Beyond Tellerrand 2013

On Monday and Tuesday I was attending the „Beyond Tellerrand“ conference in Düsseldorf – a curated conference targeting frontend development, design and creativity. Or to sum it up: about shaping the experience for users on the web.

the conference mug

the conference mug

After having visited the really inspiring „sister“-conference „Play! Beyond Tellerrand“ (which is more code-focused) a year ago I was very glad and excited that I could go to Düsseldorf this year (thanks Mayflower!). When I arrived at Capitol Theater and checked in I was surprised by the adorable location: a lot of open space, people were chatting everywhere, everything was branded with this year’s artwork, the staff was so friendly, there were artists and sponsors giving small exhibitions, …
The main talks actually took place at the theater hall which was dimly illuminated, with candelabras and small red tables with small lamps on them. You had a good look at the stage from everywhere and there were enough seats for the roughly 400 attendees. I think it was the perfect location for this conference and Marc Thiele and his team did an very good job!

Another thing worth mentioning before I come to writing about the speakers and their talks are the two guys making „music“ between the talks. They had some electronic sounds (pretty good beats and melodies) and mixed them with samples from the just given (!) talk. It took them only some minutes after a talk was finished to put up round and catchy sound installations that made the breaks really entertaining.
Also the conference-intro-video got lots of applause.

Since all talks were given in English I’m trying my best here to keep the language :)

Major conference topics

"THIS IS FOR EVERYONE" - Tim Berners-Lee at the 2012 Olympics

„THIS IS FOR EVERYONE“ – Tim Berners-Lee at the 2012 Olympics

The major / meta topics of the conference – that nearly all speakers referred to in some way or the other – were:

  • „this is for everyone“ (Tim Berners-Lee) => everybody should be able to consume and publish (on) the web
  • designing web applications and content should no longer be about making polished, artificial sites (or even native apps) but about delivering the best content to people in the easiest possible way
  • try to give people exactly what they need, design with empathy and don’t do things just because you can do them
  • in order to fulfill this tasks the current working-processes need to be rethought and people need to be open minded about new stuff
  • care about the things you create and make them as good as you possibly can

The talks

Jeremy Keith giving the opening talk

Jeremy Keith giving the opening talk

Though all talks were at least good – to me, most striking were the opening talk, the two talks that provided some CSS-code, the bad-ass evening-talk on Monday and definitely Josh Brewer from Twitter singing his talk because of having the feeling that the preceding talks already said a lot of the things he wanted to speak about :) He did a really good job with his guitar! („Lorem ipsum is fucking evil!“)

The opening talk was held by Jeremy Keith who talked about caring for the things, that already are on the web and preserving already created data and it’s accessibility. He stated, that we need a backup of the web and claimed that what is on the Internet should stay on the Internet. Deleting alleged outdated pages like GeoCities means deleting a part of recent human history and breaking tons of URLs that links aim to. We might not understand the importance of this content right now, but it might be of interest in the future. Once deleted there is no chance of bringing it back.
As the first of three speakers he showed Tim Berners-Lee’s tweet from the 2012 Olympics „this is for everyone“ and emphasized that the web needs to stay open for everybody. And if everybody being able to be a publisher on the web means having ugly pages like GeoCities- or MySpace-Pages, for Jeremy it is worth it. In terms of accessibility he also pointed out that app-stores are a step back from the openness that Tim Berners-Lee gave everybody when “releasing” the web without any patents or proprietary components.

Harry Roberts (working at sky and author of inuit.css) gave the only code-related talk on Monday: “Architecting Scalable CSS”. He compared building websites to building houses – both kinds of projects need different layers and task to be put together in a specific order: you can’t put in windows if the foundation is there but the walls are missing. Likewise you can not work on the look and feel of a web application if the base grid is not displayed correctly yet (on all possible devices!). He suggested using the Single Responsibility Principle when designing your CSS-classes. Every class should be doing one thing only but do this in the best possible way.
Brad Frost pushed this idea even further in his “Atomic Design” talk on Tuesday. He presented his new styleguide-framework “Pattern Lab” that thinks of HTML-elements as the smallest possible unit on web pages and calls them atoms. Pattern Lab lets you combine those atoms to modules – like a label, an input-field and a button combined result in a login-form. From these modules, you can build more complex organisms like a full web-application header containing the login-form-module plus for example a logo-module and a navigation module. The next step is creating even more templates by combining organisms which could result in final, production-ready pages. (I am really keen on playing with his framework on an upcoming MayDay!)

Creating web applications for all devices out there

Almost every talk featured or referred to responsive web design in some way. General major statements here were:

  • Designers need to know the possibilities of HTML and CSS in order to be able to test their design ideas in browsers and check whether they work or not.
  • Responsive design is not mobile design and does not mean designing for a bunch of fixed resolutions => a design must to work on every resolution because you cannot keep track of all devices out there and you can never know what will be next.
  • Starting from mobile and expanding to “larger” devices often is a good idea.

The evening session

This, I was especially looking forward to. Last year, Joshua Davis gave an awesome, very entertaining bad-ass talk about his work and his attitude towards it. (This talk actually made me buy a book on processing!)

This year it was James Victoire kicking peoples asses (sorry – but I have so say it this way) in the evening session: after some free drinks (beer for most people) he was talking about his work as a Graphic Designer shifting from (very well) payed jobs for clients to doing his own / non-profit projects. Besides swearing on stage, explicitly insulting advertising-clients in general and being really, really entertaining he encouraged people told people to trust in their own abilities and visions. They should see their job as a gift they’re giving to their customers – and not something that earns them some money or satisfies their bosses.  And if they can’t see their job in this way they should go and change something about it.

Wrapping it up

There was not one bad or boring talk – all speakers did an awesome job on stage. People, who are on the bleeding edge of shaping today’s web and web technologies gave insights in their latest everyday work, shared their thoughts and plans about the future of the web and were open about having hard times and struggling with their work sometimes too.

Summarizing the two conference days on the train back to Würzburg, I saw less code than I initially wanted, but the message that the conference made was much clearer than I had expected: There needs to be a paradigm-shift from artificial and fancy technically driven things on the web to beautiful and responsible crafted customers-focused web applications.

And it would be great if that spirit makes its way into my / our everyday-work!

…and sorry for the horrible pics – it definitely is time for an new mobile device for me :) Some good pictures can be found on flickr and if you are interested in reading more about Beyond Tellerrand 2013: Marc is collecting the conference-coverage on it’s Lanyrd page.

totally overexposed stage

the stage

people standing in front of the conference venue

people standing in front of the conference venue

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4 Gedanken zu “Beyond Tellerrand 2013

  1. Hi, many thanks for this nice and very complete write-up. Glad you liked it. One addition: With 450 people it was completely sold out (just to correct your 400) ;)

    Cheers and take care!

    /marc

  2. Pingback: beyond tellerrand 2013 · Pixelscheucher

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