#ffconf 2016

TL;DR: I attended #ffconf in Brighton and learned how to: safely use cutting edge design techniques with progressive enhancement strategies, increase engagement for everyone by making websites more inclusive and also greatly improve my own development workflow.

I’m writing to you in high spirits after attending a superb #ffconf.

Last year I focused on the design, UX and implementation of mobile-first web experiences, whereas this year was largely about making those experiences perform. While I’ve yet to explore Service Worker, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning the more design-oriented issues. I intend to continue exploring the progressive in Progressive Web Apps, but that’ll take me into next year. It’s with this progressive enhancement mindset that I participated in this year’s conference.

Held in the Duke of York Picture House in Brighton, #ffconf attracted an audience of diverse web interests. From frontend-oriented developers like myself to folks passionate about JavaScript’s use in desktop apps, mobile apps, robotics and more. If (like me) the web platform is your jam, then this was a conference for you.

Next-level CSS and the progressive web

Rachel Andrew @ #ffconf
Rachel Andrew discussing CSS features in the browser

The day began with Rachel Andrew sharing CSS features which are soon to land in browsers. It was interesting to see strategies for progressively enhancing CSS which I hadn’t previously considered and a number of features that will remove dependencies on JavaScript. I’m pleased to see a lot of features traditionally used in CSS pre-processors finally making their way to mainline CSS.

Continuing the progressive enhancement theme, Ada Rose Edwards reminded us of the progressive in progressive enhancement. I was already quite well versed in this topic, having paid attention to the Google Chrome Developer Relations team when the term was beginning to catch on and also attending the Progressive Web App Summit in Amsterdam in May. Regardless, the talk was excellent and served as a reminder of why I love the web platform: its resilience, universal availability and giving users a choice when it comes to accepting app permissions.

Accessibility and all things continuous

Léonie Watson @ #ffconf
Léonie Watson’s talk about accessibility mechanics in the browser

Accessibility is often an afterthought for many, but Léonie Watson’s talk equipped me with a solid understanding of what a screen reader sees when I implement features such as buttons. The important takeaway for me was a set of tools and strategies for interrogating my markup. I feel a lot more confident about a11y as a result. My hope is that I’ll be able to communicate the benefits of inclusive web experiences to our clients, and of course, make accessibility the standard in my own personal endeavours. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a little bit better than yesterday” was a phrase that stayed with me from this talk.

‘All Things Continuous’ explored strategies for continuous delivery. The talk was an overview of contemporary continuous delivery techniques which chronicled tools and experiences with companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook. While many of the tools and methods discussed were new to me, I am keen to at least explore Docker and learn how I may be able to integrate it into our workflows. It was an ace talk for those with large development teams and equally large development processes I’m sure. One takeaway message that stayed with me was “moving as fast as possible while maintaining a baseline of quality”. Regardless of your process, I felt like that was a quote worth noting.

Power of emoji and development workflow

Mariko Kosaka @ #ffconf
Mariko Kosaka’s presentation on everything emoji related

Mariko Kosaka’s talk was a great blend of history, humour and Japanese culture. In it, she delivered a comprehensive history of Emoji. I enjoyed the Japanese cultural references and history of Japan’s mobile and paging networks. It was genuinely rewarding to learn about the roots of Emoji, the cultural challenges and it’s applications in 2016. As a side note, I’ve often found well placed Emoji in subject lines make for more engaging emails. I use Emoji extensively in messages myself to express intended emotion where text could potentially be misinterpreted.

I thought I knew Chrome’s developer tools, and then Umar Hansa proved me wrong. His fast-paced talk inspired a feeling that I should massively change up my development workflow. Features such as a terminal accessible from DevTools, workspaces and more advanced features of the console API demonstrated how I could work much more proficiently. I was also genuinely blown away by the possibility of having DevTools orchestrate my Gulp tasks. Given the fast paced nature of the talk, I’ll look forward to those slides going live. Not one moment of Umar’s talk was to be missed. Just excellent all round.

Umar Hansa @ #ffconf
Tips and tricks from Umar Hansa to improve your workflow

Modularity and live coding

Ashley Williams delivered a talk about code modularity. Her talk was especially interesting since it covered the controversies earlier in the year when a particular utility was removed from npm — causing temporary downtime for many sites stacked on Node. There were several great quotes which resonated with me, including attitudes to managing system complexity and work ethics. The photo that follows was my favourite, which I’d perhaps like to see on a poster someday.

Ashley Williams @ #ffconf
One of the many amazing slides from ashley williams

The day closed with a live coding session delivered by Mathieu Henri. Mathieu coded a Game of Life simulation from scratch with the Canvas and Audio APIs. It was genuinely mind-blowing and equally inspiring to see his vision unfold in such a short space of time. Particularly fascinating to me was his ability to generate beautiful sound and visual effects from scratch. I look forward to revisiting this talk so that I may study in-depth some of the techniques he used.

Mathieu Henri @ #ffconf
Mathieu 'p01' Henri in the middle of his live coding session

This was my first #ffconf, and it has long been on my list of conferences to attend. I’d like thank Sidekick Digital for making my attendance possible, and I hope very much to participate again next year.

Over the next few evenings, I’ll be catching up with the #ffconf hashtag, looking through the pens and slides and perhaps also catching up with the Chrome Developer Summit happenings.

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