WebDU Day 1: AIR, Ajax, CS4 and a little bit of usabilityBy Kay Smoljak
Now well-established in it’s sixth year, WebDU in Sydney is the top Australian conference for Adobe-based technologies (primarily Flex and ColdFusion). The venue for 2008’s conference was the Sydney Convention Centre – a move away from Star City casino, where it has been held for the past four years, although not a move away from the convenient but highly tourist-centric Darling Harbour.
One of the long-standing WebDU traditions is the opening animations from long time partner and silver sponsor, design agency Nectarine. In fact, as delegates picked up their conference bags, worked out how to get onto the wireless and caught up with old faces, animations from previous years were running in the main auditorium, entertaining those waiting for the opening keynote from Adobe’s Principal Evangelist, Mike Downey – including classics like the super-heroes from 2005 (and of course, the lovable Sparky) and 2006’s Don’t Mention the Merger. Although the 2008 animation has not yet been posted, all the previous years’ can be found in Nectarine’s animation portfolio.
Keynote: Mike Downey and Greg Rewer, Adobe evangelists, on AIR, Flash Player 10, and Creative Suite CS4
Day 1 Sessions
Stephanie Sullivan: CSS-Based Layouts with Dreamweaver CS3
Long-time teacher, author and all-round standardista Stephanie Sullivan launched the afternoon sessions with her presentation on the CSS-based layouts that come with Dreamweaver CS3 – templates that she authored for Adobe herself. These templates are structural markup only – no images, no styling – designed to provide a solid structural baseline for developers new to CSS layout, or a quick start for more experienced CSS practitioners. Stef ran through the principles of the five basic types of layout included in the template set – fixed width, liquid, elastic, hybrid, and absolutely positioned (although everyone was urged to stay away from the absolutely positioned layouts). She then covered a few points about clearing and avoiding “float drop” – important things to remember when working with floats, which many of the layouts involve. Stef also ran a companion session later in the afternoon on troubleshooting CSS layout problems.
Lisa Herrod: User Testing for the Rest of Us
Lisa Herrod’s presentation on user testing was definitely one of my highlights of day 1 – packed with really useful information on user testing that almost everyone could take away and put to immediate use. In fact, it was a real shame that more of the developers weren’t in this session – the quality of ColdFusion and Flex projects around Australia could have been given a real boost!
Lisa covered the types of usability testing that are commonly carried out – expert reviews, comparative reviews, and user testing – and framed everything for the developer who may have been asked to start doing usability testing, either by learning the process themselves or by engaging a professional. She gave practical examples of where the strengths of each type of testing lie, and where to cut corners if the budget is tight (as well as where definitely NOT to cut corners). And her slides were funny as hell.
Ajax Development using ColdFusion 8
The built in Ajax features are the first experience that many ColdFusion developers have with Ajax, so I don’t think that many of them appreciate just how powerful and time-saving they are. And it was great to hear from Rakshith, one of the engineers who worked directly on these features – you’d have to assume that he would know them better than almost anyone!
Kingpin Bowling Lounge
While the social aspect of WebDU has always been important, the team absolutely outdid themselves this year with their special event – the entire Kingpin bowling, pool, arcade game and laser tag centre was booked for the night, for all conference attendees. And if that wasn’t enough, the first three hours of drinks and nibbles were free.
From all reports, an outstanding time was had by everyone. Rumours are that despite the discovery of a karaoke corner, most delegates even made it to the Day 2 keynote… but that’s another post.