Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Another year another inspiring FOWA

This is by far my favourite conference (despite the lack of actual code) as both the speakers and attendees are really interesting, motivated and passionate people and I walk away brimming with ideas :)

I started this blog after being inspired from last years FOWA but didn't keep it up (shame on me). However after attending again this year I am determined not to be so slack.

Last year had two streams, one technology and one business, there was just one this year which meant less tech in the sense of seeing lots of code but still lots of technologies discussed and showcased.

So the big takeaways from this years conference for me were accessibility, believe in your brand and kill your features...

(How to Increase the Accessibility of Your Web App - Robin Christopherson)
Firstly I was amazed at the stats for users with diasbilites (over 20% of the market share) and then even more amazed at the % of sites which don't meet even the basic requirements. Robin Christopherson put Facebook through one of the standard screen readers and it was awful, even reading out some code! However those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and I'm embarrassed to say I doubt very much any of the sites I've ever written would fare any better, but having seen this presentation I will now be taking the time to test in this environment.

believe in your brand...
(Marketing your Web App - Alex Hunter)
What I took away from this was that to market your brand you have to believe in it and that means putting your reputation on the line for it. This stood out to me as I work in an agency environment where branding is everything and it's interesting to see that take on it. Marketing is no longer mono-directional it's now bi-directional, users can and will tell you what they think. This is a good thing and should be embraced, great eaxmples of those doing this already and doing it well are Kevin Rose (Digg) and Ryan Carson (Carsonified). By connecting with your users you can find out in real time what's good and what isn't. This leads nicely onto my last big takeway...

kill features...
This was covered by quite a few speakers (Kevin Rose, Gary Vaynerchuk, Alex Hunter to name but a few), who all pushed that in order to know what features on your site are good you have to kill them. Having loads of features but not knowing which ones your users are actually using, enjoying or even love is bad. There are two sides to this point. Firstly you need to kill some features and see if your users complain. If they don't, they don't care. If they do, if they scream and shout then that is the feature they love so kill the rest and focus on making that one better. Secondly you need good analytics that actually mean something to you in order to determine how your site is being used. Don't just install google analytics and not even analyse the excessive analytics it produces but actually decide what you need to analyse and do it well.

other cool techie stuff...
Loads of cool stuff and it notably promises a lot with regards to accessibility. The nice flashiness is all well and good as what I imagine will be a good replacement of Flash (for smaller stuff initially) but lots of it only works in certain browsers and if, like me, you still have to support IE6 (oh when will the pain end?!?) I soon began to think by using the new features I would have the pain of making them backward compatible. I also immediately questioned how to access the text in the new validation controls as localisation is a really big thing in my company.

I've actual seen this before at a geek dinner and thought it was pretty cool then. I'm all for learning as many keyboard shortcuts as I can so intend to have a play. The only problem is I'm now a Chrome convert and I'm not sure I can cope with returning to the sluggish FireFox environment.

As a side note I noticed a lot more women at this years conference which can only be a good thing and found myself a partner in crime, the lovely Sara Stephens. We came up with quite a few ideas between us so should any of them come to any kind of fruition I'll be sure to post them on here. Not least we encouraged each other to sign up for Launch48. This weekend 'hack-day' is a platform for participants to select, build and launch a web app in a weekend. The promoters did point out that they didn't get many .NET developers last year so I'm going to abuse my twitter contacts to see if we can't recitify that this year!

All in all another brilliant FOWA from carsonified. I'm looking forward to next year already :)


Ed said...

Hi Rachel, I never realised you blogged..

Via twitter I recently stumbled upon this summary of an accessibility talk in Bristol.

You might find it useful. The statistics certainly got my attention.

Pixeldiva: Notes from Bristol Usability Group talk by Andrew Arch

rachellaycock said...

Thanks Ed, I haven't blogged much, but I intend to rectify that!
The figures really are staggering regarding accessibility and I think we really need to stand up and stop (foolishly) ignoring what is a largely untapped market.

jhollingworth said...

@bobfromhuddle spent last years launch48 attempting to teach everyone asp.net mvc, don't think that will be happening this year :)