If you’ve never been to a conference of any type before, you possibly think you already know the important areas of your profession and can find out any developments from your colleagues or the internet. At least that’s what I thought prior to attending Pixel Pioneers 2022.

Which option sounds more appealing to you? Pick up extra skills on occasion, or go to a conference and absorb a mega-dose of industry knowledge, make connections and enjoy exploring fresh surroundings? Luckily at SoBold we have the opportunity to do both.

The SoBold team outside the harbourside venue.

The conference covered both ends of the telescope – from broad topics such as energy consumption, to a fifty minute talk about the brief three milliseconds your screen goes blank in between webpage loads. How the visually impaired experience the internet, to technical developments in styling / fonts.

My personal hero was Chris How – his mantra of valuing your customer’s time and giving them small moments of delight strongly resonated with me. In accordance, I want to guide you through the content of the conference, with links to the core material that will best replicate what the SoBold team saw, whilst valuing your precious time.

GAVIN STRANGE : Less Thinkering, More Tinkering

A must watch to boost your levels of creativity. Gavin shares his personal and professional projects with Aardman Studios. Lots of useful insights into reaching the pinnacle of creativity. Highly engaging delivery, visuals and plenty of ‘further reading’ material. Definitely worth watching in entirety. Gavin Strange website – will give you a sense of his creative flair and influences. https://www.jam-factory.com/

“It’s better to beg for forgiveness, than ask for permission.”

Gavin Strange
Gavin Strange’s presence was animated in every sense of the word. Image courtesy of Pixel Pioneers.

BIANCA BERNING : Variable Fonts – WTF?

From a technical and design standpoint, learning about variable fonts is incredibly useful. Towards the end Bianca veers into the potential application of variable fonts – imagine a world where your computer mutates its content to fit the viewer’s specific needs. If you’re looking for new avenues for unique artistic features for your website – this talk is for you. Everyone should have a play with variable fonts – try it here https://v-fonts.com/

Bianca Berning showing off the power of variable fonts. Image courtesy of Pixel Pioneers.

CHRIS HOW : You Got to Fight for the Right to Delight

Chris’s choice of examples and commentary is intentionally entertaining and eclectic. His approach to design changes your criteria for success and also would decisively influence your next project. Essential viewing. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or developer short of a design, this talk will give you a guiding direction. Information on the Kano product roadmap here. https://www.productplan.com/glossary/kano-model/

A slide from Chris How’s keynote personifies the failures in design patterns. Which one is yours? Image courtesy of Pixel Pioneers.

LÉONIE WATSON : Accessibility: The Land That Time to Interactive Forgot

Visually impaired people experience the internet through screen readers – the internet described in words. Léonie’s valuable insight will definitely re-balance your priorities and appreciation for how websites should function. Some of the technical history she overviews was a bit lost on the audience but the switch in mindset is valuable. Important to dip into, especially for gleaming a deeper understanding of how a web document is compiled and loaded. It might sound ‘techy’ but it’s like understanding how our lungs work – illuminating. If you haven’t viewed any of your own websites using a screen reader – you definitely should. For a great sense of how the net is best experienced for visually impaired users – just check out her website – tink.uk

LUKE MURPHY : Lightning Talk: Design Tokens – Searching for a Source of Truth

Design Tokens act as a very useful tool for blending the boundaries of where design and development meet, in fact, they act as a technical element that affect design and development in equal measures. If you have no idea what a design token is – this talk could unlock a tonne of structure for your product. Here’s an overview article on design tokens 

The beautiful backdrop of Bristol. Image courtesy of Pixel Pioneers.

HANNAH SMITH : How to Make Digital Services More Sustainable

Hannah Smith’s talk invited us to critique our energy consumption and make changes to our habits as both consumers and producers of digital content. She makes the case that space travel is a waste of resources, and that using less lays the path to fulfilment. See if her arguments resonate with you.  Hannah’s book recommendation – Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

JHEY TOMPKINS : Supercharge Your Skills with Creative Coding

A mad professor of CSS and JavaScript – Jhey has a mixture of technical tricks and interesting libraries for speech recognition. Deadpan yet full of colourful examples, Jhey clumsily demonstrates his collection of magical creations and challenges you, the developer, to break out of your ‘siloed’ mentality for visual  presentation. Check out his catalogue of wondrous CSS/JS creations here

Jhey Thompkins demos his CSS yo-yo controlled by the motion sensing on his mobile. Image courtesy of Pixel Pioneers.

STUART LANGRIDGE : You Really Don’t Need All That JavaScript, I Promise

Painting with the broad brushes down to the nat-hair infinitesimally small details, Stuart reminds us of the importance of returning to the basics in order to best utilise the web. Unfortunately some of the libraries he suggests do not have extensive compatibility and thus aren’t for mainstream production… yet. His insight does provide a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the tools we use, although the message is quite drawn out. Example of the shared transitions js library https://codepen.io/drenther/pen/NjzeOO

RACHEL ANDREW : What’s New in CSS?

Rachel Andrew – new css features either in or emerging from or newly arrived from CSS-land. Truly at the coalface of emerging CSS features. For a frontend developer it was akin to being shown new letters in the alphabet that were being proposed. A summary of similar information can be found here – https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2022/03/new-css-features-2022/

Bristol itself is well worth a visit – a centre for nightlife, hedonism and youthful idealism. Simply walking around the harbour area in the daytime will refresh your appreciation for one-of-a-kind shops and overflowing street art. Make sure you have plenty of free space in your phone for all the photos. The SoBold team had a very enriching experience and bonded even tighter as a team. I hope to see you at the next one!

Links to the conference videos will be available via the Pixel Pioneers website.

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    By Stewart Tuckwood
    Front End WordPress Developer
    Industry News