Web Directions South 2011

The Australian Web Industry Conference
October 1114 2011, Sydney

BigPicture Track

Expand your mind: Simon Willison and Natalie Downe take lanyrd from side project to startup; Rahul Sen rolls out the interaction design bauhaus; Andrew Fisher tells us why the web will win the physical world too; Martin Tomitsch is using the world as a canvas; Michael Honey and Tim Riley are choosing web or native; Sebastian Chan and Luke Dearnley sit down for a fireside chat on culture + citizens + digital heritage; Dmitry Baranovskiy shows us how to be a web sorcerer; and Web Directions’ own John Allsopp is revisiting the Dao of Web Design.

Culture + citizens + digital heritage

Photo of Luke Dearnley Photo of Sebastian Chan

Presenters: Luke Dearnley & Sebastian Chan

In the last few years people have started talking about something called ‘digital humanities’ outside of academia. The term ‘curator’ is even being loosely talked about as a ‘future job description’ — despite its long history and roots in the museum world. And in museums, archives and libraries all over the world technologists are talking and building linked open data projects, SPARQL endpoints, huge crowdsourced digitisation and citizen science projects, not to mention mobile and social experiences, AR, QR, that fluidly move between the physical and the digital. Not only that, they’re not hiding this work behind patent lawsuits, NDAs and commercial-in-confidence backroom deals.

What exactly is going on here and how might you, as developers and web thinkers, start to explore some of what they have to offer. And, perhaps selfishly, how can you prototype, test and solve your own technical problems using their data and use their unique physical environments as a living laboratory for your own products and projects?

In a fireside chat, Seb and Luke from the Powerhouse Museum will talk candidly about some of the current challenges and future directions in this space — and how you might be able to help.

See the slides and hear the podcast

Interaction Design Bauhaus

Photo of Rahul Sen

Presenter: Rahul Sen

With the release of the Windows Phone, Windows 8, Google+ and a host of other interfaces – a call for revolution is becoming more absolute. There seems to be a clear opposition to skeumorphism in graphical user interfaces (skeumorphic UI were made popular by Apple for the past half a decade). There is a clear call for fierce reduction of chrome in favor of content.

History seldom repeats itself, but every now and then, it rhymes. My session focuses on what I call — ‘The Interaction Design Bauhaus’. It discusses this growing minimalist, ‘form follows data’ trend in UX and compares it to historical phenomenon that occurred in the early 1900’s in the form of the industrial design Bauhaus movement. This session draws comparisons and lessons from history, and attempts to focus on the new material we deal with in Interaction Design and how we deal with old human feelings like Envy.

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The Dao of Web Design Revisited

Photo of John Allsopp

Presenter: John Allsopp

In 2000, when the web was less than half the age it is now, when the concept of web standards was still not much more than an ember carefully nurtured by a small group of practitioners who might fairly have been called fanatics (and less charitably, but just as accurately, lunatics), John Allsopp wrote “A Dao of Web Design”.

Little did he know, and even less can he believe, that more than a decade later, an eon in internet years, it is still widely quoted by some of the web’s most well known and respected practitioners, and considered by some to be a seminal text in web design.

So, ten years later, what does John now think about his thesis, and his suggestions for developers? In a world of highly fragmented user experiences, across all manner of screen sizes and input modes, what now seems hopelessly naïve? What if anything, stands the test of time. And what, if anything, new has John learned as he has continued to develop with web technologies over the last 10 years.

Come and listen as John revisits a Dao of Web Design.

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Web or native? Smart choices for smartphone apps

Photo of Michael Honey Photo of Tim Riley

Presenters: Michael Honey & Tim Riley

Computers are increasingly being held in the hand rather than sitting atop lap or desk. We now have to consider how our products will work underneath a finger instead of a mouse cursor. Increasingly, too, those products are being delivered as native applications, capable of fully exploiting device capabilities. That has ramifications not only for the way those projects get built, but also how we structure the businesses that support them.

