Time to read: 5 minutes

This year I made it to my first web conference - DIBI (Design It, Build It - thanks Brian!) up in Gateshead / Newcastle, and had a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring time.

Gateshead / Sage

It started off at the networking pre-event at the Pitcher & Piano bar - you know it was going to be a good one when your up till 2am drinking free beer!  Tricksy morning aside, the event's talks itself started off with Jon McLoone from Wolfram Alpha. Apart from some amusing and, to be fair, quite impressive search (sorry - computational knowledge) requests, it was a bit hard to get into, too dry to really stay focused on... or maybe I just had the previous night to blame for that.

Quick break for juice and cupcakes and first of the actual tracked talks was Elliott Kember talking about the wonders of jQuery. It was thankfully accessible and not too technical and good to pick up some interesting tricks to add that sparkle to your sites. Take home quote - "jQuery is lipstick", ie, don't overuse it!

After that, it was back to the Design track for Sarah Parmenters "Principles of iPhone UI Design". I had originally not planned to go to this one having no interest, nor ability for that matter, in developing Apps for iPhones, preferring to go down a web app route and design for the cross platform mobile browsers. Past the iPhone specifics however Sarah had some very well presented and interestingly useful tips and guidelines for developing for mobile devices in general, which made for a very pleasantly interesting talk after all.

After the provided lunch we were into Tim Van Damnes "2020: A Design Oddity" - a wakeup call to any lazy monkeys to evolve, learn new tricks, keep reinventing yourself and keep pushing those boundaries. With a humorously sharp style, this was a particularly inspiring and punchy talk, and with the extra time left over for questions provided some interesting thoughts on how we might want to sort out our approach towards invoicing and project management.

Straight into "Design to Communicate" by Simon Collison, I guess I wasn't quite ready for the sheer academic, philosophical take on the purpose of design. Initially covering the more theoretical and abstract roots of design and it's purpose to communicate, he did finish off touching on more applied tools such as Rhetoric, Nostalgia, Humour, Colour and Typography and how they can be used. Plus he provided some pretty sweet eye candy in his slides!

Cans of Redbull all round perked us up for last set of tracked talks. Dan Rubin talked on UX, UI and Prototyping using a case study to illustrate the advantages and process of how proper high-fidelity UX testing can make a massive difference to the success of a site.

And last and most certainly not least... in fact most definitely the best talk of the day, was Andy Clarke's talk, "Hardboiled Web Design".  Having never heard him talk, but aware of something of his reputation as a pretty blunt yet eloquent character, I was immediately gripped. Having spent a year just getting used to the practice of Progressive Enhancement / Enrichment, that all got blown out of the water. Instead of designing for the lowest common denominator and throwing in a few tasty bits for those bright enough to use a decent browser, we should be designing for the best and then working back, considering how lesser browsers (read Internet Explorer) can deliver an appropriate alternative. With the question, "do websites need to look exactly the same in every browser?", we need to stop think beyond the limitations of "non-standard" CSS and browsers, and accept that their will never be a day where all browsers will convene at the same place. Being given the permission perhaps to have confidence in the decision we made over a year ago to drop full IE6 support from our sites and to concentrate on making sites the best they can be, was probably the best message I took home from DIBI.

A quick break for ice creams and water, and we had the closing talks and some music fro the Sancho Plan, and then our time at the Sage (awesome venue by the way!) was all over, and we all mosied off down the hill and across the river to the Sea Club which, sadly I guess, turned out to be the only disappointing element of the whole event.  After a long day of inspiring and interesting talks, I would have loved the opportunity to meet lots of people, talk about what had come up for them, highlights and lowlights, what they're working on and other such "networky" types of conversations... instead, we had a small, hot venue with music so loud it was practically impossible to hear anyone speak. Whilst I once again can't fault the provision of free booze, it was with a slight heavy heart we left rather earlier than we would have liked.

Overall, the event was however a resounding success, with the opportunity to listen to some brilliant folks. The event itself was immaculately presented, with so many brilliant touches put on by the Codeworks team, and a special mention to Gavin Elliott who seemed to be the head honcho when it came to pulling it all together.  So impressed I was, that I gladly bought a ticket to next years DIBI the next day.

Hopefully see lots of y'all there at 2011's event, where hopefully we'll all be a bit more used to the new spangly flashiness of the iPads that were so conspicuous at this years!