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Pixel Pioneers Conference 2019

View profile for Joe Dyer
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The 'Pixel Pioneers' is a series of talks and events all over the UK. They're affordable and just a great way of getting like-minded people from the tech industry together.

I've been attending the one held in Bristol since they started a few years ago and they always have a good range of speakers, sharing their insights on a broad range of subjects.

It was a wet and miserable day, we ventured to the MShed to where the conference was held. Once the team and I registered, we got our name badges and then started to mingle amongst the other attendees there. We also bumped into our former colleague Michael.

There were a number of sponsors there, handing out a lot of freebies. The suppliers made sure we had our arms full of stickers and magazines - Liam, headed straight for the coffee and biscuits stall! There were also various competitions taking place - one of which was the chance to win a 55" TV and the winner was later announced during the conference (spoiler alert: none of us won!).

The team was treated to lunch at the Severn Shed restaurant on the Waterfront - I had fresh cod but instantly regretted it after seeing Jon's chicken burger!

Speakers Round-Up

The conference had 8 experts lined up this year - everyone was excited to see what they had to say.

Craig Sullivan - The 15-Minute Model for Optimising Device Experiences

Craig works as a consultant/speaker and has coached hundreds of people on otimising products and services.

His style of presenting was hilarious but also extremely passionate - he used lots of colourful language! He stressed the importance of testing on devices and using his 'model' to look at real data to analyse traffic, pitfalls and problems. His talk was enjoyable and the main takeaway was making sure your app/website works as well as it can on all devices, not to discriminate people who don't have the most up-to-date phones or devices.

Lisi Linhart - Practical Web Animation

Lisi teaches all things web development/front-end at the University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg, Austria.

Lisi's talk was much more technical. She spoke about the benefits of animation for giving great user experience and also demonstrated some very advanced ways with interacting and animating elements on the page, using the Web Animations API (javascript) and modern CSS techniques. The modern examples she showed, were very exciting even if it was a little over my head!

Chen Hui Jing - Using DevTools to Understand Modern CSS Layouts

Chen is a self-taught designer and developer from Singapore.

Her talk was on a specific layout feature in CSS and using Chrome DevTools to see what was happening under the hood. I found her talk to be a little hard to follow - this might have been down to the fact we were sat at the back of the room. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse and her laptop crashed mid-talk. I think her talk would have probably suited a smaller 'workshop size' audience where we could see closer what she was doing and ask questions.

Verne Ho - The Value of a Conversation

Verne is the director of UX at Shopify and based in San Francisco.

Verne's talk was all things around conversational experience (CX). He spoke about the history of internet communication via chat apps and then went onto how it affects society and us as users.

Verne was confident and energetic. He gave best practices on chatbots and how to behave more 'human'. His talk was relatable with everyone, as we all use some form of an app for communicating - in my opinion, one of the strongest speakers on the day.

Ruth John - How To Be a Web AV Artist

Ruth is a developer, speaker and runs an audio/visual artists website called 'Live:JS'.

Ruth's demonstrations were really experimental and complex. She created music and funky visual effects, all wired up with a MIDI controller and using advanced JavaScript API's to put it all together. She was using modern web technologies in a much different way to what most people in the audience would - I was lost trying to understand it, but it was really crazy, cutting edge stuff!

Phil Hawksworth - JAMstack: Silly Name. Serious Stuff

Phil works as Head of Developer Relations at Netlify.

Also, a more techy talk on how traditional CMS driven websites talk to servers to get data and render web pages. The JAMStack approach doesn't involve using this type of server, but content is hosted on a CDN (like Netlify), which greatly improves speed, security and deployment on the developer side.

I was most interested in Phil's talk, as I've been following him on Twitter for a while. I also use Netlify to host a small 'JAMStack' style site, so it was a common interest we both had! One of my favourite speakers of the day!

Rachel Andrew - Grids All the Way Down

Rachel is a web developer, author and speaker.

Rachel looked at in depth ways you can use CSS Grid to layout websites and elements on the page. Browser support is getting better and she said will only get better the more we adopt it in the sites we build going forwards. Browsers also can report and track issues with CSS grid. It will help us achieve more modern and interesting print style layouts with ease, however, I felt sometimes in her demos, it actually looked more convoluted and complex. Nonetheless, Rachel presented well, and I'll be keeping an eye on how Grid progresses and matures.

Jon Tan - Durable Design

Jon is a designer and runs Bristol based design studio, Mild Bunch.

Going back to the history of design, to modern day, Jon spoke about the importance of design and how it mitigates entrophy. Durable design is the idea of making our designs more 'future proof', by being more inclusive. He was a good communicator and raised some good points.

Conclusion

Overall, the conference was great and there was plenty of food for thought. It was great to go out as a team and see how other professionals are using modern web technologies to shape the future - I look forward to going again next year!

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