D2WC 2011 – Second Time, Twice as Nice!

I just got back from D2WC, the Design and Development Workflow Conference. It’s hosted in Kansas City by Dee Sadler. This was the second time around for the conference and it didn’t fail to impress me yet again. Dee puts together a well executed conference with a great assortment of speakers. The venue was the Crowne Plaza hotel, conveniently located by the Power and Light District, a virtual cornucopia of bars, restaurants and nightlife spots.

D2WC Logo

I got in to town on Thursday, just before dinnertime. I drove with my friend Matt Forcum, and a new friend, Mark DuBois. Mark is a very knowledgeable web designer and instructor. He is heavily involved with the local community of web designers, and also the community at large. It was great to finally meet him in person.

The first day of the event was kicked off by Adobe’s Paul Trani, Steve Withington from Mura and Mark Drew from Railo. All are good speakers and had good content, but I have to admit I was expecting something less about tools and products and more about state of the industry or a broader topic. Not a slam on any of them per se at all, just a minor programming nit, IMHO. I spoke immediately following the keynote and presented my topic, “Is Mobile for Me, What Skills Do I Need?”, I’m sharing the presentation here, along with some more information on it. I think the reception overall was pretty good and got quite a few questions at the end, so that was great!

Next up was “Developers – The Most Critical Designers on Your Project” by David Ortinau. David’s presentation was well organized and loaded with useful anecdotes anchored around some very well researched quotes and stats. Great content overall and full of useful tips for developers as to why design truly matters and how to begin integrating design practices into your development workflow. I had a chance to talk quite a bit with David at the conference. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

We then broke for lunch, with the groups, Mobile, Designers and Developers hitting the road to do a Birds of a Feather talk off site. First event I’ve been to that did that, but I have to admit, I kind of liked it. It was cool to get out of the space for a bit and even though it was hot, stretch our legs. Good conversation, and food, too. Tough to beat.

I had a phone call to make, so, I missed a bit of JP Revel’s talk on JQuery, but when I walked in, it was clear he had hit a nerve…He was getting a lot of questions and there was a conversation going on about what he had presented. Engagement is a good thing in presenting, and it looked like he had it.

Paul Trani, Ben Stucki and Jesse Freeman were some highlights from the rest of the day… All in all a solid way to start off the conference! Since we were in Kansas City, I went to visit one of my favorite breweries, Boulevard Brewing Co. The tour was fantastic, and the tasting room was really nice! They had a test beer there that I hope they add to the Smokestack series, a nice caramel-y Belgian Dubbel called Nommo. After sharing dinner with some of the best and brightest in the Flash and Flex world at Jack Stack, I called it a day. We had a lot to cover the next day after all.

The second day, I started out in Jim Babbage‘s session on Prototyping using Fireworks. Fireworks is one of those tools that I know I should use, but I just can’t seem to get into it. Jim obviously knows it pretty well, so it was cool to see a bit more about what you can do with it. That said, I was looking for a bit more on actual prototyping tips, rather than a how to use Fireworks session. Overall though, good content!

After Jim’s session, it was off tot he 28th floor to see Chris Griffith talk on “Developing Compelling User Interfaces”. He provided a wealth of tips, tricks and user interface conventions you should consider in your next mobile app. Nice rounding out of the concept overall, and the crowd seemed to agree by an large as well.  Chris has been building quite a little app catalog for himself, creating a lot of conference apps for multiple platforms. Very cool work, by the way.

Then, it was back to the LL, developer track to see Aaron Pederson and James Polanco present “Jumping Alligators: The Pitfalls of Project Planning”. This was a great presentation, focusing on the nuts and bolts on how to put together the early planning stages of a medium to large scale development effort. Their deck was awesome by the way, with images taken straight from the Activision classic dash and grab, Pitfall. These two are amongst my favorite presenters to see, I just love their chemistry. Funny, smart guys who really know their stuff. Great topic, shown by people who know what they are talking about. I didn’t get a chance to talk to them about their presentation that much afterward, so I didn’t get to ask them about if they’ve had success in setting up a “discovery phase” project to iron out technical or prototyping issues and get paid for it, rather than cramming it into the estimating portion of selling the work. We got a chance to talk a bit of Drupal, though, so that was cool.

