MaryLiz Guillemi Logo

Posted on August 17, 2012 — No Comments Yet!

Take-Aways from An Event Apart

I recently returned from DC where I attended the Event Apart conference, graciously hosted by the wonderful people at A List Apart. This is a quick list of my major take-aways from the conference:

  1. Content strategy is a vital step in the design process.

    If you don’t know your content, you can’t know your solution. Therefore, content has to be provided before sketching, wireframing or designing begins. Content should be strategically written to fit the language of company it represents. It should be clear and concise, to help users easily find what they need. Often times, we expect our clients to supply their content. More often than not, our clients have few skills in content strategy and copywriting. If there is no content strategist on staff, consider outsourcing this vital piece of the project to a professional.

  2. Mobile is the new medium

    So often, a decision in a web project is made to only provide a desktop solution to the client, due to budget or time constraints. Perhaps more often, mobile is considered at the end of the rushed development phase. We often hide certain elements and content from mobile users, assuming they don’t need to have access to all of the content desktop users need. Karen McGrane blew my mind with some statistics that made me realize that our clients can’t afford to ignore the mobile trend: 30% of Americans do not have internet access in their homes and only access the internet from their smart phone. That’s approximately 50 million Americans! Can you imagine the way they experience the internet? Pinching and zooming and having access to a fraction of the content available to desktop users. Its time to make our clients aware of how important it is to cater to our mobile users. Karen made the great point that all content should be available for mobile users. Furthermore, if you’re removing content for mobile because its unnecessary, you should remove it from the desktop view as well.

  3. Stop treating mobile like the desktop

    When developing our responsive websites, we tend to still think in terms of the desktop medium. We’re used to simply scaling elements down to fit the mobile browser. Even when developing with a mobile-first approach, our minds don’t fully focus on the mobile experience. Luke W. and Brad Frost gave some incredible examples for how we can further improve the users’ mobile experience and therefore improve the success of our websites. There’s no need for us to make our forms so complicated. We should do what we can to simplify our forms and cut down on the number of steps they require.

    Most importantly, we should be sure we are not leaving out critical features on mobile screens. Login forms still need “Forgot password?”, “Sign Up” and “Remember me” links. Consider other sign-on techniques to make signing in quick and simple for users.

  4. Inform your client

    Mike Monteiro gave an incredible speech, which began with this example: He had recently moved to San Francisco and wanted to buy a bike to get around the city. He hadn’t ridden a bike since he was a child, so he was intimidated by the bike-buying experience. He barely stepped foot into a bike store before he became completely overwhelmed when he saw all of the different types of bikes he could choose from. If it weren’t for a kind member of the bike shop staff, he would’ve immediately left without a purchase. Instead, she asked him useful questions like, “What will be the primary purpose of your bike? How many miles will you be riding to and from work? How tall are you? What’s your budget?”. Armed with the answers to these questions, she was able to provide the perfect suggestion to her client. We should treat our clients the same way. We often get frustrated by the fact that our non-web-savvy clients are asking for crazy things. We should realize that our client was likely never told what to expect. They were never told what would be best for them. Perhaps we didn’t ask the right questions at the beginning of the project? From now on, we should do proper briefing, then make it clear to the client that we’re going to help them come up with the best solutions based on their needs. If we don’t, they will fill that void with their own ideas.

  5. Make your meetings more productive

    We always have the best intentions as we begin to schedule our status and project kick-off meetings. Often times, these meetings can be vital to the success of the project. There are so many variables to making a meeting productive, that its important to ensure all have been accounted for. Here are some tips provided by Kevin Hoffman:

    • Status meetings should be kept short so as to not waste a lot of time. To ensure no one gets too comfortable, try meeting in a space with no chairs to force everyone to stand up. This will help keep the meeting short, sweet and to the point.
    • Project kick-offs should be designed to maintain everyone’s attention well. Make it interactive. Provide visuals, images and diagrams as you discuss these items.
    • Appoint a facilitator to your meetings. This is someone that remains neutral throughout the meeting. Their purpose is to manage the process and keep things on schedule, not to contribute or evaluate ideas.
    • Always make sure there is a Recorder (note-taker) to document what is discussed throughout the meeting.
    • Discuss the meeting rules and agenda before the meeting begins. Discuss how you’d like people to handle phone calls during the meeting, discuss the objectives and meeting schedule and be sure everyone is in agreement before beginning.
    • If you get stuck in a discussion where people are confused or in disagreement, begin to write down people’s statements on a flip chart. This will keep anyone from making redundant remarks and help you reach a conclusion sooner than later

    In my experience, its helpful to allow several people on the team to speak about their area of expertise or their involvement in the project. This creates some variety and keeps people from getting bored of talking or listening. Always create a meeting outline to keep yourself on track and create a fun presentation by incorporating interactivity where possible. Most importantly, make sure you know your clients’ culture before designing a meeting. Some clients may react best to a more fun environment while others prefer a more serious approach.

Leave a Comment →