Post-Conference Debrief

On 10th May, the whole team attended Colchester Digital’s first annual conference – ‘The Process’ at the Curzon cinema. The event, which was also co-sponsored by Fever, comprised of several talks by various speakers covering a wide range of design and development related topics. The overreaching aim was to focus on the various intricate processes that make up any digital or creative project – some more obvious than others.

After a short introduction by Karen Ainley of Mosaic Publicity, (including a cheeky plug for Creative Colchester), we dived straight into Content Strategy with Kerry Cole of Green Emerald Marketing. The 30-minute talk delved into content strategy in web projects, in particular, at what point to address the elephant in the room that is ‘what does your content consist of?’ This is a constant topic of conversation in our office, having implemented a content-first strategy some years ago, however, it was interesting to see how early on the subject is brought up, and how often during the design and build process. Not only that but how the content is viewed as an equal part of the wider design strategy.

There were a number of talks that, while outside our service remit, highlighted how an approach can serve a variety of industry disciplines. The second talk of the day from Teaboy Games focused on iterative design processes and turning failures into successes.

Coast Digital were up next, discussing the super-fascinating biometrics testing. These methods include eye-tracking, facial expression, and heart rate. We’re keen advocates of heat mapping tools such as crazy egg, but it was interesting to see mouse position doesn’t necessarily denote eye tracking position. Being able to track the actual line of sight is key to conversion optimisation, and also a great tool to analyse competitors. We were shown a video featuring a user trying to find a poorly signposted location on a map page using eye and facial tracking, and it was interesting/entertaining to see the stages of confusion, frustration and anger all laid out in a rather neat graph…

Stu Robson was up next to speak about design systems – This is something I have personally advocated for a while now and try to bring to all projects, but it was interesting seeing how to separate design systems can easily become isolated within design and development departments, instead of working together as one system. It was also good to hear the pros and cons of using existing systems versus something more bespoke to your needs. It can be easy to slip into the habit of adopting ‘tried & tested’ processes and expecting the same outcomes, despite your setup or services being vastly different from those which you have borrowed from. It can also be disheartening for any one – individual or business – to adopt seemingly sound processes and fail. We’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past, however, we have since learnt to set our own methods and benchmarks based on our own experiences – and more importantly, to progressively evolve them.

Lunch was provided by the excellent Cafe Saison and following a short wander around Firstsite, it was back to our seats. Nexmo kicked off the afternoon talking about Security and version control. While we’re always looking to learn something new, we were pleased to reaffirm that our current processes in this area are on track with industry standards. Ashleigh from Wi-Q followed up with an interesting discussion about how different devices communicate and how different methods facilitate that communication effectively. Special Thanks also to Ric Harvey for the Amazon Web Services vouchers and interesting talk surrounding hosting on a budget.

Last up was Rachel Andrew, editor in chief of Smashing Magazine (a favourite of ours) and one half of edgeofmyseat.com. This last discussion was great for both our design and development teams, as it’s a frequent topic of discussion in the office. While the design team won’t be trying their hand-coding anytime soon, it’s so important for us to understand what’s possible (and what’s not) when it comes to designing achievable layouts. One thing that surprised the dev team was how niche the groups were that are implementing the newest CSS. It was also great to see how responsive tool providers are in the communities when feedback and suggestions are given, actively implementing new, in-demand features.

This has sparked a conversation in the office about what subjects we feel passionate about. Responses ranged from important subjects such as Switching Career Paths & Digital Sustainability to slightly less sensible suggestions involving timesaving inventions absolutely no one needs. Nevertheless, we’re excited to be more involved with Colchester Digital going forward.

Published by: Jay Tuckwell