It was the month of may – it was btconf time! Lucky me: I was able to attend this years beyond tellerrand conference in Dusseldorf again. It was for the fourth time Marc Thiele hosted this curated web conference and again, he managed to have really famous speakers on stage:
- Ethan Marcotte: wrote the initial responsive web design article on A List Apart and the identically named book
- Jonathan Snook: author of SMACSS
- Chris Coyier: author of CSS-Tricks and Co-Founder of CodePen
- Stephen Hay: wrote the book Responsive Design Workflow
- Erik Spiekermann: Design Legend and at the age of 67 not old at all
I am not going to recapitulate what the single talks were about – you can find that at the schedule-pages of the beyond tellerrand website. In contrast to my 2013 btconf-summary this post is going to be less dispassionate and more personal (*hint* *hint* => drawings). This is because of two reasons:
First reason: I had a colleague form the Munich Mayflower Office (his name is Flo) accompanying me this time. We spend lots of time before, in between and after the talks chatting about internal Mayflower issues, recent and upcoming projects and so on. Looking back, I have to admit that these discussions strongly influenced how / with what kind of attitude I listened to the speakers and what stayed in mind from the talks. (Honestly, I didn’t expect this influence to be so comprehensive.) Furthermore, talking to Flo prevented me from looking through the exhibition available outside the main conference room. So I can’t tell you anything about that either. Ah – wait! Me and Flo had two table-soccer matches at the trivago booth :)
The second and more important reason why I will not write about the sessions in detail is, that there hadn’t been too many new things announced. Most talks circled known technologies and topics such as Responsiveness, SVG, structured CSS, content modeling, simplicity in UX, … We’ve all heard about that. But – at least for me – this was no major drawback. Listening to people who helped shaping the way how we work in web design today and what workflows we use for it was interesting and inspiring enough. And certainly the speakers provided us with lots of precious individual and/or advanced details and undertone in their talks (for example Ethan Marcotte mentioning this A List Apart Article on proper video-scaling or Chris Coyier giving some valuable links on SVG-, responsive- and vector-icons: NounProject, Responsive Icons, IcoMoon, SVGeezy).
So let me present my (very personal) four central statements from btconf 2014:
- In modern web design, we know what to do. But we’re still struggling to find proper workflows, (mindset) frameworks and communication means.
- We’re too often obsessed by our technical skills and sophisticated ideas, so that we don’t recognize the actual problem(s).
- Content matters! Accessible, well structured content.
May that be seamlessly scalable, sharp SVG-images or platform agnostic, heavily modeled bits of digital native content…
- Many people nowadays utter their thoughts about the structure and basic architecture of the web and demand (more) decentralization. There were two or three talks covering this topic. A little too much in my opinion for btconf-context.
The evening session with Jon Burgerman
Like at all beyond tellerrand events I attended so far, there was a celebrity from the design/art scene giving the evening session. After everybody had received their free drinks (the major part of the audience clearly preferred beer) Jon Burgerman entered the stage and gave a highly entertaining talk showing some of his work, his attitude (towards work) and making the audience howl with laughter more than once :)
Burgerman encouraged people to not always be solely focused on solutions (see point 2. above ;) ) but let them find their way towards you. He also recommended the audience to draw during his session / the upcoming talks / work / whenever they want. (I did that joyfully and therefore you can find some of my btconf-„artwork“ framing this post ;) )
Very awesome (hint! hint!) was the way, Burgerman ended his talk: He brought up his last slide saying „not everything is awesome“ (see gallery below and his website) and at the same time he played this „song“. When Marc Thiele came on stage in order to thank Burgerman for his talk (what he did with every speaker), everybody expected the music to turn off. But it didn’t. Burgerman played it until the bitter end. Marc Thiele really had a hard time standing up on stage and endure until the song finally was over #hihi :)
Here are some impressions (sorry for the bad quality of the pictures)
Summing it up
The venue (the Capitol Theater in Düsseldorf), preliminary mailings, the btconf homepage, organization on the spot, the staff, music with live samples in between the talks, free coffee and water, the conference-shirt/-bag (see gallery above) and other goodies,… everything was perfect again! Maybe even better than last year. Just the air conditioning system shouldn’t have stopped working on Monday morning. Everybody was sweating terribly in the sold out venue with almost 30°C outside.
Initially, I was a little disappointed by this year’s btconf because I didn’t leave Dusseldorf as thrilled as last year and didn’t learn that many new things. But now, some days later, I don’t think that going there was a waste of time. Not at all! Where else are you given the possibility to hear such well-known and engaged speakers talking about modern web design and development? And which conference can provide you with such warm, informal and hearty atmosphere?
For me, this time it was not specific information or technology I brought home with me from btconf. It was the feeling, that we as web developers seem to be on the right way, but have to keep searching for better means to do what we do in the best possible way. And this is hard. Not only for us at Mayflower, but also for the people we look up to like Ethan Marcotte, Stephen Hay and Chris Coyier.
So, if you are interested in web design and frontend development – this is the conference to be in Germany! I’m already curious for btconf 2015 and the hopefully again more pioneering talks then…