FOWD 2012: Future of Web Design

The Future of Web Design is one of the biggest and well respected annual web conferences in the world and recently the Mind Candy web team (Davide, Leo, Jenny, James and David) had the pleasure of attending. What follows isn’t a full-on summary of the event as that wouldn’t do it justice. It’s very well documented over the internet already. Instead, in a Q & A interview style, we talk about what areas of the conference stood out most for each of us.

FOWD 2012

Q. What was your favourite talk and why?

David: I particularly enjoyed Mark Boulton’s talk about “Failing and Doing It Well”, he highlighted the importance of embracing failure and maximising the learning process by taking risks and understanding that part of that, is not always succeeding. Putting the emphasis on learning creates for a better work environment and ultimately better work :).

He also highlighted issues with what he perceives as an issue of being overly ambitious; in the sense that you can never achieve your goal and be satisfied. He advises “don’t be ambitious, be a dreamer” because dreamers try to change the world but are content if they don’t succeed.

Jenny: I had a few, but the stand out ones tended to encapsulate my own current position in the industry, and my own future ambitions. I’d say a heady mix of Remy Sharp’s “Dr Weblove / How I learned to stop worrying about Photoshop and love designers”, Jonathan Berger’s “Code Literacy for Designers”, Sarah Parmenter’s “Future of Beautiful iOS Design”, and Jon Tan’s talk on Web Typography.

James: Laura Kalbag gave a great talk, I found her approach to adaptive responsive design both practical and pragmatic. She gave some great advice, such as: design around your images, don’t design straight into the browser because you’ll end up with blocky designs and it’s OK to design the desktop version of a site first.

I also really enjoyed Jon Tan’s talk on web typography, he made the point that badly set type isn’t harder to read, it just puts the user in a bad mood, which makes them much less likely to do what you want them to do.

Davide: The talks given by Bill Buxton and The Standardistas: they were inspiring: the former because it was a clear push toward the future and gave me an insight on how and were new ideas are born; the latter, because in an overconnected society like ours, we easily run the risk of simply collecting superficial information (like the squirrel) without digesting anything and missing the true power of a learning experience: incubation.

Q. Most exciting thing that you’re looking forward to?

Davide: The BIG Innovations intruduced in The HTML5 JS API: Geolocation, WebWorkers, WebSockets, Canvas, Local Storage, Indexed DB; Pushing forward for bringing Javascript in the Backend with NodeJS (Railway, Express etc..); Moreover, the wide adoption of CoffeeScript as the official successor for Javascript and seeing it supported natively by browser implementors.

Jenny: The final death throes of Internet Explorer 6.

Leo: Martin Beeby is a Microsoft web evangelist/developer and his talk blew me away! He introduced one of Microsoft’s current HTML5 developments: ‘Soundwave – Using the Doppler effect to sense gestures’ and if it realises its promise then I think it’s going to revolutionise the way we interact with the web.

In Microsoft’s words, SoundWave is a real-time sensing technique that leverages a device’s speaker and microphone to robustly sense in-air gestures and motion. So via clever use of existing device sensors, we can start to imagine and define new ways to touch, speak, move and interact with a web app as demonstrated in the link below.

Muscle memory is quicker and more intuitive than keyboard/mouse alone so in future I fully expect faster and richer human interactions with HTML5 web apps. Add to this the cutting edge advances in utilising a computer’s webcam via getUserMedia(), and the possibility of all these sensors working together in future, we can really start to imagine more involved and immersive web experiences and interactions. It’s still early days, but very exciting!

Q. What is the future of web design?

Davide: Maybe to change and include one of the new trends, that see Web Applications becoming more and more full fledged ‘Desktop’ Applications simply running into a web container. Web Design, in this perspective, will become more of a ‘Web’ branch of ‘application’ design.

Jenny: It’s everywhere we look and in everything we do. It’s a wealth of information made beautiful to look at. It’s the internet in our pocket and the world at our fingertips. It’s us, totally involved.

James: That there is no set best process for designing flexible adaptive sites – this is something I find incredibly exciting.

