@Media Overview

On June 15th and 16th, two web developers (Andrea Hill, Juree James) and one graphic designer (Ben Leedham) attended the @Media conference in London, England. The sessions were very informational and interesting, and it was good to see that we are in good company as we move towards designing with standards and accessibility in mind.

I attended the following sessions:

Keynote Presentation (Eric Meyer)
A brief look at the history of CSS, how it has developed over the past decade and its impact on the web.

Using DOM Scripting to Plug the Holes in CSS (Jeremy Keith)
CSS is a great technology… in theory. In practice, there are a lot of powerful CSS features that we can’t use because of poor browser support *cough*IE*cough*.
Fortunately, the Document Object Model enjoys very good cross-browser support. Not only that, but the DOM can be used to update styles. Using a combination of JavaScript and the DOM, you can achieve effects that are indistinguishable from the more advanced aspects of CSS 2.1 and CSS 3. Waiter, there’s presentation in my behaviour!
This talk will demonstrate some examples of this kind of CSS patching. It won’t stop there. You will also learn how to use DOM Scripting to achieve stylistic effects that would be impossible using CSS alone.

IE7 and Beyond (Chris Wilson)
Chris Wilson, the Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Platform team, talks about the implications of IE7 for web designers and developers and the future of IE and web standards. (notes)

The New Accessibility Guidelines: WCAG 2.0 (Andy Clarke, Patrick Lauke, Gez Lemon and Ian Lloyd)
The W3C’s long-awaited new accessibility guidelines are just about to drop, but do you know what they’re all about? In this panel, we’ll try and get to grips with the philosophy, the content, the good, the bad, and the controversies of the second edition of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and look at how they impact on areas such as design, or the use of widgets.

Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps (Jeffrey Veen)
As the buzz and excitement around Web 2.0 continues to increase, much is already changing in how we design and develop online. In this presentation, Jeffrey Veen will look at how new thinking is being infused into design practices in trends such as Ajax, syndication, tagging, progressive enhancement, and anticipatory interaction, philosophical shifts in business towards openness, generosity, and collaboration with users. (notes)

Bulletproof Web Design (Dan Cederholm)
Embrace the flexibility that’s made possible with XHTML and CSS while creating compelling designs. Prepare your designs for worst-case scenarios, increased user control and readability for varying text sizes and amounts of content. Dan will attempt to help you “let go of pixel precision”, while explaining the importance of lean markup, flexible CSS and planning for the unknown. We’ll also tie various components of a page’s design together by walking through the construction of a bulletproof, single-page template.

Beyond a Code Audit (Robin Christopherson)
When considering web site accessibility most people tend to concentrate on ensuring that code conforms to the WAI guidelines when, in reality, there are many issues that can only be identified by employing a range of access technologies and disabled end users. For example, did you know that many people with a vision impairment using magnification software miss vital fields when filling out badly laid out forms, or that voice recognition users can’t click on image buttons if their alt text doesn’t correspond exactly with the image text? Not everyone appreciates that most screen reader users have JavaScript enabled and hence won’t be accessing your noscript content, or that dyslexic users will see rivers of white in your fully justified text? Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s Web Consultancy Manager and himself blind, will be explaining these issues and many more with practical demonstrations of access technologies.

Internationalization: Awakening the Sleeping Giant (Molly E. Holzschlag)
The W3C has been involved in developing technologies and techniques to manage the various aspects of internationalisation, localisation, and multilingual document management and design for a very long time. But most Web designers and developers are only beginning to learn what’s involved in building sites for the global environment. In this overview, Molly will cover the primary concepts within internationalisation, giving insight into the general topics that Web designers and developers will face as they begin to work on global sites.

Strategic CSS Management (Rachel Andrew, Andy Budd, Roger Johansson, Dave Shea)
Who’s in charge: you or your Cascading Style Sheets? Authoring a simple CSS file for a static page is easy enough, but the story gets complicated when you’re talking about multiple pages and varying layouts across an ever-changing site driven by a content-management system. Factor in the management of browsers and their quirks — and teams of people and their quirks — and it becomes obvious that a sound project-management strategy is necessary to make the most of your code. This panel discusses how to gracefully deal with legacy browser issues, handle layout and file management demands, and manage team coordination when building Web sites with CSS.

Microformats: Evolving the Web (Tantek Celik)
The microformats community believes that standards should do less, not more. Data formats should adapt to current web publishing behaviours and reuse existing broadly interoperably implemented standards. Easy to adopt formats are enabling a diverse set of web designers and developers to visibly publish, share, and consume all kinds of common information, and microformats are leading the way.

In addition to the sessions themselves, it was very interesting to get a sense of how the industry is developing. At the “An Event Apart” conference in Chicago earlier this month, I got a sense of the community surrounding web development, and it was even more apparent in this forum. The speakers were friends as well as colleagues, and spoke freely about their blogs, their friends on Flickr, and the implications of Jeffrey Veen moving to Google. There were mentions of specific articles and techniques that definitely gave me a sense of wanting to get further connected with other developers. There is no need for us to re-invent the wheel.I have had the sense that here in America, the trend towards css-driven layout is still in its infancy, whereas over in the UK it is an established methodology. Whereas we had felt that we were encountering new challenges in moving to this type of development, attending the @Media conference made me feel as though we are in fact simply catching up to what is becoming a tried and true standard (no pun intended).

Since returning home, I have set up a del.icio.us account (http://del.icio.us/afhill) to house technology-relevant links. I had heard of this site before, but did not realize its social and networking ramifications. I gained some good insight into the types of people using del.icio.us when I first signed up, and the #1 “hot” link was Jason Santa Maria, the graphic designer we heard at An Event Apart. This is not a teenager’s fave bookmarks site, but a legitimate information sharing tool. Over the next few weeks I will also be launching an associated blog in which I can share more detailed information (including notes from specific sessions)