Lunch followed at the Raglan Road Irish pub, with some great conversation about enterprise level Flash and Flex development. It’s conversations like that that make conferences so worthwhile to me. Talking shop in an informal setting, just being open and having a real connection with the others you are with.

Post lunch, I re-caffeinated and headed back to see Seb Lee-Delisle present al-fresco, basically with no deck. He interacted with the crowd, taking a lot of questions and using his twitter stream as a conversation starter. Seb is known by most as a top-notch Flash designer, building games, visualizations and wicked cool particle effects. Seb was mostly talking about his recent forays into HTML5 and JS, so this is a new forum for him and a new creative coding outlet. His work in that space is impressive, and he’s been touring to teach others how to use particles and WebGL in their web design work. Things got a little hot in the room due to the passion about the HTML vs. Flash debate, but overall things stayed very civil and full of insight.

After the Seb show, it it was time to go see Dave Hogue offer his “It’s OK to Throw It Away: Prototypes as a Collaboration Tool” presentation up. Dave is a super sharp user experience designer and project lead, and his expertise is so clear in the way he speaks. He offered up real world examples on how to successfully prototype, not just some canned prefab examples. This was a nice change from a lot of the other presenters showing non-descript tutorial like samples. Good show Dave!

I have to admit it was getting to be a long day, so but I managed to troop on… Headed back up the elevator to go see Rob Rusher present on “Simple and Usable”. He provided some no-nonsense tips on how to remove the non-essentials from your mobile design. No major revelations here, just solid advice from a veteran. Good stuff overall and well worth the time.

That was the final concurrent session, with the finale of the conference taking place downstairs. Tom Green and Jim Babbage hammed it up with plenty of jokes and loud shirts, showing how to take a design from one end of the Creative Suite to the other. Good demo from some peeps that definitely know how to use the products.

The conference closed with some great giveaways and Leif Wells and Mike Labriola just cracking everyone up. All in all another fantastic community created event, all made possible be Dee. Thanks Dee for a great event, you really are a vital part of this community. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!

links for 2011-03-10

Top Web Design/Dev stories for 2010

So, last year I put together a post outlining the top web stories for the year… Read it here. I thought I’d spend some time doing the same here for 2010. There certainly were a lot of big things that happened.

Those are some of the biggest ones in my opinion. Some other notable things that took place in 2010 were the launch of the iPad and the subsequent launch of Flipboard, Tumblr’s growth even while plagued with outages, Chrome OS’s continued bumbling (yes, i have seen the new devices and I just don’t how the fill a gap) and the ongoing upward climb of Facebook.

What are some of the other news stories you liked in 2010? I’d love to hear em.

Building Mobile Learning with your Existing eLearning Toolkit – Adobe CS5

Chad Udell Presents at Max 2010

As promised in the session at Max, here is the content… My slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below:

Here is the video and audio recording of the session from Max as well. I would appreciate you visit the page at Adobe TV and rate the presentation if you have time!

I have also shared all of the code from the presentation as well. You can down;load starter projects complete with basic packager scripts for iOS and AIR here. Please note that you WILL need to generate certificates to run these examples out. To create the iOS apps, you also need to be a member of the Apple iOS developer program. The packager scripts were created based on some help from Christian Cantrell’s posts. I also added a folder of bookmarks in the Zip that may help you along the path of creating mobile learning using Captivate and the rest of the eLearning Suite tools.

Thanks so much for coming to my session. Please, feel free to contact me if you have any questions. And, of course as mentioned in my session… If you want mobile tools added to the eLearning suite, you NEED to let Adobe know. Contact the evangelists, let the product teams know. There REALLY isn’t a clear way to get to mobile from the eLearning suite. You can do it, but it’s pretty convoluted. Let’s get that fixed for the next product cycle.

P.S. Thanks for the opportunity come and speak Adobe, and thanks Kevin Hoyt for managing the process for me. IT was a blast!

New Post up at Float Mobile Learning

I have been relatively quiet here lately, but I certainly haven’t stopped building RIA, Flash or anything… I have been doing a lot of work in mobile, and one of those research areas has been the Adobe mobile options for smartphones.