Q. Will this change the way you work/think in future?

Jenny: It’d be difficult for it not to. The arena we throw ourselves around in is constantly in a state of update, and it’s really important to keep our eyes open for the game-changing stuff :)

I personally came away with a whole bunch of practices and angles that I’d not thought about before, and that are already making a big difference. The speakers at FOWD know their onions, it’d be silly not to take notice!

Davide: Yes; I’ll start looking around me for hints of the future (see Bill Buxton talk) and I’ll probably try to focus on one topic at a time instead of consuming most of my time wandering around and ammassing information (that I never consume).

Q. Tweet or quote of the day?

Leo: “Don’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!” Bruce Lee

Jon Tan talked about the emotive qualities of typography and how it is felt rather than just seen, so I think using a Bruce Lee quote to end a talk on Web Typography was awesome!

Jenny: I have a few…! I’ll settle with these:
“No matter what the tech is now, no matter what it is in the future, it will always be about communicating” – @blueleafchris

“Ideas don’t form in a vacuum. Without constant input, the outputs will inevitably remain the same” – @standardistas

David: “Now we can do anything, what should we do?” – Bill Buxton

Bill Buxton’s talk was one of the most future driven and he highlighted that technology is rarely what holds back progress; the limiting factor is often our imaginations.

Q. The one thing that you took away from the conference?

Jenny: I’m really big on learning new skills and becoming better at ones I already have. I like to be an InfoSponge™.

So I love how those in our industry (and especially the startup tech world) are excited to share information and fresh thinking – I believe we encourage that more than any other industry. It’s given me a lot of motivation to do the same, and rather wonderfully, learn a lot in the process.

Q Are you a superstar, ninja or rockstar?

Davide: Ninja, quickly moving in the shadows and sharpening my blades for the big battles to come.

James: I like to think of myself as a tramp with a house and a job.

Jenny: I’m just a massive nerd, and damn proud of it.

All in all, it was a brain-cramming, eye-opening and inspirational 2 days that provided a lot of insight and food for thought. Here at Mind Candy, we’ve already started to modify our design/development processes as a result of what we learnt and the results so far have been massively positive! With so much going on and so much to look forward to, it also ignited a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the web. So for these reasons alone, it’s been a highly invaluable experience and we’re very much looking forward to the next one! Roll on, FOWD 2013!

We now have access to all the videos so get in touch if you’d like to talk more! In the meantime, here are several interesting people to e-stalk:


Agile Safari Comes to Mind Candy!

Wednesday saw Mind Candy host an Agile Safari at Mind Candy HQ!

The aim of the Agile Safari is to help members of the UX community get to grips with different techniques to better integrate UX into the Agile development process, as many (if not most) find working within Agile to present a myriad challenges. The Agile Safari participants visit different companies who can then share their experiences of how they’ve approached these problems, and really give people a chance to explore and question how they do things.


As a UX Designer who has just joined Mind Candy, I was really excited that Mind Candy would be hosting the first Agile Safari at Moshi HQ. One of the reasons that I was so excited to join Mind Candy was due to their forward thinking, steadfast approach to working in Agile. As a fast paced start-up, Mind Candy have a really strong commitment to Agile that is pervasive across the business, and though its practices are far from perfect, the Agile Safari was a great way to show others how we work and get a really interesting and much needed discussion flowing about UX and Agile thinking.


About 50 people came to hear the Mind Candy panel talk. They were also treated to a guided tour of our office – with a long stop off at our gigantic board of awesomeness to explain how we work in practice (as well as our newly built treehouse!).


Our scrum master spoke about how we ‘do agile’ in broad terms, then it was over to Martyn, the other half of our UX team, to speak about how Mind Candy have tried to take a user-centred approach since its inception, and how this has manifested itself in the agile process. Then it was over to myself – I spoke around my first impressions of how Mind Candy’s agile thinking is affecting me as a UX designer and the benefits and challenges that this brings. Finally, Axel, our interactive designer spoke about the challenges of incorporating design into agile.


After the talk, there was some Q&A, and then we were off to the pub to get some really interesting discussions going. It was so awesome to meet other UX designers who face the same challenges but yet share the same keen desire to really ‘make it work!’


It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I’m really pleased that we got to host such a lovely bunch of people! Thanks to everyone who came and to Johanna for organising! :)


Photos courtesy of Cat Burton!