke about how a prototype has to be something you're willing to throw away immediately. His argument is use it to gauge the chance of product success before building the real thing. In other words, when partaking in a 5 day design sprint don’t sweat the small stuff just do enough to make the software feel like software. Another great speaker, Martin Charlier also made a similar point on this subject that resonated with me -

“build the right product before you build the product right.”

Revisit old problems

One of my favourite talks was by Brynn Evans who is currently working on Project Fi. Her talk centred around how ordinary things could benefit from design process. She highlighted the importance of long standing issues and experiences that haven’t changed in years. She gave a great example of designing a new experience specifically targeted for our ageing population;

Hogeweyk Village in the Netherlands is a ‘Truman Show’ like place for patients with Dementia who are led to believe they are living an ordinary life however their carers are disguised as gardeners and shop assistants. Brynn had a whole bunch of suggestions to make our designs more meaningful (e.g. throw out assumptions, simplify things to make experiences better, expect your users to change and do the research) that I do hear regularly but still great to be reminded!

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We are the luckiest people alive

Tom Loosemore from gov.uk had me legitimately excited about government service delivery! He spoke about how ‘we’, the people in the room, have the power to reinvent the future and to create something that matters. There is a very obvious gap growing between the expectations people have of web services and the quality of services they are receiving from government. Tom proposed that Australia could be the first government to get this right, after all we have a Prime Minister who wants his party using Slack!

ID your inner critic

Spending most of my time at the design track I became inspired by the widely discussed subject of creativity. Denise Jacobs gave a great talk on our inner critic (which certainly rings true for me and I’m sure everyone reading this). She suggested we ID these destructive patterns and train our brains to adjust with discipline. Using powerful body language to restore confidence was an interesting one!

On the other side of the spectrum the guys from Atlasssian, Alastair Simpson and Nat Jones, who spoke about the importance of a physical space to produce creativity. Not only did they mention creating flexible and engaging environments but also inclusive areas that people are drawn to and feel welcome.

A huge thanks to all for a jam packed 2 days of awesome and inspiring big picture talks.

Topics: Web, Design, Inspirational