The Carrot Blog

The City of San Francisco is basically known for 3 things: Full House, Barry Bonds, and Rice-a-Roni dishes. Well, I can now add another thing to that list – thought-provoking conferences on technology, business, and web design.

For those of you who haven't heard, Voices That Matter was the 4th installment of a 2 day conference held in sunny San Fran featuring some of the most innovative speakers & writers of our industry. Topics ranged from HTML5, CSS3, mobile optimization, web typography, social networks, user experience, microformats, and more. I'd like to share an overview of the more memorable presentations of the conference.

Who were some of the speakers that killed it? Jesse James Garrett (The Obi-Wan Kenobi of User Experience Design) explored the topic that a quality web experience is much more than just a pretty design. Beyond the surface, constructing a website is a delicate balance of strategy, scope, and structure. Physical and emotional engagement are essential for a memorable online experience, whether it be on a laptop or a mobile phone. Designers are more of maestros orchestrating many moving parts in order to create a beautiful web symphony.

With many different devices and competing browsers emerging, a popular question in web design today has been: "Should all websites look the same to everyone?" The answer, Todd Parker insists, is "Nope." Designers shouldn't worry if their intricate jQuery image carousel works on Grandma's old IE6 browser. The question then becomes: "Will my website still achieve the same goal if used in a less capable environment?" Basic usability & functionality can be built for all devices and browsers with carefully planned markup. When that is taken care of, a designer can then add the frills of progressive enhancement to their site, catered to those who are capable of it. State-of-the-art design techniques are rewarded to those who choose to be a little more modern.

My favorite presentation of the conference was Paul Adam's "Designing for the Real Life Social Network." His points on the social web, human connections, relationships, influence, identity, and privacy hit close to home with the work we deal with every day here at Carrot. The web is shifting from data-centered information to social-centered relationships, and it is essential for designers to understand human behavior if they want to create in this space correctly. Through his studies with Google, he broke down an average Facebook user's "friends" into different categories – strong ties, weak ties, and temporary ties. Each play a different yet important role in the lives of social network users, and interaction among these ties provides clues as to why we participate in the social web in the first place. Just like in real life, trust and privacy issues remain a huge concern every time a user uploads a piece of themselves online. I can go on and on about Paul's fascinating studies, but I strongly recommend pre-ordering his upcoming book "Social Circles: How offline relationships influence online behavior and what it means for design and marketing" to learn more.

Thanks again to all of the speakers and the folks at New Ryders who made this inspirational event possible. Can't wait to bring some of the California Love back to Carrot Creative's east coast operations.