I just posted a joint article authored with Erik Peterson there outlining key differences between AIR for Android and the iOS packager created applications. Capabilities of AIR for Android, the limitations inherent in using cross platform toolsets and some of the ways we would like to see the iOS packager and the AIR for Android tool.

If you are working in this area, you should probably check it out. We’ll try to keep the list updated as things change, and with MAX just around the corner, we all know it will change!

Conference Recap: Design 4 Mobile 2010

I’ve returned and finally had a chance to look at my notes from Design 4 Mobile, an event put on by Little Springs Design in Evanston, Illinois. In short, the event was masterfully run, full of deep insights and presentations from industry experts and even had enough, “Wow factor” to keep the most jaded conference goers and mobile tech enthusiasts engaged for the duration of the event.

Prior to attending, I reached out to the CEO of Little Springs, Barabara Ballard, asking her for an overview of the conference and some insight into the event’s focus. She provided this thoughtful and well put statement:

Design For Mobile is, at its heart, a community. Indeed, the wiki of
design resources (found here: http://patterns.design4mobile.com/ )
predates both the conference and the Design For Mobile brand itself.
We did this because there weren’t any other places to learn or share
about mobile user experience in the western hemisphere, unless we
wanted to rely on specific manufacturers for the information.

Continuing on, she speaks to the sad truth of state of affairs in terms of mobile conferences in the states:

To put it another way, we at Little Springs Design needed to continue
to improve our mobile UX knowledge, and it is cheaper to run a
conference then send us all to Europe for conferences that don’t match
our needs, or a conference here in the states that was mobile (with
1-2 design sessions) or design (with 1-2 mobile sessions).

In closing, she wraps it up, stating the ethos of her design company succinctly.

We believe that a great user experience can be had with delivery with
a lot of different devices (from iPhone to feature phone) using a lot
of different delivery methods (from apps to web to text). We believe
that mobiles are not just small computers, but a fundamentally
different type of device that is both lesser, and greater, than
computers. We believe that user needs and cognition are different when
they are mobile. And we believe that designing for mobile is a lot of

I have to say, after seeing the effort that she and her company put forth in scheduling, producing and executing Design 4 Mobile, I am certain that she is very very right. They brought together a killer list of speakers, had an excellent bunch of sponsors and lined up some great gadgets and networking events as well to keep things moving at a good pace.

I spent a good portion of the event hanging with UX Magazine’s Juan Sanchez, of Effective UI, and I will be anxious to hear his take on the event as well. He has posted his first day recap here.

I wish I had seen Tuesday’s presentations, in particular, Future of Mobile UX presentation by: Jonathan Brill, but I missed the first two days of the event due to work and teaching. I drove up after hours on Tuesday night to be sure I wouldn’t miss Wednesday. I am glad that I didn’t miss it. Nancy Proctor opened the day with a presentation on Mobile in Museums. Since a large portion of Iona’s work has perennially been with museum clients, I was especially interested in seeing what she had to say. I was not disappointed. Her deck along with many other great presentations she has put together is available on Slideshare, here. Spend a few minutes and flip through it:

Nancy covered some very interesting ways the Smintsonian is employing mobile to create scoail and more engaging visitor experiences as the museum moves from a traditional stance of serving as a repository of things to a repository of digital assets. She stressed how mobile shouldn’t be about the technology, but rather about how to connect people in new and engaging ways in the museum. Very cool ideas indeed. For some of the deeper detail check out this website.

After Nancy’s presentation, Scott Jenson presented Mobile Diversity: the coming Zombie Apocalypse. It was informative and really entertaining. Scott talked about some key differences between mobile apps and web sites. Not a lot of new info there, per se, but some new insights on how this situation is escalating and is quickly getting out of hand. Take this example from his presentation:

You are at a concert and want to know about the opening band, but you can’t remember who they are… Where do you look in terms of apps? The venue’s, the headlining act’s? Getting ridiculous, maybe the band shell has app? How about the trash can next to you? If you simply use the mobile web, your answer is easy… Google (or your search engine of choice). It was a fun way to make a point very well. You can grab his deck here.

