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An Event Apart: Three Days Of Design, Code, And Content

Dyn | An Event Apart: 2012 | Lunch Box

It was a great privilege to recently attend An Event Apart (AEA) with a few of my fellow Dyners. The conference “for people who make websites” was held in Boston and featured twelve awe-inspiring speaker sessions.

Even though these industry leaders were as approachable as fellow colleagues, they seemed like rock stars to this web geek. If you’re creating web sites and haven’t checked them out yet, I encourage you to click around in the lists at the bottom of this blog.

On AEA’s first day, web dweebs crouched outside conference doors in patient anticipation, bringing to mind a familiar scene not unlike camping out for an Iron Maiden concert.

As we eventually streamed into the conference room, a variety of treasures sat on random chairs, up for grabs. Our UX Manager, Lara Swanson snagged a Jeffrey Zeldman doll. You may be a web dev nerd if you covet that prize, even if it’s not an accurate replica.

Before the conference was underway, Lara encouraged us to think about what our UX Team could implement immediately on our site to improve our own users’ experience. Great call. After all, what good is knowledge and how long can we retain it if we don’t put it into practice?

With wifi working well, time flew and minds blew as conference goers continuously tweeted live on A FEED apart. Here are just a few takeaways that stuck in my brain:

It’s All About The User

Many times, companies believe they know what their users want and/or have a handle on the problems encountered by their users when in fact, they don’t. They often utilize their most brilliant people to come up with new features their users aren’t interested in or to solve problems that never existed. Valuable feedback from the actual users is left completely out of the equation. Perhaps it was never sought at all.

In order to discover real user desires and roadblocks, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. This happens by observing them perform a specific task on a site, getting to know who they are and what they do, asking lots of open-ended questions, recording answers, data and searching for patterns. To get to the root of the problem, it helps to keep asking why for every answer until there is no way left to answer.

Web Design Tips

Be willing to throw out what you think you know. With the number of view port sizes/devices growing rapidly, web designers have lost control over the user’s visual experience…and it’s really not a good idea to ignore mobile.

Designing for mobile first is a great way to narrow down what’s essential to include on a page. It’s easier to design for larger view ports later on and you may even come to realize that the extra stuff was never really important. Shoot for consistency between web and mobile design. Why should mobile users experience less?

How many times have you visited an overcrowded web page that made it impossible to find what you’re looking for? Design around content. It’s what users want and they will get it anyway they can. Think Google Reader and Instapaper.

Avoid radical redesigns. It destroys your user’s knowledge.

Cool Technology News! Have you heard of:

A Cutting Edge Company

From DNS and Email Delivery technologies to company culture and clean code, Dyn strives to stay on the cutting edge. Dyn’s people and practices had a direct impact on my personal experience at AEA. It was very cool to be familiar with many of the speakers and discussion concepts. Thanks go to Lara Swanson for creating and including a reading list as part of our onboarding process here. Simple resources like this can go a long way to inspire employees, raise the bar and keep an up-to-date awareness for changing industry standards.

Some of the awesome speakers you should check out

Dyn’s Reading List For Front End Web Devs

AEA was a valuable opportunity to keep up with web’s fast-paced changing challenges and to ultimately keep intuitive usability alive. With full brains and bellies, Dyn’s tired and inspired UX Team left with a number of ideas to implement after dreaming in code.


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Whois: Lynda Straffin

Lynda Straffin is a User Experience Engineer at Oracle Dyn Global Business Unit, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.