Let’s be honest here: just keeping up with the web design world has become a full time job. New tools, methods and trends are emerging at an exhausting pace. It has turned into a real struggle to keep tabs on everything that’s happening.
Web conferences are a great way to nurture your creativity and keep yourself updated. Instead of struggling to find time to skim through a bunch of newsletters during office hours, attending a conference allows you to dedicate time just for learning new stuff.
Getting a room full of design professionals to share their thoughts is a rare occasion measured by any standard. Think of it this way: how often do you hear or get multiple great ideas in a single day? Having just one usually makes a successful day. If a conference is able to offer you at least a couple of ideas to take home, it has probably been a valid investment of time and money.
Visions of the web
We got a fair bit of information, inspiration, sun and delicious food by attending WebVisions Barcelona. WebVisions is a U.S. based conference that has been organised since 2001. It is now happening in five cities, two of which are in Europe. The event is described as “the creative conference for the Web”, focusing on the future of the digital.
This year’s agenda was built around happiness, job satisfaction and innovation with most of the presenters coming from overseas. Everything took place on one track for a smallish audience of about 150 attendees.
Here’s what we got from the event:
The importance of workload balance
Many companies, consciously or unconsciously, practice reversed rewarding. Think of a situation where you get your work done in a shorter time than estimated, let’s say in four hours instead of a full day. Unfortunately it often happens that you get “rewarded” from working fast by getting extra work. This, in many cases, messes up your schedule and leads to added workload and overlong days. Not so rewarding, huh?
As Jason Lengstorf pointed out in his presentation, companies allowing employees to work 60+ hours per week are, in fact, losing money instead of making more. Studies show that just after two weeks of personal overruns, work efficiency starts to drop and can lead to quite serious medical symptoms (like losing your beard as a stress reaction, as Jason had discovered). A few pioneer companies have taken the course of rewarding employees for maintaining sustainable work hours and, in fact, punishing people for going over the mutually agreed limits.
The takeaway: Set and keep your personal limits and control your attention. Let’s make Futurice a shining example of sustainable work methods and general wellbeing.
Overcoming innovation obstacles
Sometimes the greatest blocker for great innovations lies within ourselves, in our own behaviour. Recognizing adverse behaviour and having tools to trim it down is often the most efficient innovation enabler. Mona Patel talked about different excuse personas that can be found in every team and office environment.
Learning about the behaviour and effects of different excuse personas and making them part of the office lingo can have a great impact on productivity and innovation in a non-offending way.
The takeaway: Create personal goals and spend some time thinking about how to achieve them. Which obstacles are there to conquer? Which fears are there to overcome? Is the origin of obstacles and fears internal or external?
Ideal team composition
Agile and lean methods have changed the ideation process quite drastically. With increased collaboration between differently skilled individuals, the people you work with make all the difference on the final result.
An ideal team consists of people with three primary goals - empathy, viability and feasibility. Tae Won Ha quoted a clever argument from Rei Inamoto, the chief creative officer for AKQA: “To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a Hipster, a Hacker, and a Hustler”. Despite the tongue-in-cheek effect, this might be very true.
The takeaway: Always make sure your team fits the project or the work in hand.
The brand experience
Many companies trying to hit it big are lacking something crucial: the core intent, as Noaa Ilani pointed out in her presentation. A product or a service itself might be rock solid and feasible. The product might even have a personality and a voice of its own. What’s often blocking the way for something turning into The Brand or The Product is the lack of core experience.
The questions of what and how are important, but asking why makes all the difference. A strong story is one way of delivering the core intent. A winning way is to build something so strong it generates stories to be told.
The takeaway: Always ask why and build around the core intent.
Crowdsourcing as a design tool
Crowdsourcing can be done in many different ways. Online questionnaires, small tasks and street polls are all useful ways of gathering information that is otherwise hard to obtain. Crowdsourcing can work as a quick validation tool, performed in a corner coffee or a park nearby. On the other hand it can work as a fresh starting point for something completely new and different.
Margot Bowman, Gastón Lisak and Stefan Sagmeister all pointed out in their individual presentations that crowdsourcing can provide surprising concreteness to even the most abstract matters. Heading for the unknown might take a lot of work but it often produces something truly unexpected and inspiring.
The takeaway: Imagination and individual diversity is a wonderful asset that should be used more often.