After that, Steven Hoober was up with Mobile Device Specifications, or Politics Is Fun. His presentation was novel in that the slides were actually print outs displayed via an ELMO. Kinda retro and fun. I liked it. The content wasn’t super new or ground breaking, but there were some interesting points on creating documentation that were good all by themselves. One key point:

If you can’t document it, you can’t design/build it. If you can’t build it, you can’t sell it.

So very true. Documentation can make or break a product.

Steven’s main points on creating good docs: Clarity, Consistency, Extensibility, Accuracy, Avoid Duplicates. All great points. I look forward to seeing the slides and will update this post once I track ‘em down.

So, all that was before lunch. Whew. So, after some good conversation and food, things got kicked back up again with Ryan Unger’s rather fun and non-traditional presentation on “Navigation Design for Mobile”. He was fun, though maybe just a smidge rambling. I really identified with a couple points: “Mobile is the Snickers, Web is the Steak Dinner”, “Your Mobile Navigiation Should Be Able to Handle Your Content Doubling Tomorrow” and “Be the Pet Psychic, Build Familiarity and Go From There”. It was a good presentation overall, though a bit cloying, really.

The “What gestures do people actually use?”, presentation by: Dan Mauney on the other hand was anything but light on details and great information. Dan shared the results of a huge multinational heuristic study that sought to determine what cultures use what gestures. The results were fascinating. I do hope he publishes the results, or at the very least, the deck he used in the session. Amazing detail and thoroughness! 9 countries, 28 gestures, over 9500 gestures logged. Gestural inputs definitely vary across cultures. Experts DO want different gestures than novices. Somewhat indecipherable commands like “Print” or “Share” DO likely provoke UI hacks like right click menus or popovers. Also, a nice piece of trivia… The clapper may have been the first gestural input device. I’ll embed the original ad here for kicks:

“Smartphone Text Input Methods Compared: Which is Best?” presentation by: Nika Smith was next, and overall, a good and very decent exploration of which device offered speediest and most error free input. I would have liked to see a little more unbiased testing. ie. Keyboard emulators, etc being deployed on the devices rather than only testing the actual OS keyboards provided, thought that would admisttedly be a costly and time consuming test suite to complete. In short, it was somewhat unsurprising… iPhone users type faster on iPhones. Blackberry users faster on Blackberries, etc. No single system was “walk up ready” though… Each one required novice users some time to get acquainted with them. It was interesting though, that users familiar with specific devices tended to make more mistakes on those devices than on the others. That same familiarity breeds sloppiness, I guess.

The very entertaining Corey Pressman was up next. And though he was shown up by the very smart and well informed Judy Brown on a couple minor facts, there is no denying he may have been the most entertaining speaker of the event. his roots in anthropology showed as he talking about monolithic techonlogy and the progression into micro-monolithic (read flints and arrowheads)… in his words “a whole lot of animals died”, speaking about the boon to humanity that the mastery of the first mobile tools were. Very fun parallel. He played it up and was a real treat to listen to.

After that, the day was done for the official agenda and thing moved on to the planned networking event sponsored by Motorola. It was de rigueur but not a bad time either. Some good conversation with various speakers and others ensued. This was one area that Design 4 Mobile was really nice. The event was small enough that the speakers were approachable and the attendees seemed to all be interested in learning and sharing. Very cool indeed. I finished the eveining with some tapas and a nice draft Goose Island Sofie. Delicious. ;-)

The next day was pretty much taken by Microsoft. Their new Windows 7 Phone was the superstar of the day. Beautiful UI. Wow. I have been an iPhone user since day 1, but this is a tempting platform. I’ve been looking for something past the standard homescreen full of apps. Windows Phone seems to do that. various designers, evangelists and other were on hand to demo devices and talk about the tenets of the OS’s design. Really, it was a very informative and very grassroots style approach to build support. And they got it. The place was really abuzz after Albert Shum, Paula Guntaur, Chris Bost and Chris Bernard gave their talks. Biran Gorbett was there to field questions too. A really well planned approach and their polish paid off. I think they built a lot of support that day.

