Showing posts about Professional Development

SmashingConf SF 2022 Online

June 22, 2022

This past week, thanks to my company, I had the pleasure of attending the incredible SmashingConf online. I’ve watched many other front-end talks before (like Hover, a conference dedicated solely to CSS), but this was my first full-on, live conference. I thoroughly enjoyed the two days I spent tuning in from the comfort of my home.

What I loved about SmashingConf was the diverse range of topics and presenters. There was much to consider, from talks on UX writing and teamwork to design systems and CSS. The cross-disciplinary nature of the conf helped me understand more about adjacent fields beyond my scope of responsibilities. I got to hear from people who are the best at what they do in the web industry—authors, creative directors, researchers, and so much more. It was an exceptional line-up!

I have many favorite highlights from the talks—it’s hard to pick just one!

Accessibility

Kate Kalcevich’s talk on Scaling Up Accessibility provided informative takeaways for people wanting to integrate accessibility into their organizations’ products. This topic felt highly relevant as my company is working toward accessibility goals. Kate emphasized the importance of considering accessibility in every phase and working with people who have disabilities. She shared real stories and tips, like having an a11y bug bashing day and benchmarking where you are now.

According to Kate, we should inspire people with disabilities by creating inclusive products and experiences. Accessibility can also improve the broader UX, like subtitles. Listening to Kate’s talk was refreshing and provided a valuable, needed perspective.

CSS

Styling the Intrinsic Web, Miriam’s talk, covered many new and evolving CSS features and addressed how they solve significant challenges we face today. I’ve followed these recent updates, including Container Queries, Layers, and Scope. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of CSS. Tools like Cascade Layers, which browsers are actively implementing, will help us take control of our codebases. We can finally avoid things like !important statements all over our stylesheets.

Design

Ending day 1, talks from Elliot Jay Stocks and Cassie Evans highlighted some excellent design from both the typography and web animation worlds. Elliot’s talk inspired me to think about taking on side projects that enable a lifestyle. He noted we should judge success by our enjoyment, not just financial metrics. Seeing his work spanning web design, print magazines, and more was inspiring!

Cassie’s talk showed me some innovative techniques for UI animations within websites. It’s an area I haven’t played around with much but would love to explore.

Life

On day 2, Addy Osmani, engineering manager at Google, started the day as SmashingConf’s mystery speaker. He provided a welcomed break from the creative and technical talks by focusing on life lessons and ideas on introspection. I loved this high-level talk, which featured Cameos from many celebrities on their important life lessons.

User Interfaces

Later on, Vitaly’s talk, Designing for Complex UIs, was terrific. He dived deep into strategies for simplifying user interfaces and solving complex design problems. Seeing real examples from around the web of patterns such as carousels, navigation, breadcrumbs, and more was interesting. There is a lot to learn from internationally as well.

UX Writing

I thought Sophie Tahran’s presentation on Designing with Words was phenomenal. Sophie leads UX writing for The New Yorker and wowed us all with her talk on how to think strategically about the words in our designs. Many designers today still use lorem ipsum placeholder copy, but seeing Sophie’s process and how it integrates writing up front was groundbreaking. I learned about opportunities to introduce UX writing early on and thoughtful tips like translating jargon for the user and helping them fix problems when errors occur. Although I don’t work with UX writers directly, this presentation helped provide insight into the increasing prevalence of content design.


Besides the fantastic talks I could go on and on about, I appreciated how SmashingConf helped online attendees feel included. There were backstage interviews with speakers, a lively online chat, a fantastic DJ during breaks, and opportunities to take notes and participate. A couple of my questions got asked live to presenters after their talks, which was a personal high for me!

I highly recommend SmashingConf and can’t wait to attend more of these in the coming years (hopefully in-person too!) The web community is a great, friendly bunch of folks, and I’m left feeling inspired and eager to take on what’s next. Thanks to everyone at Smashing Magazine for putting on such a quality conference.

Figma Fundamentals

May 7, 2022

As part of my Figma Fundamentals workshop in early 2022, I designed and prototyped this app concept over the course of a weekend.

Pacific Places is a curated guide to the Pacific Northwest. Inspired by my passion for road trips and photography, the app lets users discover spots nearby and bookmark + document the places they find noteworthy.

Since the workshop, I’ve been using Figma for my full-time job, and I’m completely blown away by how powerful its collaboration and design system features are. I also signed up for Config, Figma’s free global design conference, which is happening next week!

Working on the design in Figma
Pacific Places app screens