I have been back from Austin and SXSWi 2006 for over a week…and am just now reading over my notes and thinking about the panels and the things I learned. I haven’t had a chance to flesh out my thoughts and ideas due to being crazy busy, but there were some great presentations. I also met some new folks, and caught up with friends and colleagues. All in all, it was well-worth the 14 hour drive out there!
In lieu of posting tidbits here based on what I came back with, I decided to just post my notes. They are in plain HTML format, and mostly just links and ideas that I took down while in panels after connecting with something the speaker(s) said. As usual, I missed out on some panels that I really wanted to go to, like Design Eye for the List Guy. Paul Nixon and company took the popular craigslist and gave it a spin. There were lots of hard choices! Luckily, SXSW already posted video and audio from the conference for all to enjoy.
If you were there, and missed panels, you can check them out now by downloading those podcasts/videos. Or if you didn’t go you can see a sampling of what the hype is all about. I am glad I went again, and hope to be there next year as well. A sampling of photos from my SXSW trip can be had here, here, and here.
In his recent article on Site-Reference.com, Mark Daoust reveals the truth behind ugly web design. It’s not about whether the site is ugly or not. The key is simplicity.
I am in total agreement here. My philosophy for web design is to create simple, usable, yet attractive sites. I feel odd emphasizing the contrast between those two worlds (ugly and simple), but it is a common misconception that simple means unattractive. This issue is what Mark’s article addresses. In my experience, simplistic design is sometimes very complicated and hard to achieve. Taking away details and revealing the core of a design is a difficult task.
So what makes a site’s design effective? If it let’s the visitor do what they would like quickly and easily, it is a successful site. That’s it. It can be as ugly or as pretty as you like, but the goal for effective web design is clear communication with your site visitors. A simple design gets out of a visitor’s way and lets them get on with their lives.
Some simple yet good looking sites: the newly re-aligned SimpleBits, GarrettDimon.com, WordRidden (which Jeremy recently redesigned to be simpler…), JeffCroft.com, Cornell University, and the ever-pleasing-to-look-at smallTransport.