RustbeltRefresh 2014

This year marked the second RustbeltRefresh conference and the organizers gathered another great line-up of local, national, and international speakers.

Here's some of my notes and photos from the "single day dedicated to web design and front-end development".

Karen McGrane

I've had the pleasure to watch Karen present at the IA Summit before. She's a great speaker and has a ton of insight on one of the growing issues we face with the web today – Content.


Give up the shared hallucination that we have control

  • Look into the Google Communications Group
  • "NOBODY IS READING YOUR PDFs!" – Big 'blobs' of locked content. Very expensive to liberate.
  • As the diversity of devices grows so does the importance of 'content modelling' and not only how things are displayed but also how they are read aloud.
  • Check out the NYT Innovation Report.

You can view her slides for 'Content for a Zombie Apocalypse' on SlideShare.

Matt Griffin

Matt basically won the animated GIF competition in his presentation. He talked about wireframing within the browser (small screen first natch') and using that code to overlay your styles etc. This meant, for some projects, there wasn't a lot of code changes.

  • "Swoop & Poop!"
  • Collaborative sketching
  • Small deliverables, more frequently

The agency he created, Bearded, has it's own starter kit you can grab from GitHub. He is also making a documentary about the web.

As I had a meeting over lunch I missed some of the presentations before and after, so little notes, but what I saw was very informative.

Jen Myers

Jen spoke about 'shepherding unicorns' and how we sorely need more mentors in our industry. This is something I heard quite a bit at this years IA Summit. She spoke about she wouldn't be the answer-bot if her students needed help, rather guide them to solving the issue by asking them questions.

Jenn Lukas addressing the audience

Jenn Lukas

Jenn is just full of excitement and energy about web design and this comes through in her presentation.

She spoke about what goes in to make 'The Developers Ampersandwich' focusing on web typography, icons, and ARIA roles to name a few.

You can find a lot of links she mentioned on her Nerdary post.

Tim Kadlec

Tim started his talk about performance by relating a story of getting lost with his family looking for the perfect Xmas tree.

It's all about thinking of things that could happen between A to Z. Performance equals panning and the same goes for the lack thereof. It should be something baked in and not an afterthought. He gave some interesting facts about the impact of performance like Amazon losing 1% sales for every 100ms of latency.

A great linked he shared was

Rachel Nabors

Rachel took us through how she created 'Alice in Videoland' for Adobe's Creative Edge magazine. It's a nice take on Alice in Wonderland and the interactive "book" uses HTML & CSS for it's animations.

Jeremy Keith

If you've been in this industry for any amount of of time you know of Jeremy. It's always great to see him present and this was no exception. He wanted to change our minds. He showed us the arrow in the FedEx logo as well as ducks all wear dog masks. That it's Tony Danza, not Tiny Dancer. And that there's certain parts of the web that are fault tolerant (HTML & CSS) and parts that are not (JavaScript).

Jeremy, with David Siegel's pivotal book

All stuff that we know. Personally, professionally, and as an industry en-masse. But then he laid down the challenge.

Do websites need to look the same in every browser? NO!

Then why do we, as an industry, spend so much time retrofitting JavaScript, creating shims and hacks to run in these old browsers?

If you are still hacking sites together to get it to look right in IE8, you're part of the problem.

With that Jeremy laid down the gauntlet. It's time as professionals to stand up. The first website was, and still is responsive. It can be viewed on all browsers using any device unlike some modern ones that completely fail if JavaScript doesn't run.

It's our job to educate people not to use an old and broken browsers. Build for the future.

Looking forward to next year

As with 2013's RustbeltRefresh conference the organizers did a fantastic job. I'm looking forward to next year's in September. And you should too.