Workshop experience at Smashing Conf

This week I attended Toronto’s first Smashing Conf.

One of the many posters around the event

On Monday I attended one of the pre-conference workshops by Dan Mall’s “Design workflow for a multi-device world”. Dan guided us through the process of defining a problem, brainstorming objectives and key results (aka OKRs) and made us work together to build some of what we decided to tackle. We divided the whole classroom into five or six teams with 5 to 7 members each. Each team had various skillsets (e.g. designers and coders).

Development time

In my team, the “bike shed” team, we decided to rewrite TTC’s trip planning feature. We did not manage to finish the product, however, we managed to build one of the three objectives and partially complete another. The team had two people who did compositions, two people who could code and one person helping us collaborate and coordinate.

This exercise included few new things to me. For instance, I worked within a team context to create a product rather than building a feature by myself.

The button found in codepen(at the top) versus what I ended up with (at the bottom)

It was also a new experience for me to work closely with a designer. We chose to build a multi-option toggle feature to mix transit methods. The process started with writing on paper what he had in mind. I tried building a prototype from scratch to see if I understood what he wanted. I did not get it quite right the first time so wedecided to search in codepen to find similar. Once we found something we liked I started iterating on the code while he started preparing the icons for me to use. By the end of it we had something that worked but did not have enough time to complete. This is the codepen I forked and this is the unfinished feature where I left it at.

One of our objectives and key results

This exercise was a very humbling experience as I felt the pressure to produce something for a designer (Scott from Motorola services) that was right there beside me and I was “the coding expert”. I quote coding expert as I barely have a year of frontend experience. I started from a forked pen that had roughly what Scott wanted, however, I knew I was going to face a very difficult time not before long. The codepen had been written using few non-standard languages (pugjs and SCSS) instead of writing standard HTML & CSS. Another difficulty I knew I was going to face was that I did not have experience turning an image into a toggle button. The forked pen only had text inside the buttons. I deferred solving it by only dealing with text labels at first, instead I addressed other issues before integrating the icons which would require some extra research.

It was also the first time working with another coder (Sheneille Patil) on a fast paced environment. We needed to quickly figure our own development culture. Creating a GitHub repository was not an option as she was not comfortable with it. We decided to turn to codepen.io and to build features that would not conflict with each other. The final plan was to collect our different pieces of code and merge them in a single pen. We did not have enough time to get to this.

I hope you found something interesting out of this post. It’s not my tipical programming related post. I’m very grateful to SmashingConf for having lined up such great speakers and very practical workshops and for Mozilla to support my learning.