@media 2008: Exploring The Alternative Web

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The @media 2008 conference is held in the South Bank Centre which is a wonderful location for any visitor to London. We enjoyed our morning stroll along the Thames past the London Eye to get from our hotel to the venue.

The opening keynote was from Jeffrey Veen, I was pleased to actually get to his talk this year as two years ago I missed it, due to last minute preparations for the panel I was on. Veen is an accomplished speaker and always enjoyable to listen to, and I felt that I took a lot away from his talk (even as a non-designer) on “Designing our way through data”. Veen talked about how designers could make sense of bare data, adding meta data to help describe the data and then using design to make that data accessible and readable. He warned against the temptation to add decoration, something he termed as “chart junk”, asking us to “tell the story” that is in the data, not just make it look pretty.

After this the conference split into two tracks, I opted for, “For Example: BBC Home Page & Clear Left”. This was two mini presentations kicking off with Tom Cartwright and Claire Roberts telling us a bit about the BBC homepage redesign and the process behind it. We learned that the developers at the BBC had a pretty tough job to build a modern homepage with the only server side processing that is possible was Apache mod_include. The new homepage was built on top of this framework. They defended the decision to make the homepage wider (it is fixed width and needs a resolution of 1024×768) saying that they had as many complaints about the homepage being narrow as they have about it being wide. The new version of the BBC site is going to be PHP using the Zend Framework – there was a question as to why Zend had been chosen but unfortunately they weren’t able to answer that, I would have been really interested to know as well.

Following up the BBC was James Box from Clear Left talking about their newly launched web application Eden Bee. James is an Information Architect and talked about the design process from an information point of view. It is always interesting to discover the thought process behind other people’s work, so I really enjoyed this session – Eden Bee is worth checking out if you are interested in discovering your ‘carbon footprint’ and committing to small steps to reduce it.

Before lunch I stayed in the smaller room to listen to James Graham and Lachlan Hunt tell us about HTML5. They gave a presentation that attempted to explain a bit about the rational behind HTML 5 and also show some specific examples. Not ground-breaking stuff for anyone who has been following the development of HTML 5 however for people who didn’t know what was being proposed this was a solid introduction. They finished by encouraging audience members to participate in the community, by joining the mailing lists or forum, or reading the blog and wiki.

After lunch I headed along to support Drew McLellan, speaking on the topic of ‘Content Management without the Killing’. Drew is the other half of edgeofmyseat.com and was talking about content management systems in general, features to look for when choosing or specifying a CMS and also talking about the custom CMS we have developed internally at edgeofmyseat.com and some of the decisions we made when building it.

Drew was followed by SitePoint author Stuart Langridge who led a humorous session on HTTP Response Codes. This was a fairly technical topic for the @media audience which is definitely weighted to designers rather than developers. There was some interesting stuff in there for those who had opted for the more technical track over Dan Rubin’s talk in the main room.

The final session of the day was the ‘hot topics’ panel with Jeffrey Veen, Andy Clarke, Indi Young, Bronwyn Jones and Dan Rubin answering questions posed by the attendees. The panel covered topics such as how to get copy out of clients and what the panelists thought about “Web 2.0″.

To wrap up day one, this was a really enjoyable day. I did find that I spent the day in the ‘alternative track’ of presentations, which tended to be a little more technical than the very designer focussed main track. This did mean I missed out on presentations by Indi Young, Bronwyn Jones, Andy Clarke and Dan Rubin and from talking to people who had been in those sessions it sounds as if they were all really beneficial to people. Once on a more reliable net connection I’ll add links to published slides from today’s speakers so check back for those later. I have also put a few photos up on Flickr from the sessions today.

  • Drew McLellan – Content Management Without the Killing: Slides
  • Stuart Langridge – Beyond 404: Slides

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  • http://www.sitepoint.com Simon Mackie

    The comments from the BBC are interesting – for a while it seemed like they were going to stick at 800px wide for ever. It did look very narrow on my screen. I guess they have to cater for a diverse audience – did they mention why they didn’t go with a fluid design?

  • http://www.magain.com/ mattymcg

    @Simon Mackie: I imagine that the math involved in placing those customizable containers in various locations is greatly simplified by using a fixed-width design. Just guessing…