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CSS Dev Conf: A Preview

Still hard to believe, but in less than a week, I will be in New Orleans for my first-ever web conference: CSS Dev Conf, organized by Environments for Humans.

The event schedule and speaker list is as jaw-dropping as it is daunting. How do I plan out my day and pick which presentation to attend? How can I absorb all the information without feeling overwhelmed?

Trivial problems, sure. But for the sake of organization, I thought I would preview the upcoming conference by listing a few presentations I’m really looking forward to seeing next week:

“Design the Code, Not Pixel-Perfect Comps” by Katie Kovalcin

Perceptions and expectations of web designers have changed over the past five years. A website is no longer built in silos, requiring one person to create the design, one person to code the visuals, and one person to program the back-end functionality.

The lines are now blurred. Projects are becoming more collaborative, leading to more web designers assuming the role of a front-end developer depending on their skillsets.

So how can designers and developers work better together in this new team-oriented workflow? Use live code earlier in your workflow to refine design concepts, says Happy Cog designer Katie Kovalcin. A Photoshop layout just isn’t enough.

As a proponent of the designer/developer hybrid, I’m interested in hearing how this “design the code” approach can streamline the planning and development process — and possibly learn how a widely-respected web agency like Happy Cog employs this strategy.

“Modern Layouts: Getting Out of Ruts” by Jen Simmons

Speaking of designers who code, Jen Simmons, host of the popular, long-standing “The Web Ahead” podcast, is a perfect example of today’s creative chameleon.

Jen has been designing websites since the mid ‘90s and remembers a time when the excitement of designing for the web fueled innovation and experimentation.

Then, she says, everyone stopped pushing the boundaries and became more reliant on popular patterns, which led to complacency.

Now that responsive design is becoming less of a novelty and more of a standard practice, a new renaissance is taking shape. But what modern web technologies can we employ to enhance user experience? And how can we translate a design across a seemingly limitless array of devices without becoming predictable?

I can’t wait to find out!

“Refactoring CSS” by John W. Long

While CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a far cry from a true programming language, that doesn’t mean web designers and front-end developers can’t follow programming principles when styling a site.

Keeping your code DRY (a mnemonic device standing for Don’t Repeat Yourself) is one of the most common credos taught to designers first learning CSS. But what others can be applied and how?

John W. Long, a UX designer at and the managing editor of The Sass Way, will answer that in his presentation, promising a few tips that designers can apply immediately in their next project.

I’ve been working on learning JavaScript basics in my spare time with the help of our senior software engineer, including understanding objects and how to write reusable code.

A bit over my head at first, but the concepts sound invaluable when properly applied. If the same can be done in CSS, the coding effort could be cut dramatically — leaving more time for project planning and back-end development work when the real magic happens.

Keynote Q&As with Dan Cederholm and Chris Coyer

If the web industry had a Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dan Cederholm and Chris Coyer would each have a star.

Dan, co-founder of the popular community-driven, show-and-tell design site Dribbble (yes, spelled with three ‘Bs’) has written about CSS and web standards since the early 2000s, publishing five books in the process.

Meanwhile, Chris is best known as the creator of CSS Tricks, which has been around since 2007 and continues to be one of the premier front-end development resource websites available. He also co-hosts the “Show Talk Show” podcast and is co-founder of the front-end dev playground site CodePen.

Pioneers of the digital frontier in their own right, and as a huge fan of both Chris and Dan, my only fear is that an hour may not be enough to soak in all the knowledge they’re willing to share.

Have you ever attended a conference related to your career? What did you learn? What advice do you have for a first-time conference goer? Share with us in the comments below or send a tweet to @visionaryia.

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