Fun in LA

LA Conference
A few days back I had the delight of speaking at the Adaptive Path, Designing and Building with Ajax along with Jesse James Garrett and Dan Saffer down in LA.

First, thanks to all the wonderful designers and developers I had the honor of meeting. Its been a while since I spoke in a venue like this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It seems that you also felt the conference was a wonderful success. It is my hope that the mental framework that we laid out for understanding the world of Ajax design & development will really provide an ongoing boost to your success. Don't forget to share those successes with me! Love to hear them.

Second, thanks to the AIGA for their wonderful mixer at the Westwood Brewing Company. So many creative and talented folks in LA to learn from even in the most casual setting. And, wow, the IxDA F2F at the Liquid Kitty was awesome. Thanks to Danna Hudson for getting this together.

So what did I take away from my time there?

  • Subtle design. I met Ian who works in motion graphics. He taught me a little about cinematic transitions & effects in the world of commercials. One rule of thumb he mentioned was when deciding on the amount of color saturation or cinematic effect, he generally chooses what he thinks looks right, then halves it. This rule has always stood him in good stead. Hmmm. Perhaps we should apply this to flash & Ajax effects.

    This follows the rule of thumb I learned several years back from Kevin Mullett's book Designing Visual Interfaces in which he describes a technique for removing clutter. Get rid of all but the most essential information for any screen. Then slowly turn up the "contrast" knob, dialing in more visual treatment. Stop just when it communicates.
  • Documenting rich interactions is still way too hard. Ok, I already knew this. Just re-inforced this fact. While we covered several real-world approaches to documenting Ajax applications, designers and developers still struggle way too hard in this area. Fine-grained interactions (interesting moments, microstates) must be documented in context of the page and flow. And all of these have to flow along the time dimension. Its just a hard problem.

    Powerpoint, Captivate, Breeze, SnagIt, Visio, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Keynote, Illustrator, Fireworks, Word, Quicktime, SnapZPro, Director-- each has its pros and cons but nothing is really crafted for our field. My next step is to check out Microsoft Sparkle. Will it be the holy grail? Or is it just a slippery slope into Redmond? :-)
  • Teaching with visuals and a mental framework really works. I put a lot of time into my part of the presentation (spanned 4 topics). I have been ruminating for months on interesting ways to think about Design Patterns and Ajax Operations. I wondered if I could impart what has been rattling around in my brain. It seems (based on survey feedback and talking with attendees) that it worked. I love Keynote. When you use transitions or animations they are cleaner, more elegant and when used right reinforce what you are teaching.

    This is true with interfaces. A good mental model and using a visual language for the purpose of communication works for user interfaces and for presentations.
  • We have much to learn from each other and from other disciplines. I met people with backgrounds in graphic design, animation design, motion graphics, information architect, classical architecture, software engineering, and so on. Each come at the problems from a different angle. I have a list of books that I am going to plow into that I am looking to inform my design skills from orthogonal directions.

    This caused me to reflect on the wealth I have around me at Yahoo! in our User Experience Team. My manager is an awesome photographer (and designer!) I work with a PhD in Rhetoric (and professor of writing at Stanford), a lady who designed the animation tools at Pixar, a guy who designs complex strategy board games (like Settlers of Caton) in his spare time, visual designers (like Luke Wroblenski), a classically trained architect, software engineers turned designers, talented musicians, and so on. Wow! what unique perspectives live inside the heads of those around us.

Soon, a City Near You?
So, hopefully we will be in a city near you. Looks like Austin and NYC or Philadelphia might be next. Keep an eye out at

A few notes on upcoming speaking engagements:
  • Feb 6 - VeriSign Developers Summit (private), Miami, FL
  • Mar 2,3 - Yahoo!'s Front End Engineering Summit
  • Mar 13 - Real World Ajax - SysCon - NYC
  • Mar 21 - Eclipse Con - Panel - Rich Interaction Toolkits - Santa Clara, CA
  • Apr [TBD] - Designing & Building with Ajax - Adaptive Path - NCY or Philadelphia (tentative)
  • May 10 - Adaptive Path - Designing & Building with Ajax - Austin (tentative)
  • May 11-12 - Ajaxian Experience - San Francisco
  • June 7 - Adaptive Path - Designing & Building with Ajax - Amsterdam (tentative)
If you are at an event that I am speaking, please catch up with me so that we can chat. I love to hear from folks who read my blog.