Women and The Future of Web Design Conference

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The Future of Web Design (FOWD) Conference was held the week before Thanksgiving in New York City.
One of those in attendance was Kristin Vincent from Webgrrls.

Kristen came home from the conference and wrote a visionary post called The Web’s Future: Peering into the Crystal Ball. She summarized some of the highlights of the conference, but she also went beyond that and gave her own ideas on where things are headed in the web design world. Or as Kristen explained it,

I heard some smart, inspiring speakers, but overall I felt the conference played it a little safe and didn’t lean forward enough to look over the cutting edge. Presentations focused on topics such as:

* How sites are now utilizing AJAX to allow for more dynamic interactions without page refreshes
* How we can design better sites for mobile devices, which are sweeping the globe at a surprising rate
* How user-generated content like blogs, tags, and comments are taking over online spaces

I felt they were filling in the details of a landscape that had been growing on the horizon for a while. I went home that night dreaming of uncharted territory, of things that are still beyond the next hill.

Her first look into uncharted territory reveals her crystal ball for AJAX.

In the future, we will see modules on the page that are triggered to appear dynamically as a result of user actions. These modules will contain content from multiple sites. The number and arrangement of modules on the page will be rules based, and the possibilities will be infinite because designers can’t possibly predict or plan for the series of user actions that will kick off different combinations on the page.

Joshua Davis, the first speaker at the conference, talked about the idea of computational design in art, where he builds design rules and elements of randomness into a program and then runs the program to create artwork. But I’m speculating about a new implementation of computational design that was not influenced by programmatic randomness, but by actions performed by users. And instead of creating art, this would create new transactional e-commerce or learning spaces.

On the topic of mobile devices, Kristin polished her crystal ball to a real sheen. She says,

Now that the device is handheld, lightweight, and easily manipulated, people will want to use it to interact with their physical environment. We’ll be able to point it toward a building and pull up that company’s site or information. (This has already started happening in Asia.) We’ll be able to scan UPC barcodes to add items to an online wish list or to have the item automatically shipped to our homes.

As designers, we are currently limited in how we design for mobile devices because of the small screens. In the future, the screens will be able to stretch or unfold so we can view the full 17-inch monitor size. Or maybe they will become more like projectors and project a full-size screen on the wall or desktop. Keyboards will also need to scale. Mobile devices will beam holograms of keyboards so we can type on virtual keys on any flat surface.

That’s pretty exciting sounding stuff. Kristin also had some thoughts on a topic dear to the hearts of BlogHers: user generated content. She predicts,

User-generated content is going to spill outside the Internet arena. As you peruse the cable menu on tv, you’ll be able to see what other people thought of a show to help you decide whether to set your DVR to record it. As silicon chips make their way into paper, newspapers and books will have a place where customers can pull up the latest comments. For instance, I have a favorite recipe of chipoltle nachos with avocado cream dipping sauce that I like to make, and I’d like the option to see what people who like this recipe recommend I also try. I don’t want to pull it up online; I want it to appear in context in my cookbook and to be up to date each time I pull out the recipe.

Kristen didn’t comment on the gender of the speakers issue at FOWD. I took a look at the speakers list out of my own need to satisfy my inner accountant. The conference had the usual dismal ration of male to female speakers. There were three women on the panels.

One of the speakers was Cindy Li from The Adventures of Cindy Li. Cindy is an illustrator. At the conference she talked about using illustration for attraction and value on a web site. Her post about the conference is FOWD 07 New York: Beautifying the web with Illustration.

Another female conference speaker was Jina Bolton from JinaBolton.com. She hasn’t blogged about her experience there, although she did make mention of her plans to be a speaker. Jina talked about the future of CSS. That sounds like the most interesting topic at the whole conference to me, and definitely creates a harmonic convergence in the geeky recesses of my psyche.

The third female speaker was Lea Alcantara. She spoke about branding on the web. Her post about the event, Future of Web Design Wrap-Up contains her impressions of the conference and a link to The Art of Self Branding, a website that she developed based on her presentation at the conference.

Everyone is either a creator or a user of web design these days. No matter what the future of web design turns out to be, it’s going to matter to us all.

Cross posted at BlogHer.

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2 thoughts on “Women and The Future of Web Design Conference”

  1. Since the iPhone came out, I’ve been convinced that people are going to move more and more to a portable relationship with the Internet. That does not mean that people won’t still use full-sized computers. But it means that millions of people who have no reason to have a full-sized computer (for work, most likely) will continue to buy smaller and smaller devices to conduct their email, tweets, and Internet business. Especially because it can be tied to phone service, music, video, games, and all the traditional Internet communications in one small device.

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