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WebVisions Conference Barcelona 2013


I recently attended the WebVisions conference in Barcelona, Spain – A conference exploring the future of web technologies and changing how we as web professionals think about things that we do on a day to day basis.

I love attending great web conferences like this, after you leave you are so full of ideas, and new ways of doing things or new ways of thinking about problems.

The web industry moves fast. Very fast. Conferences like WebVisions enable us to keep up to date with what the very best around the world are doing, and to use those new approaches in our day-to-day work.

Below are a couple of the best sessions from the conference, and things I took away.

Rules of Thumb for Design Chicanery from Obama for America HQ

This was the opening keynote, presented by Jason Kunesh, the first director of user experience in US Presidential campaign for the Obama / Democratic party. Jason shared his insights into what is was like working on Obama’s 2012 election campaign, and also more specifically, what he and his team worked on and produced during the campaign.  Jason also shared best practices and methods that helped Obama for America build winning social, mobile, e-commerce and in person experiences for as many people as possible.

Jason also spoke about his choice to stop working at his agency, take a pay cut, but to work on something he felt passionately about. Something that he thought was making a difference, and improving the country because of it. This is a good point to reflect on, if you’re not satisfied with what you’re doing in life, or if you feel your work doesn’t have true meaning when it comes to the ‘big picture’.

Thinking Beyond the Device

This was a talk by Derek Featherstone, who is a very well known speaker in the field of UX (User Experience) – and someone I’ve heard speak before at Edge of the Web conference in Perth.

This session with Derek was about exploring what “better” design is, and apply that in new ways as we craft interactions between people and web sites and applications.

In this talk, Derek looked at content, context and design, bringing them together in ways that show us what we can do to create truly responsive sites that meet the needs of the people using them, when they’re using them, and how they’re using them. When we’re thinking beyond the device, we need to start with the device, of course, but then refine our designs to take into account the device’s form factor, capabilities and features.

The Business of Play

Play isn’t just for kids and heavy gamers. Anyone with a FourSquare account knows that – and the stickiness of a badge and a leaderboard. But a good, playful user experience isn’t about those surface elements either- it’s about creating an environment with well-understood rules, meaningful objectives, and a sense of fun. Whether you’re trying to encourage people – or yourself – to save money or to lose weight, a focus on game mechanics and play could be trump card you’re looking for.

In this session Carolyn Chandler discussed case studies in playful design, to show how it’s been used for a variety of goals:

  • Connecting customers with brands by providing a story they can participate in
  • Engaging children in self-motivated learning, at ages where many are at risk of dropping out
  • Increasing personal health and wellness

Modern Style Guides for a Better Tomorrow

This was another really interesting talk, about something that isn’t discussed much, but a problem with sites that constantly evolve. Shay Howe, who has worked on a number of high-profile sites, such as Groupon. Shay spoke about website style guides – essentially building a brand style guide for your website. How all elements of your site should look, and reflect the brand. It ensures that the site remains consistant over time.

Simply put, the outcomes of loosely iterated [web] design is a real reason to develop web style guides.


Overall, it was a great conference, and it had a heap more interesting talks, the above ones were some of my favourites and had the most take aways for me and that apply on projects I am currently working on.

Ben May

Ben is Managing Director of The Code Company. He is passionate about working with publishers on clever and innovative ways to solve complex problems. He works with The Code Company team on all projects, bringing his perspective and problem solving skills to deliver great outcomes.

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