AEA SF 2012 — Day 2

Notes from An Event Apart San Francisco 2012—Day 2

Karen McGrane — Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content

  • NPR strategy: COPE — create once, publish everywhere.
  • NPR saw an 80% growth in page views in one year. How did they do it? Their API.
  • Deliver the right aesthetic for every device.
  • Mobile is not a design and development problem – it’s a content problem.
  • Write content in multiple sizes, meaningful metadata, written for reuse.
  • Create content with expectation that it be shared and reused any and everywhere.
  • Myth: there is a primary platform. Print.
  • Teach content creators to write for the chunk, not the page.
  • The only way content will get better is through better CMS workflow.
  • “Truncation is not a content strate…”
  • “Metadata is the new art direction.” Ethan Resnick
  • Deliver a good experience for your content creators.
  • “Better content management systems foster better content.” Matt Thompson
  • CMS interfaces must be solved as if they were a UX design problem. (Because they are.)
  • Smart publishers are creating well structured, presentation independent content and distributing it through an API.

Jared Ponchot — Designing for Content Management Systems

  • DESIGN ON PURPOSE. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish – before you begin to design.
  • Ask good questions.
  • Create wonder!
  • Discovery is never done, but always know your end goal.
  • What are your users’ discreet groups of values, motivations, tasks, and privileges?
  • Identify all user types and audiences.
  • Identify the values, motivations, tasks and privileges for each user type.
  • One of the most important roles designers play are to help the world prioritize things.
  • Solve small pain points for content creators to ensure that your client is happy. Content creators are users too!
  • Do a content audit: types, attributes, relationships, contexts, components.
  • Content modeling.
  • Start your design process with the most important content type.
  • Proportion has the power to overcome position.
  • Surprise amplifies our emotional response.
  • “Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order.” Victor Papanek

Eric Meyer — The Future is Now

  • Images need improvement, in the mean time use icon fonts like Symbolset and Iconic.
  • Min width recommendations for media queries: 30em 36em 44em 60em.
  • Transparent is a little dangerous (in gradients).
  • Order matters.
  • It turns out math is hard, even for browsers.
  • Gradients are just images that you can describe by writing CSS.
  • FlexBox—assign order values instead of worrying about HTML placement.
  • Grid-Layout—strong layout systems actually supported by browsers.
  • Make it a personal goal to set aside 15 min per week to experiment with crazy user styles and browse the web to see how things look or to play with exclusions.
  • Experimentation is the fastest way to learn.

Josh Clark — Buttons Are a Hack

  • Let people be lazy.
  • Browsers are not the web—just think about apps.
  • The Paper app innovated picking colors.
  • The Clear app is a basic touch model for how to manage a list.
  • Take inspiration from the physical world and paper.
  • Consider not only how pixels look, but how they feel.
  • Gestures are invisible.
  • Our job as designers is to remove uncertainty.
  • Let the content be the label.
  • Nature itself doesn’t have instruction and no one ever reads the fucking manual.
  • Modern models of learning are by doing combined with coaching.
  • Front-loaded instructions make apps feel HARDER to use.
  • As soon as a user has demonstrated they’ve learned something, stop showing the coaching.
  • A gesture without an interface is dead weight.
  • Teach with coaching, level ups, and power ups—the learning model gaming uses.
  • Want to be a better interaction designer? Play more video games.
  • I love that Josh’s slides ended with, “I love you guys.”

Mike Monteiro — What Clients Don’t Know (and Why It’s Your Fault)

  • You cannot put the onus of doing your job on someone else, especially if they are paying you.
  • It’s a gift to make someone feel smarter when talking to you.
  • Helping someone through the process is an integral and core part of this job.
  • Getting irritated that the client doesn’t get it is lame.
  • Finding the right way to communicate with clients is important.
  • If you don’t respect a designer, don’t hire them. If you don’t respect the client, don’t work with them.
  • Empathy is key to doing good design work.
  • Annoyance is easy.
  • Assert yourself and make a positive contribution.
  • Don’t sell the suit, sell the service.
  • Every job you do becomes a sales pitch for the next job.
  • Learn to say, “I don’t know.”
  • You need to focus on making clients better clients.
  • Hope’ is not a design word. “Empathy” is.
  • Do everything in your power to be right.
  • Everything that’s wrong with design today is your fault. Fix it.

Jared Spool — The Curious Properties of Intuitive Web Pages

  • Security questions make us feel stupid.
  • We can create superheroes of our users when we have the right design.
  • Intuitive design is invisible.
  • Sudden, drastic changes creates a huge knowledge gap for users.


  • The overarching message at AEA SF 2012 was: content first.
  • Strategically placed audio and video in presentations are a good post-lunch wake-up tactic.
  • Loved Josh Clark’s tweets during his talk—useful and engaging.
  • The best speakers are talented storytellers.