In this session, Michael Honey and Tim Riley answer the question “web or native?” from business, product design and development perspectives. They cover the current state of web technology on modern devices and compare it to what’s available through native development platforms. They’ll look at web, native and hybrid strategies successfully employed by Australian and international businesses, and share their own stories as mobile and web developers. Finally, they’ll offer practical guidance on picking a strategy for web or native development that best suits your needs — as either a developer or a client.

Tim and Michael are two of the partners behind Icelab, an Australian design and development studio. They’ve trod both the web and native paths through their client work, such as interactive touchscreens for museum exhibits, online photo galleries and mobile tour guides, and also their own projects, like Decaf Sucks, a coffee review community available on the web (optimised for both desktops and smartphones) and as a native iPhone app.

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Using the world as a canvas

Photo of Martin Tomitsch

Presenter: Martin Tomitsch

Now that we are comfortable developing and designing web content for desktop screens, just when we finally understood how to translate the web experience to mobile screens, there is a new challenge ahead of us. How do we develop and design web content when the physical environment becomes our canvas?

While for a period there was (and largely still is) an emerging trend to stick a screen on everything (remember the Internet fridge), increasingly the smartphone is becoming our swiss army knife for information access. Constantly connected to the Internet, smartphones have literally made information available at our fingertips in more personalised and less obtrusive ways than embedded screens.

With the arrival of new display technologies, like integrated personal projectors, we will be able (again) to design for a much larger content area. There is a danger though that this will be limited to marginal use cases, such as watching photos or movies, when in fact this opens up an entirely new and exciting design space. Drawing on the sensing power of smartphones, projected content could instead be designed to provide rich interaction and contextualised visualisation of information.

The session will draw on research projects and visions of the future to sketch out the possibilities of this new design space, and how current web practices can be translated into a future where using the world as a canvas will change information visualisation and access all over again.

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Lanyrd: From side project to startup

Photo of Natalie Downe Photo of Simon Willison

Presenters: Natalie Downe & Simon Willison

Natalie and Simon launched the first version of Lanyrd.com while on honeymoon in Casablanca. As the site took off, they realised their side project was destined to become something much bigger. This talk will tell the story of Lanyrd, from a two-week proof of concept to a full-fledged startup via three intensive months of Y Combinator in Silicon Valley. They’ll share the trials, tribulations and lessons they learned along the way. This is the talk they wish they’d heard before they got started!

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How to be a Web Sorcerer

Origins of Magic
Photo of Dmitry Baranovskiy

Presenter: Dmitry Baranovskiy

The Web is a purely magical substance that is built by us, web developers. How can it be that the web is totally technical, yet we all know some kids who we can call magicians of the Web. Some people believe that it’s all about skills, but Dmitry reckons it’s more about bravely, grit and a tiny bit of madness.
Do you want to change the Web, not just build it? Do you want to know the secret spells? Do you want to know the source of all this unlimited power? Come and find out.

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How the web is going physical

Photo of Andrew Fisher

Presenter: Andrew Fisher

In 2020 there will be nearly 10 times as many Internet connected devices as there are human beings on this planet. The majority of these will not have web browsers. When it comes to the “Internet of Things”, web designers and developers are uniquely placed to create, connect and produce innovative new ways for these devices to be used.

We are used to mashing up disconnected data sets, playing with APIs and designing for constantly moving standards in order to create compelling digital user experiences. “Old school” engineers are struggling to keep pace due to long processes for product and service design but as web creators we understand the value of rapid prototyping, user feedback and quick iterations. As developers, we play daily with a bewildering array of technologies that span networks, servers and user interfaces. As designers, we understand the nature of beautiful but usable technology.

These skills, and our innate understanding of how interconnectedness enhances and creates engaging user experiences, mean that web creators will be critical for the next generation of Internet enabled Things in our world. From a potplant that tweets when it needs water to crowd sourcing pollution data with sensors on people’s windows and visualising it on Google Maps these are the new boundaries of the web creator’s skills. Have you ever dreamt of sending your phone to the edge of space to take a picture of a country? Or how about a robot you can control via a web browser?

By exploring examples of things in the wild right now and delving into practical guidance for for getting started, this session will demonstrate how easy it is for web designers and developers to build Internet connected and aware Things.

See the slides and hear the podcast