Highlights from An Event Apart

Our web team just returned from Chicago, where they attended for An Event Apart (AEA) — a two-day conference about contemporary web design.

Some big things we learned

Jen Simmons of The Web Ahead podcast led the real barn-burner for our front-end web development team. She spoke about breaking free from the standard, rectangular, three-column layout that has come to define contemporary Internet.

Diving deep into the upcoming and emerging CSS shapes standard, Jen kept the audience spellbound by showing them that text can now flow seamlessly around curves and shapes, creating intelligent multi-column layouts. She certainly pushed the boundaries of CSS3 by using grids and external libraries like Flexbox.

Karen McGranes from Bond Art + Science, said that "We cannot keep treating the web as if it were a piece of paper; our future depends on structured content,” in her thought-provoking dissertation on the impact that the print paradigm has had on the web.

She discussed how to escape the "containerization" of content as the web moves from the page to desktop, mobile and more esoteric interfaces — such as watches, touchscreen TVs and voice controls. Karen argued that web models and code libraries need to move beyond styling (such as typography, grid systems and buttons) to more content-focused qualities (such as character counts and emphasis).

Some smaller (but still cool) things we learned

  • Fonts in use is a website and community that helps typography nerds crowdsource and identify weird or obscure fonts collectively.
  • Speaking.io is the "Instagram of audio", which allows the world to share three-minute clips of audio
  • "Ish" is a website that resizes your website to various imprecise sizes — smallish, largish and so on.
  • Baskerville is the most "trusted" font. Georgia is the most "untrusted". The New York Times experimented heavily to discover which articles were deemed credible based purely on their typography.
  • People are more inclined to directly interact with sites that look unprofessional. Reddit and Wikipedia are kept deliberately janky because people are afraid to contribute and engage with more professional looking design.
  • More than 40 percent of users begin a task on one device and finish it on another.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the web team also had time to sample some Chicago deep-dish pizza at the legendary Uno's pizzeria, along with some down and dirty authentic blues over at the renowned Blue Chicago club.