The last non -MS session I attended was Nick Finck’s. I have to say I wan’t blown away. He gave a good presentation, and perhaps to some it was new stuff, but an introductory session on wireframes and paper prototyping wasn’t what I expected from someone as sharp as him. I follow Nick on Twitter and enjoy his commentary, I just may have expected more.

After lunch, I was out… I had to go teach, so I couldn’t see more, though I anxiously await hearing more from the other attendees that may have been documenting the afternoon sessions. Anthony Hand and Jason Grigsby had some great sessions as I could tell from the tweets.

In conclusion, I think you couldn’t have asked more from the event or the organizers. Great speakers, sessions and sharing. Awesome. Little Springs deserves a well earned break. I hope that the event can live up to it the next time it is scheduled! Nice work everyone involved.

BTW, it was nice to attend to cover and take notes… and not speak. That said, come see me at Adobe MAX in October!

Headed to Design 4 Mobile!

I’m headed to a great conference… “Design 4 Mobile” From the site:

“Design For Mobile is the first and only North American mobile user experience conference. The focus is on strategy and tactics for user research, product definition, interaction and other design, and usability testing.”

I’m looking forward to a week of discussion and presentations from industry leaders from Microsoft, Motorola, Google, eBay, Northwestern and Little Springs Design.

I’ve had some discussion with people from UX Magazine that are going to be at the event and the organizers themselves. This looks to be a really solid event in a great venue.

Exciting stuff.

Dude, Best Viewed With a WTF??? What Year is This?

I love web standards, I do. I teach a class on them at a local university and extoll the benefits of everyone using them to create an open and accessible web. Why? They allow us to publish to an audience that is larger than any other ever assembled by man. Without them, the web would be a fragmented mess and it would be far less useful. Now, they also allow us to do some fantastically cool stuff, like the latest video from one of my favorite artists, Arcade Fire. Have you tried it yet? It’s worth a viewing, for sure. Check out the overview from Mashable, too.

But when I see things like this (which accompanied the aforementioned video):

I wonder… what are we doing? Sure, I know it’s a cool demo. Yes, it’s a fun and innovative use of technology… and hopefully we are learning things by creating these experiments… They’re lovely. But at what cost? Are we fueling some sort of Browser War II? Is rich media in this “post-flash” world (which I’m not really sure we are in), bound to ghetto-ize the cool sites and and force us to revert to the “Best viewed on a…” web mullet bumper stickers of 1999? Dude, I’ve been there… I have the scars to prove it and the burnt weekends and late nights of many a browser debugging session to recall not so fondly. Remember this? Am I detecting shades of it here, or what?

So, the next time you bash Flash or any other tech for not being open or taking too much CPU or whatever is the complaint du jour, take a look at this CPU output from my pretty much new 15″ MBP with 8GB ram… This was what was happening while that beautiful piece of open content was playing…

Yeow. Every piece of tech is capable of eating up processors, standards compliant or not. ;-) Just saying.

Oh and by the way, I did write a postcard to myself. Check it out.

Does HTML5 need JavaScript2?

More Cowbell
As a long-time web designer, I have had lots of love affairs with various technologies over the years. GIFBuilder, BBEdit, Photoshop image-slicing, tables, HTML and CSS, Quicktime, VR, Shockwave, JavaScript, Flash 4, Flash 5, Flash MX2004, Actionscript 3, Flash Video, JQuery, DOM Storage… the list goes on and on.

Some of these have been long forgotten and swept under the rug of ancient things in my brain like stuff I learned in my chemistry classes or college psych 101. Other things churn, get their lives extended and get refreshed again and again. With our recent foray in mobile, one of those things for me right now is JavaScript. Often maligned, sometimes heralded, it’s obvious people have lots of opinions on what is one of the most widely deployed programming languages on the web.

