Keeping up with ever-changing web development trends

Web Directions, a conference founded by John Allsopp and Maxine Sherrin in 2004, covers all facades of web and digital professionals such as web design, front-end and back-end development, information architecture, interaction design, product design, accessibility, product management, and other interesting topics. Most of the conferences have been held in Australia with the Web Directions Summit being held in Sydney, while the Code, Design, and Product conferences are held in Melbourne.

John and team always invite the best speakers to talk about different topics around web development which freshen and inspire the audience with new knowledge in the industry. The well-tailored events are attended by over 800 attendees. They come from different major cities around the world.

Background

At LINE Taiwan, I work very closely with the UI design team. Before I joined the company, I had the chance to work in the graphic and user interface design industry. Having background knowledge in design is certainly helpful. What has been a difficult matter for UI design and web development is to create a design system. A “design system” is defined by Invision as “a set of reusable components, guided by clear standards, that can be assembled together to build any number of applications.”

Fortunately, Web Directions Summit ’19 had some speakers that spoke about this. Sarah Federman and Alexandra Skougarevskaya from Atlassian shared their experience about building a design system that works with both design and development teams.

The fact is that everyone in a development team is interconnected with each other. A developer may have the knowledge of product development, and a product developer may understand HTML, CSS, and a little bit of JavaScript. This approach is integral to elevate productivity and practiced by agile teams. With this in mind, I decided to attend several topics on web development as well.

Takeaways

Design systems

We often think the design team is in charge of creating a design system. It’s true! A design system holds a lot of design rules that include color usage, component behaviors, user interaction, and so on. These brilliant people need to indulge themselves in research, user behavior data, and many other factors that are specific to building an engaging product.

Some tech companies (app development companies) have made their design systems public. Popular names like Google Material Design, Apple Design Guidelines, and Polaris by Shopify are good references. This allows anyone to utilize them as a design reference for their product. Interestingly, these design systems were built by large teams comprised of different disciplines and have become one of the products promoted by these companies.

The design system as a product not only boosts the company’s recognition but also extends their design library to the crowd. Eventually, anyone can access, contribute, or utilize the design system.

Atlassian took their time to restructure their design files, hosted lots of meetings with all stakeholders, and came up with prototype after prototype of design systems. The iteration never ends. This, however, pays off. When we glance at the User Interface of Atlassian’s products, we quickly understand there are close connections between them.

Product development

One of the suggested practices on product development was to take actions only based on data. Perhaps, there are many items in our “fix-me” bucket list that need to be fixed immediately in a short period of time. This could cause pressure to team members especially when they are already on other tasks. However, understanding the data and reordering items in the “fix-me” bucket list could help us work effectively.

Simon Sinek described that Netflix was able to see the evolution of technology. The user experience it offers is so fluid. They value diversity and embrace dissimilarities. Having this ethic surely makes the team able to answer correct questions with correct solutions.

Christian Baker talked about “Done is just the Beginning.” He thinks new ideas are equal to new features. New ideas are the responses to tepid experience from using the same product with the same features. Digital users are often asked to update the apps on their phones when there are new updates to elevate the user experience or fix bugs.

Adding features may also require more staff to speed up the development process. Christian Baker suggested product managers carefully consider adding a new feature if it needs extra resources. Would it be just a temporary need? How much value would the new feature contribute to the company?

Thinking fast and slow can also be beneficial. He added that product developers should not be too quick to start a new initiative. Perhaps adding a bit of extra effort into the end of a project might add extra value to the project.

Leadership

We all know bees make honey. Peter Ikladious talked about leadership by using the bee world analogy. Stemming from his passion with beekeeping, he has noticed there are a lot of similarities between leadership and the bee world. In the bee world there’s a hierarchy where each of the roles has functions and duties. In his observations on bees, he found out that because of the uniform interest of the bees, they can achieve some certain goals such as looking for a new place to stay during winter, or expanding territory. Bees also validate information brought by other bees, like humans. Bees are also quite direct in delivering information. He suggested that leaders embrace different ideas and encourage aggregating the group’s knowledge through discussions. By having this, leaders can have a broader understanding on the matter to help make a fair decision.

As a leader, they should be able to identify talents in their team (who is good at design or web development, etc.). During difficult situations, the leader can ask for help and get suggestions from their team members.

Being genuine to ourselves and others is not a bad thing. Andre Murphy talked about “The Power of Saying I Don’t Know.” I found this quite interesting. Leaders or managers are believed to have the knowledge of the project or technology or skills of the industry they are in. However, there are still times when they have no ideas. Instead of pretending to know, saying “I don’t know, but (I can ask some one that might know the answer to your question, or I will get back to you after I get the answer)” is a way of challenging yourself to dig deeper to find the answer. It is not to end the conversation, but it’s the way of leveraging the experience.

Leaders may also want to learn the traits of the four communicator styles:

  1.  The “Forecaster” is imaginative and visionary.
  2. The “Associator” is agreeable and adaptable.
  3. The “Systemizer” is detail-oriented and good at planning with rationales.
  4. The “Energizer” is spirited and dynamic.

Acknowledgement 

LINE generously supports employees to sharpen their professional skills by sponsoring us in attending conferences and hosting talks on cutting-edge technologies, trends, and techniques. This truly helps LINE developers stay at the top of their game.
I was tremendously pleased to have had the chance to both visit Australia and attend a conference sponsored by LINE. There was lots of excitement going on in the conference like meeting new people with different backgrounds, participating in games, enjoying the inspiring talks, and much more. I wish I had more time so I could be in those tracks that I was not able to attend.

Again, I would like to extend my gratitude to the company for the great amount of support. As we continuously equip ourselves with great knowledge, skills, and experience by LINE, LINERs are always willing to share the knowledge to other developers around the globe. 

Keep up the good work, LINERs!

Books to read

  1. Mastering Collaboration (Gretchen Anderson)
  2. Microsoft Design Inclusive
  3. Laying the Foundations
  4. Hack the Design System (Adobe)
  5. Expressive Design System