Last week, Steve, Rebecca and I attended WebVisions in Barcelona. Our little trip was motivated entirely by the fantastic lineup of speakers on offer and had nothing to do with the conference being held in a city that actually has a summer. Honest.
Aside from returning slightly sunburnt and in love with sangria, our brains were appropriately saturated by some excellent talks and workshops. Following the theme of Hack Happiness, the conference explored how enjoyment is a vital component in producing great work. Have more fun, they said. I couldn’t agree more.
Here’s some of things we took away.
Everyday is a school day…and if the first workshop I attended with Sarah Horton and Dave Sloan was anything to go by, the next few days were going to be very enlightening. Workshop one focussed on accessibility, looking at how fundamental design and development choices can greatly diminish the user experience. The great news is that we’re already doing a lot of things right here at Primate, but thanks to an excellent group exercise, I have a deeper understanding of how my choices can impact users. Accessibility isn’t about compromising when it comes to design, it’s about being aware of other people’s abilities and making smarter decisions.
But who knew that a talk about agile process from an enthusiastic developer could change the way I think about design. Tae Wan Ha did just that! Having worked with a number of start-ups over the years I felt I had a pretty good grasp of the MVP process. I know that it’s all about distilling a product down to its essence so you can get it to market. However, I never thought about this on a more granular level. For example, if the product requires a file upload feature I’d normally end up designing something with drag and drop, for multiple files, with progress indicators… now I realise I need to stop. I need to think less about the minimal viable product and more minimal viable feature. This thinking gets products to market quicker and helps gain valuable feedback. You can then enhance from there. This new attitude will undoubtedly help with budget constraints and scope creep.
Finally, Stefan Sagmeister took us on a journey. From meditation and medication, to love and group singing. All in the name of enhancing our happiness. I could tell you about the conceptual nature of his talk or the work he spoke about, but I’m not going to. For me the most interesting part was his Q&A session. When someone asked Stefan about the meaning of life there was an audible sigh from the crowd. ‘What a stupid question’ I thought…perhaps, but it was the answer that summed up the entire conference.
So, the meaning of life? ‘Do things that delight people’. Whether it’s in your work or for the people in your life, bringing joy to others gives us a sense of purpose and is the thing that ultimately makes us happy.
I’d never been to a web conference before. I’ve attended plenty workshops, events and lectures but never a 4 day foreign excursion to immerse oneself in all things digital, and it was awesome!
Now, I am neither a designer nor a developer, so when speakers started taking quick straw polls as to who was in the audience I had nothing to silo myself into and stick my hand up for – so I began to ponder and worry about whether I should actually be in attendance at all. However, I’ve walked away with a raft of insight and was mesmerised by couple of inspiration speakers who made the whole experience beyond worthwhile, and very impactful.
Mona Patel is a New Yorker who owns and runs Motivate Design, a specialist UX design agency. Her time on stage was spent talking us through ReFrame Excuse Personas – a concept developed by Patel and her team. The concept is brilliant and really opened my eyes to the way I personally react to clients and colleagues, and the challenges Primate deal with (and sometimes don’t overcome!) everyday. What did I take away? Aside from the very practical how-to-guide to the concept, I found her presentation style completely infectious. Her whole demeanour was passionate and energetic, and her desire to surmount problems for clients really resonated. I’ll happily admit I’d purchased her book before the applause had stopped. However, the talk title completely belittled the depth and content of her presentation. Lesson learned; title your talk tactfully.
Stefan Sagmiester was, of course, a highlight, especially as this was the first time I’d seen him present. His style and delivery on stage has an exceptional ability to draw you in and command your attention. Somehow, through all the wit and sarcasm, you still manage to walk away with a lovely, fluffy how-to-be-happier message.
I love agile.
Out of all of the wonderful talks I heard, Robert Stulle’s from Edenspiekermann resonated the most with me. We’ve been working with agile for a couple of years now, often feeling quite isolated as we strive to implement it in a service industry that still largely clings onto the Waterfall model in some weird deathly embrace. It was incredibly refreshing (and inspiring) to hear a highly respected and successful agency talk about how agile is the only approach they would ever consider using.
Robert’s talk gave me a lot of confidence that we’re doing the right thing at Primate. Whilst our agile implementation is certainly not perfect (however, as my new BFF would say, get real, projects fail), we’re at least taking a genuine approach that revolves around adding relevance and value, welcoming ideas and collaboration. It never occurred to me before but it’s true that with the Waterfall model, the final product can never be better than the original person or idea; all new ideas and creativity are lost along the way. The most compelling argument I’ve ever heard to utilise agile.
Having fun is important too. A consistent theme for the conference but also emphasised by Robert Stulle as part of the agile process and client relationship. We have a whole lot of fun at Primate but now I feel that there’s room for more.
Finally, and on a different topic, I learnt that Instagram purposefully doesn’t use the Oxford comma. Fail, fail, and fail.
Steve – To be happier? “Do things that delight people”.
Rebecca – I’m a Bratty-Blamer (thanks Mona).
Gordon - Agile is the only choice.
WebVisions proved inspirational, motivating and, perhaps most surprisingly, reassuring. Many of the talks about work-life-balance, happiness, enjoyment, quality, success, and general philosophy aligned with what we’re trying to do here. It made us feel more confident, more driven, and more happy. I guess that was the point.
Until next time Barcelona. We’ll be back soon.