I was stoked to attend SmashingConf in Toronto this year. SmashingConf is the place to be if you want to learn about front-end and UX development. My colleague Blaine Hussey and I were so excited that we showed up at 8:00 a.m. and waited anxiously for the doors to open.

A photo of Arshabhi Rai and Blaine Hussey standing in front of the SmashingConf Toronto 2019 welcome poster

Me on left, Blaine on right

On the first day, seven speakers delivered compelling talks about everything from animation and front-end code architecture to inclusive design and digital policies. I’ve summarized what they talked about here, and written more over on Medium.

  • Let’s Build a Design System: Brad Frost, author of the book Atomic Design and co-host of the Style Guides podcast, kicked things off by talking about how to build a design system. He shared some great ideas about code architecture, modularity and reuse of components; demonstrating key concepts with a pair of front-end development tools called io and Story UI. In my recent experience re-designing Solace’s documentation site, it was critical to design and code through the lens of the software we use, which also included third-party software we wanted to integrate.
  • Let’s Build a Vue App from Scratch: We then heard from Sarah Drasner, who’s the head of developer experience at Netlify and a member of the team behind Vue.js, an open source javascript library for building user interfaces and single-page applications. She showed us how to use Vue to build a functional application with routing, server-side rendering, and animations using Nuxt.js and her Vue snippet extensions. I was intrigued by how she used her custom Vue snippets and other tools such as CSS Grid generator, that she had developed herself, to speed up her workflow. Very cool!
  • JAMStack: Silly Name, Serious Stuff: Then Phil Hawksworth, head of developer relations for Netlify, cleared up what JAMStack means (Javascript + APIs + pre-rendered Markup), and demonstrated how WebHooks and APIs can be used to trigger events, generate notifications and create and automate the development environment. His key message was that you should simplify the technology stack, decouple sites from deployment environments and automate as much as you can.
  • Building Bridges, Not Walls: Seasoned UX consultant Jenny Shen gave a fascinating talk about how cultural differences do – or should, at least – influence product and interface design. She made it clear that it’s no longer enough to simply translate text on the page – to increase trust and engagement, designers must understand and factor for the wide range of cultural, habitual and other social differences across countries.
  • Let’s Create a Web Animation from Scratch: Illustrator and animator Chris Gannon walked us through the process of creating an animation with SVG code. It was fascinating to see the decisions he made as he coded and how even the smallest detail in code can have a significant impact on the output.
  • Digital Policy and Standards Rehab Hour: Kristina Podnar, author of The Power of Digital Policy, explained how the often overlooked matter of digital policy and standards actually plays a vital role in creating a good website. She talked about some common challenges and how to use policies and standards to enhance website health.
  • Authentic Digital Design by the Numbers: Last but not least, Steven Hoober (who literally wrote the book on mobile design, i.e. O’Reilly’s Designing Mobile Interfaces) detailed the unique usability challenges faced when designing for mobile devices, such as the fact that people don’t start at the top of mobile screens, but in the middle.

It was an informative day, and if you find these topics as fascinating as I did, I think you’ll get a lot out of my detailed description of their presentations over on Medium.

Quick update…here’s my quick take on day two!

Arshabhi Rai

Arshabhi Rai is a technical writer at Solace. Other than developing technical information for Solace PubSub+ products and managing the documentation portal, he enjoys developing beautiful and useful web designs.