This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Sadly, nobody managed to see into the future, but we had fun trying…

20th April 2007

Some week. A family bereavement, four London meetings, one client workshop, speaking in front of 800 people, and catching a heavy cold (off either Andy Clarke or Jeff Croft I believe) have left me feeling quite drained as this week draws to a close. Still, I’m back in the office drawstringing things together, and I’d like to post a few of my feelings about the Future Of Web Design conference hosted by the Carson Systems gang in London on 18th April.

Future of Web Design panel

Figure 1: Above (L-R): Joshua Hirsch, Jeff Croft, Jason Arber, Noam Sohachevsky, my good self and Andy Clarke. Picture courtesy of Simon.
Some went mad, some ran away…

There has been a little criticism that the actual “future of web design” itself wasn’t really covered, and I do agree to some extent. I’m not sure a single one of us came away with a clear idea of the future. I think this is mainly due to the fact that the future hasn’t happened yet, and it is therefore hard to accurately define it.

Our industry is developing at an alarming rate. What mattered last week has been superceded by something else. Next week a new technology called CILLIT BANGJAX will completely change the way we think about building websites, and in 2012 Jeffrey Zeldman will be president of the Unites States, but only possibly - we don’t know this for sure.

Think laterally, and every presentation is useful

Facetiousness aside, it is true that a few speakers got a bit carried away talking about their own work and achievements, although it was evident where some of these presentations were very much forward thinking, and as an audience it wasn’t too great a leap to read between the lines and begin to form our own conclusions about the future. I think attendees at any conference need to work as hard as the speakers, by processing what they see and hear and working out what is applicable to them as individuals, each attendee finding their own inspiration where others do not. Sit and stare and you’ll come away with much less than those who can think laterally about the presentations. That’s not to dismiss those who were genuinely disappointed, but I do think there is a certain way of processing the information that flies out from the stage.

It is worth noting that the Carson team were certainly aware of the challenging goals defined by the name of the conference, and they were quizzing plenty of us to get our views on what worked and what didn’t.

Sure, the presentations from Microsoft and Adobe were classic sales pitches (especially the former), although personally I thought Adobe’s Apollo looked excellent, and as web designers and developers we need to know about these tools.

The social & business benefits

A lot of people I spoke to could see no reason to complain. The Microsoft Lounge was undeniably comfy and welcoming (although we weren’t sure if the Microsoft Expression bottled water contained brainwashing poisons) and allowing these two giants of the industry to sponsor the whole thing meant that tickets were incredibly great value. Lets face it, even if you don’t like the presentations, you get to have a day out of the office, interacting with like-minded humans and making new friends and contacts.

The business value of these events is what you make it, and I for one found FOWD to be a catalyst for new friendships, new work, and an opportunity to build upon previous brief introductions. If you are on your own and shy, come talk to me - I’ll talk to anyone.

In general, I came away with a renewed excitement about what I do, and an eagerness to face the challenges head on - the same feeling I get post @media.

Question Time

I think the panel discussion went some way to exploring the future of web design directly. Certainly we were keen to throw out our ideas about how our industry will develop, and what our roles will be, but 45 minutes would never be enough to explore it fully.

I really enjoyed being part of the panel discussion. It’s the first time I’ve taken the stage before a crowd of web professionals, and I greatly enjoyed the experience, even though it felt like we were up there for about five minutes. Time flies when you’re having fun I guess. I’d like to actually present my thoughts about the future of web design as a more coherent presentation at some point, as I’ve rather a lot to say on the subject. Stick me on a panel and I’ll just waffle on as though I’m in the pub.

To conclude

Anyway, large congratulations to the Carson Systems gang for organising a slick and pacy conference. All of the Carsonites were friendly, on the ball and only too happy to help people with questions or problems. Whatever your thoughts about the content of the presentations, you have to admit that they know how to throw a party, with a particularly obsessive eye for detail.

Shouts to those I met for the first time, and if I told you to email me I did mean it, so do. Great to meet a few more designers I’ve always admired and to discover that they are as friendly and grounded as one would expect/hope. Hugs to my colleagues, Arber, Simon Clayson and the boys from CascianiEvansWood for the inspiring company and occasional patience whilst I swanned about.

More…

Responses

# Richard Bateman responded on 21st April 2007 with...

Colly, was great to meet you and heap all the praise I could within 15 minutes - hope you managed to get your lunch in mate!

I’ll be in touch.

# Maaike responded on 21st April 2007 with...

I don’t really believe in predicting the future of the web, because it keeps changing and evolving. Besides, predicting the future on an event like this would probably turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyway I had a great time and I thought it was very inspiring! I thought some sessions were a bit too short though (including the panel). And you worried me a bit when you said we should all be specialists because otherwise it’s impossible to keep up with everything. I hope you’re wrong :-)

About Adobe/MS: I agree we should learn about their tools, but I’d rather read about them some other time…

# Michael Grinstead responded on 21st April 2007 with...

If you are on your own and shy, come talk to me - I’ll talk to anyone.

Wish I had :)

As I mentioned on another blog I was interested on your views on how fast the industry and the technologies are changing, how do we find the time to keep up or do we become specialists as you put it! Would have been great to have gotten more views on that from the audience.

It was great to see in person (unfortunately not to chat to) those of who sites I subscribe to.

# Ryan Carson responded on 21st April 2007 with...

Hey Simon,

Great seeing you at the conf. Thanks for the detailed writeup and feedback.

See you soon mate.

Ry

# David Hughes responded on 23rd April 2007 with...

I can vouch for Simon’s approachability having done so at @Media 2006 - didn’t see you sadly this time Colly.

The conference? Well hmmm it was no @Media but then it was only £70.

The MS presentation was just as I expected.

I agree the Adobe presentation was actually rather good.

I loved Andy Clarke’s session and I am stealing the cool wall idea for my next presentation.

I thought the guy from Big Spaceship was hugely disappointing; just a this is what I do at work presentation with me wondering if I was supposed to hire him. The AKQA guy was better, marginally.

I enjoyed the WebApps session with Ryan, George and Denise - that was very good.

However, the real highlight for me was Brendan Dawes “keynote” - fantastic! I bought his book there and then and read half on the way home! Brilliant!

So overall - varied. Strong in places but WEAK in others. Having said that I agree with Colly - there is a skill to being an audience. The whole day was worth it for me to discover Brendan and enjoy Andy Clarke again.

If only I’d caught up with you it would have been complete ;-)

See you at @Media?

# Simon Collison responded on 23rd April 2007 with...

David: Yep, I’ll be at @media07 (Europe) - see you there…

# Denise responded on 25th April 2007 with...

I too find that the persoal connections are often the best about business outings. It’s a great time to get dressed up and have some great conversations.It’s a great time to get additional feedback about any relevant topics as well.

# Lorgon responded on 26th April 2007 with...

Thanks for the detailed writeup. Soon we will look at this new technology.

# Sven Fischer responded on 26th April 2007 with...

Hi,

thank you for the verry interesting article - good job, really!

Greetings from Hannover / Germany
Sven Fischer

# SergKh responded on 4th May 2007 with...

14 days passed already. Add anything new

# Angela responded on 4th May 2007 with...

That is a huge screen, would love to play the Nintendo Wii on it.

# Schultz responded on 5th May 2007 with...

Buy LCD to play Wii

# Margret responded on 11th May 2007 with...

Dont get an LCD, get a high definition Plasma television and play Wii on it.

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