Artifacts: Lessons and Takeaways from ARTIFACT 2013
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the first ever Artifact Conference in Austin, TX – a two-day, single track conference intended to illuminate new processes, approaches, and techniques towards web design in our contemporary multi-device landscape. Quite a tall order for any one conference to tackle singlehandedly, but I'm happy to say I came away from the event with a renewed sense of inspiration, insight and excitement for the future of the web.
Not So Fast
Before we leap headlong into the future, we have this tiny matter of the present to contend with. If there's one general notion that prevailed throughout those two days in Austin, it's that, as producers for the web, we no longer have absolute control over the end-user experience (if we ever did). The vast number of devices, screens and interfaces (over 7,000 unique, web-enabled devices to date according to one stat presented by conference organizer Jennifer Robbins) has created a lively ecosystem of constantly evolving standards, protocols and best-practices. The days of pixel-perfect browser representations of meticulously rendered Photoshop comps are over.
Slouching Towards Future-Proof
So.. change, you guys! Change is good, right? The problem: change is really hard. Responsive web design – as an approach and a philosophy – was a game-changer. I think most anyone would concur that Ethan Marcotte's now much-heralded treatise on the subject was groundbreaking, and we've all been shaken into new modes of thought ever since. We've been forced to confront the reality that everyone browses the web everywhere and in highly variable contexts – bandwidths and screen-sizes are only the beginning. 'Responsive' has proved to be an inherently challenging, provocative, and dynamic shift in how we design for the web we know (or maybe are just managing to keep up with), but more importantly, Responsive has been beneficial in affording us a practice of adaptation – an approach for embracing the unknown plethora of devices and technologies just on the horizon.
Arti-facts of life
A lot of reassurance came out of my time at Artifact. There is a little bit of 'feeling around in the dark' for all of us right now, but that's okay. No one person or agency has found all the answers. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for every single design, production or client circumstance. It's way too early to expect anyone to know what an efficient, airtight, and perpetually sustainable responsive workflow looks like. Designers, developers, content specialists, project managers – we are all in the same boat. Along the way, it is important to share knowledge, embrace collaboration and conversation and above all - be nice. as spoken by the inimitable Brad Frost. We're trying things, learning from each other and making things up as we go. Adapting to and codifying a new set of creative processes that are as agile and responsive as the frameworks we are instituting in our designs remains the goal, and that will take time. But it's important to remember it's not the destination that matters so much as the journey.