Rustbelt Refresh

Speaker Badges
My dear and talented friends: Bridget Stewart, Brad Colbow and Brad Dielman asked me if I would like to come back to Cleveland for their second year of putting on Rustbelt Refresh conference. It was a no brainer that I was going to be back. Any excuse to see and hang out with friends, I am all in. Not to mention, the event that they put together in their city the first time around a little over a year ago was such a hit, I knew I didn’t want to miss out on the next one. Yet again, they’ve put a lot of thought and hard work into putting together another amazing lineup of speakers for everyone to enjoy and get inspired or motivated by, as well as leave with a lots of takeaways to take home with and share with rest of their teams or company.

I was very much exited for this year’s speaker lineup, as most of them I’ve never seen before, so was very much looking forward to it.

Sadly, I may have missed opening keynote from Karen McGrane as I was helping with registration but I have no doubt she was outstanding by kicking off the second year of Rustbelt with flying colors.

Next up was Matt Griffin who has recently succeeded at getting his Kickstarter project What Comes Next is The Future funded. He talked about wireframing and “designing” directly in the browser, which shouldn’t be all that foreign concept to so many of us anymore. Among other reasons, it’s meant to save time and code, and to get away from the pixel-perfect Photoshop mode of designing. He has shown few examples on how they tackle projects at Bearded, including using preprocessor like Sass, as well as their front end starter kit.

Jen Meyers‘ talk on Sheperding Unicorns was mainly to bring attention to the need of mentors in our industry. She has talked about her journey of becoming one and that even though we may not think that we are qualified to become one, the best way to learn is to actually teach.

After a lunch break, we all came back to listen to Jenn Lukas. Jenn was another speaker who I have never seen on stage before but had a feeling that I’ll be in for a treat, and was I right! Her amazing energy, personality and presence on stage definitely made sure that anyone experiencing food coma, was in full alert. I loved her analogy of how all the layers of front end world create one massive “Ampersandwich”. Her talk was not only entertaining, filled with great animated gifs and pop references that I even managed to follow along with, but also filled with many resourceful references, like her starter kit, FFFFALLBACK for bulletproof web typography, along with more useful links for web typography.

Even though I’ve seen Tim Kadlec‘s talk about performance of our sites earlier this year at In Control Conference, I was still looking forward to it. Tim is a great speaker who is very passionate about the subject and yet again helped attendees to see the light why it is so important, not just for end-users but also for business.
Some of the main takeaways:

  • The web is getting fat and increasing in size yearly; 38% more in size last year
  • Set a performance budget that limits size of pages and do your best to stick to it
  • Amazon had $157 million increase in revenue after their site’s pages loaded faster by 1%
  • Performance should be “baked in”, not done later; because you’ll never go back and do it later.
  • Performance is a design consideration. Poor performance leads to unhappy users.
  • In order for users to notice the difference, you need a 20% change in performance. For instance, if a site takes 5 seconds to load, you need to trim it down to 4 seconds.
  • Lack of performance = lack of planning
  • Be a performance masochist
  • Pre-optimization is better than post-optimization, because it never seems to happen

Rachel Nabres is am award-winning cartoonist turned interaction designer. Watching her talk made me admire even more all those talented people who can draw. Her work is beautiful and captivating.
Rachel talked to us about the challenges of interactive story telling that we may be faced with by using pure HTML, CSS and some JavaScript. If you are interested to find out more, look at her slides.

I’ve seen Jeremy Keith speak on many occasions and all I can say, he never lets you down. This time was no different.
Jeremy’s talk was based on Future Friendly principles, by starting simple while using standards based HTML and CSS as a backbone. It’s important to keep in mind for our sites to not break and its content be still accessible even when you remove JavaScript. It’s crucial for developers to resist overly complex solutions and keep the logic as simple as possible. Jeremy also made a very valid point that now more than ever, progressive enhancement is important and necessary.

“Why create hacks for older browser that don’t support the new features? If they don’t support it, they don’t need it.” -Jeremy Keith

In closing, Jeremy told everyone at Rustbelt Refresh that we should:

  • Focus on feature detection, instead of browser detection
  • Support every browser, but optimize for newer ones
  • If you are stilling hacking sites together to get it to look right in IE8, you’re part of the problem.

Jeremy’s definition of web app:

All in all, this year was yet another success and am already looking forward to the next one. Make sure to not miss out on your chance to be there by following Rustbelt Refresh on Twitter to get the latest info on what’s to come. Hope to see you there in 2015. You can also find more of my pictures from this year’s Rustbelt in my Flickr pool.


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