AEA SF 2012 — Day 1

Notes and main takeaways from An Event Apart San Francisco 2012—Day 1

Jeffrey Zeldman — Content First!

  • Zeldman talked about designing for content, going so far as to say that design is hostile to content.
  • At, it’s not so much that design is hostile to content, at more basic level, users don’t even understand the different ways content will be displayed. The Reader is the most relevant example.
  • I love the idea of educating users through the UI itself—meaning, as they write, give them ways to visualize various content views in context, right where they’re editing thereby minimizing the burden on users to have to learn there’s a need to test those thing on their own.
  • Designing for content first makes a lot of sense in context of the Reader and other reading experiences like feed readers, various mobile devices, or apps like Instapaper, Readability, or Reader.
  • Designers no longer control the visual experience, so put content first.

Samantha Warren — Faster Design Decisions with Style Tiles

  • Samantha Toy’s presentation was really about *listening* to clients and communicating design to them better and faster.
  • “Humans make subconscious assumptions based on subtle visual cues.”
  • “Generate a definition of success that is separate from taste.”
  • “Design systems, not pages.”
  • Setting expectations and improving communication along way gains trust with clients and a better client experience.

Jon Tan — Big Type, Little Type

  • Great typeface readability test string: agh! iIl1 0O :)
  • Scan paths are really important for readability.
  • It all comes down to emotions—emotion drives everything.
  • “Type shapes our experience.”
  • “Good typography induces a good mood.”
  • “The Aesthetics of Reading” concludes “good typography induces a good mood.” PDF
  • Recommended book:  What Is Reading For? by Robert Bringhurst.
  • Good typography should enhance reading, not interrupt or distract.
  • “There are 4.2 billion distinct colors. We have names for almost none of them.”
  • “Type shapes our experience. It paints pictures that echo in our memory long after we’ve left.”
  • “Designing for impact” vs. “designing for immersion” is important to keep in mind while working. What is the objective?
  • To learn about good font use:
  • Jon Tan’s presentation made me want to do two things: study more about the intricacies of typography and continue to find ways to infuse typography best practices into our users’ experiences like we already do with Custom Fonts.

Favorite slide: device sizes by pixels.

Luke Wroblewski — Mobile to the Future

  • Mobile has more buys, more subscriptions, more engagement.
  • 90% of eBay customer service calls were about how to log in to their mobile app until they added a “lost password” link to the mobile log in form.
  • “Smaller ? Dumber.”
  • Turn off autocomplete and autocorrect on password entry fields on mobile!
  • “Security and usability are not opposing forces.”
  • Mobile is a magnifying lens for your usability problems.
  • If all we’re focusing on is making our *layout* responsive, we’re missing huge UX opportunities.
  • Reducing effort will increase conversion.
  • In 2011, 3/4 of all shopping carts were abandoned.
  • MAKE MOBILE LOGIN AND CHECKOUT EASIER. Think outside the desktop.
  • When you think of mobile as a new form of mass media instead of as just a smaller screen, there’s a lot more you can do.
  • Reduce the number of controls/inputs, i.e. no city/state fields needed if it can be extrapolated from the
  • Reducing effort will grow conversion—case in point: Amazon Prime.

Favorite slide: password help.

Jen Simmons — HTML5 APIs Will Change the Web: And Your Designs

  • HTML5 APIs will change the web and your designs.
  • Web socket demos. Podcast: Peter Lubbers on Web Socket.
  • In the future, you won’t necessarily have to be online to use the web.
  • There are some really cool interactive things people are doing with controllers and how we interact with the web.
  • Is the medium the message?
  • The technology is not the content, but the content is influenced by the way it is shared with people.
  • Content is influenced by the way that it is consumed.
  • What a photograph can be on the screen is very different from what it can be in print.
  • here are too many Web designers not designing for the web.
  • “Go innovate something awesome.”

Ethan Marcotte — Rolling Up Our Responsive Sleeves

  • “Media queries are a bit of pixie dust from the CSS3 specification.”
  • Solve the parts, not the whole problem.
  • “Layout is an enhancement. It always has been.”
  • Target ÷ context = results.
  • Start with a small-screen design by default, incrementally use min-width media queries to build on the design.
  • Let the content drive the characteristics of your design.
  • Get past the device-centric notion of responsive design.
  • “Slow constrains quick; slow controls quick.”
  • Design your source order first, or without the CSS at all even—an awesome testament to the portability of HTML.
  • Questions regarding responsive design that come up: width, hierarchy, interaction and density.
  • If you find yourself striking content because it doesn’t fit on smaller screens, maybe you should reconsider why it’s there.
  • Simplify your design before you suppress it.
  • Showed some interesting experiments around creating responsive ads.
  • Made by Hand is a great example of responsive design showcasing video.


  • Little bit starstruck. :)
  • The playlist for AEA SF included Sparklehorse and MF DOOM.