Impressions of FOWD 2008

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

Yesterday I attended the Future Of Web Design London event in Kensington (along with my lovely wife). Unfortunately I’ve been suffering from some stinking virus for the past couple of days, which left me uncomfortable, occasionally in pain, and irritated. Please bear in mind that this may have coloured my perception of the event somewhat; also, please accept my apologies if you were at the event and start to suffer the same symptoms in a few days.

I’ll write short reviews of the individual sessions at a later date, but my general opinion is that it was just OK; it dealt more in current design trends than future, almost all of which you probably already know if you keep up to date with sites like A List Apart or some of the better blogs. Although that’s not to say it was a complete waste of time; few of the speakers were less than interesting, and there are always new techniques to learn or existing techniques to reinforce.

Some of the speakers suffered from not having worked (or, at least, not for a long time) in a regular agency position (if I may coin a phrase, coal‐face web development), and their advice was therefore useful on a theoretical basis only. Sure, it would be great if we could make mistakes in public and make constant revisions to our websites, but who pays for that? The client almost certainly won’t. We think ourselves lucky to have some clients who are savvy enough to make annual revisions to their sites! And while I’d love to just “get better clients”, that’s just not how the real world works for those of us who don’t work at start‐ups or own our own agencies.

In summary, then, compared to last year’s @media, which I found genuinely inspiring, this was ‘only’ interesting. I’ll give careful consideration as to whether or not I attend again next year.

3 comments on
“Impressions of FOWD 2008”

  1. While I understand your point about wanting practical take‐aways from a conference like FOWD, I’d disagree with the idea that you can’t choose your clients. Sure, some people have more leeway than others in this regard, but most people have more ability to choose their clients than they think. Just like playing hard‐to‐get in a relationship, saying no to some clients really is in your best interest in many instances. In the early days of silverorange, we had a very difficult time making ends meet, but we still managed to steer clear of several clients who might have really buried our company financially and/or emotionally.

    And, I still contend that many clients can be convinced to iterate their sites, given the right encouragement and a convincing argument. As a designer, I really consider my role to be a user advocate… and when it’s really in the user’s interest (and hence the business’s interest) to iterate, one can often make a truly convincing argument.

  2. Hi Daniel, thanks for the comment. I do take your point on that, but many of the people attending FoWD — the majority, I think it’s fair to assume — are employees rather than owners or partners. If my boss tells me we’re taking a job, I have to do it; I can try to convince him that iterative releases is the best way to go, but at the end of the day it’s not my decision.

    I enjoyed your presentation very much anyway.

  3. Right, I agree that many people are employees, but I was hoping to convince more people to take a stand (even as employees) and push for these aspects of design to be given increased importance. People certainly don’t need to fall on their swords doing so, but over time these things can change. Bosses and clients are generally more flexible than we sometimes think… and the right pressure and convincing over time can be effective. Plus, most ‘minions’ will become ‘bosses’ someday (hopefully someday soon) in which case they can exercise these kinds of practices.

    [Edited to correct error — Peter]