Yesterday I had a chance to attend The Digital Barn in Barnsley. As events in my neck of the woods go, this is probably the closest and being help on a Saturday really works for me (pretty sure my wife disagrees).
This year The Digital Barn was a 2 track event, which meant I had to make some hard decisions about who to watch. So, before the event I carefully made my selection, then promptly forgot about it as soon as I arrived. Here’s what I went with:
Working with designers that don’t code
For session 1 I intended listening to Tom & Joe’s talk on winning big clients, but instead decided Kirsty Burgoine might be on to something with her idea that (shock horror) not all designers need to know how to code.
This is the talk that really hit home for me. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about designers not knowing how to code, and I can see how my service is probably missing the mark for a lot of people.
Kirsty explained how she uses a wireframing and typography approach to getting started, then letting designers go to town on their designs. On responsive sites she wireframes a 320 grid and explains how each element will stack. This may seem rudimentary to some of you, but it’s an approach that can help get a web design project off to a flying start.
I’ll definitely be taking this into consideration on future projects and look forward to any input you might have if you’re a non-coder.
Transforming your online presence
Bea Marshall (I’ll confess I don’t know her work) seems to have it all together. She is clearly very passionate about web design and her work is visually stunning. In this session, Bea explained how she approaches projects, how she pushes back against developers who say something can’t be done, and how she helps clients understand the importance of their website as a marketing tool.
During the Q&A session after Bea’s talk a question was asked about social media for businesses that wouldn’t usually be associated with being ‘social’.
The example used was a funeral director on Facebook, and while I initially thought ‘funeral directors don’t belong on Facebook’, Bea turned it around and came up with a simple way funeral directors could push the envelope with a well-managed Facebook campaign. Kudos to her for that!
21st Century Business
Ken Eastwood of Digital Nomads presented the 3rd talk of the day in room 2. I was going to move over to ‘What would Paul Daniels do?’ in room 1, but it occurred to me that I don’t know anything about Paul Daniels (he didn’t make it to South African TV screens when I was a kid) and may miss the point.
So, I stuck to room 2 and Ken’s talk on mobile and nomadic businesses. As a freelancer I don’t generally come up against challenges with ‘cloud’ applications and working remotely, but it turns out a lot of companies do (because they don’t trust cloud computing, don’t trust their employees or are just too stuck in their ways). Interesting, but I didn’t really take anything away from this one.
Be A Better Businessman
Interconnect IT is a WordPress agency that works on the type of project I’ve always aspired to do. I’ve chatted with owner Dave Coveney a couple of times, and his talk on building a better business was the main reason I wanted to attend The Digital Barn this year.
The talk started out with a brilliant rendition of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen), relating to owning a software company. I laughed (a lot) and in the space of 7 minutes, Dave answered almost every question I have about running a WordPress business.
The second part of Dave’s talk was a look at business in general and how small businesses are pushed around by external factors, banks and the economy in general. Apparently running a WordPress business is just like making love to a beautiful woman (I must be doing something wrong!).
The final point of Dave’s talk, and something I’ve been discussing a lot lately with Mark Bowley, is that as freelancers we must track our time by the minute or we’re throwing away money. I’m planning on making big changes in this area.
I really feel sorry for Jason Brewster who was presenting UX for the public sector in room 2, because 90% of the crowd ended up in Harry Roberts’ ‘Big CSS’ session, me included. I learned more in 30 minutes than I’ve learned in the last 2 years (and I consider myself a CSS pro), so this was a big session for me.
Harry’s talk and slides are available on YouTube, so without further ado:
Break the Page
When Dan Donald woke up yesterday morning he must have thought at least once ‘I’m too ill to do this today’, but he coughed and spluttered his way through a very abstract talk on what the Web could be. It’s fascinating to watch people who are so passionate about the web and what we can do as designers/developers to make it better.
I can’t really sum up Dan’s talk because it was so ‘all over the place’, but definitely thought-provoking stuff with some awesome references to the early days of the Internet.
How to understand what makes you special
My last session of the day was going to be the Twitter Bootstrap workshop in room 2, but I got lazy and decided to see what Rachel Shillcock had to say about self-worth instead.
Rachel did a great job of explaining how she grew to understand what makes her special as a web professional, and she seamlessly incorporated details from some of the other talks in her presentation. Good stuff overall and definitely someone I’m going to reach out to on Twitter.
Was it worth it?
Even though I’ve been in the business for nearly 9 years, this is the first time I’ve been to a Web conference. I loved it.
While I didn’t get to meet them, I’d like to thank Kimb Jones and Matt Watson for organising the event and will definitely be back next year. And to all the people I didn’t meet, I will do my best to stalk you all on Twitter for the next 12-months.