After leaving my first job at Rollingstone.com (which consisted of making a lot of Flash minisites and games using Flash 4 and Flash 5), I renewed my interest in JavaScript and the dynamic DOM (I think it was called DHTML at the time). I was very concerned about SEO and machine readability around this time, so I stopped doing a lot of Flash for a couple years. Finally, around the time that Actionscript 2 came out, I started to like JavaScript less than I had previously and also started doing a lot of freelance game development for the web using Flash. Browsers were somewhat inconsistent in their rendering/parsing of it, it lacked the basic OOP and syntactical sugar of AS2 or even PHP for that matter, and debugging it was tough (Firebug wasn’t around yet). Shortly thereafter, JS frameworks like Prototype and JQuery began to emerge, making writing JS a lot less painful. It didn’t really help you get around some of the advanced development issues like true OOP or native data types like JSON, but it was certainly better than writing raw JS.

After AS3 hit the scene in 2006, it was tough to get me to want to develop anything of real complexity with JavaScript given just how awesome it was finally having an ECMAScript based language like AS3 that used strict typing, offered true OOP and provided compile time errors. Add to that, the fact that IE6 made dependable JavaScript a crap shoot compared to Firefox and there is no wonder why Flash enjoyed its heydays from 2004 to 2009 or so.

Fast forward to today and the constant bickering between anybody on the web about the slow death of flash or the rise of HTML5 or need for standards or whatever the tech press or bloggers will have you believe about what is going on behind closed doors between Google, Adobe, Apple and MS about the web’s next steps in media design and development tech and you still have to wonder… how will games, deep experiences and the like be built in HTML5?

Most demos of the tech are pretty frivolous or only prove that yes, you can play video without Flash. Who cares? Could I use HTML5/JQuery to build Sliderocket? Gmodeler? A top tier experience site for the latest blockbuster movie?

The answer, ‘possibly’… but would it be as easy to build and debug or render as fast as using Flash/ActionScript? Most likely, no.

Some of that has to do with the tools. Flash is made to create rich spectacles complete with detailed animations, rich interactions and precise graphics. It’s over 10 years old and is pretty mature. CSS (even CSS3) and the average rendering engines in a browser just can’t match up to it in power, speed, display uniformity across platforms and overall flexibility. But furthermore, building rich apps in JavaScript 1.x is still a pain. Some IDEs are better than others at it, but the language is still pretty much crap for heavy duty coding. Runtime errors galore, esoteric debuggers, a lack of strict typing and advanced data types in general, no formalized approach to MVC/ design patterns… the list goes on and on. Why are we going back to what many developers would call an inferior technology to Flash or even Silverlight. The drive is largely mobile, but there are some other politics at play as well.

When you look at the press coming out, or get phone calls from clients requesting HTML5 apps, alarm bells start going off in my mind. How are we going to handle this transition to a post Flash world when device manufacturers like Apple seem to be forcing us to use a hammer and chisel to produce pale imitations of sites that we built two years ago using great tools? Is the Flash platform perfect? No, but it’s better than pretty everything else we have tried so far for building examples like the ones I pointed out above.

What are the next steps? Well, to see some of the docs coming out of the standards crowd and the browser developers, not much. Ugh. If my tools of choice (Flash and Flex) are really going to lose ubiquity in the player realm, marginalizing their effectiveness due to lack of ubiquity, then please at least give us some tools to build JavScript apps in that are at least as good as what we already have. Get JavaScript 2 out there, please and make it good, not hobbled like the next gen of ECMAScript looks to be. And please, bring hardware accelerated SVG rendering to all browsers, not just IE.

This is not meant to be a “HTML5 sucks” or a “Flash rocks” post… there are plenty of those already. I am interested in hearing what you think though… Does HTML5 need a better DOM scripting partner if it is going to take over for Flash? What does an ideal HTMl5 authoring tool look like? Do these questions matter as much as I think they do to the average designer/developer?

A Short List of Other Tech for Flash Designers and Devs to Check Out

What do you do when you aren’t writing classes or managing assets on a timeline in Flash? How do you expand your knowledge or exercise your creativity? For me, if I still feel like tinkering on a computer but not really doing any *real* Flash/HTML/CSS work, I like to find new tools and try them out. Sometimes I produce stuff worth sharing, sometimes it’s just tinkering and playtime.

As a professional, it can sometimes become more about the day to day. The grind. You need to take a step back every once in a while and experiment. Like these guys…

Read on.