With a uniquely diverse community of designers, developers, and everyone in between, Frontend United is one of the conferences I find I enjoy more and more each time I attend. My previous time at this wonderful Drupal-adjacent conference was in Ghent, where I gave a session about the promise (and perils) of decoupled Drupal.
A little more conversation … and design
On Friday at Frontend United, I had the opportunity and privilege of presenting a session about conversational interfaces entitled "Talk over text: Conversational design and usability". In this session, I delved into some of the most important considerations when designing for the most human of all interfaces that exist among digital experiences, based on the foundations of Erika Hall's seminal work in this area, particularly the "key moments" in conversational interactions.
The two most important components of any instance of conversational design, I argued, were the language itself — necessitating good writing and thoughtful consideration for Grice's conversational maxims — and flows — the ways in which users can navigate the interface and are presented with decisions, whether dichotomously or not.
To finish things off, I presented a case study on Acquia Labs' work on Ask GeorgiaGov, the first Amazon Alexa skill for citizens of the state of Georgia, which follows Hall's "key moments" and also provides well-designed language and interaction flows that point the user to favorable outcomes — in this case, getting their questions about Georgia answered. For more information about the Ask GeorgiaGov project, check out our Acquia Engage panel or the launch announcement.
Nifty debugging features in the browser
Mike Herchel (Senior Front-End Developer at Lullabot) offered a humorous and insightful look at some of the debugging and profiling features that we can find in browser features like Chrome Developer Tools. Quickly winning the minds and hearts of the audience with reminiscences about Firebug, which brought out quite a bit of nostalgia in me, Mike discussed some of the new features of Chrome Developer Tools available in Canary builds of Google Chrome.
Throughout his talk, Mike pointed out several nifty features that I had never known about, despite having used Chrome Developer Tools for years during the course of my day-to-day coding. For instance, on the "Sources" tab in Chrome Developer Tools, you can store certain variables that are in local scope as global in order to access them freely from the console, in addition to using
Cmd+P to open a quick and handy file search. In addition, the "Performance" tab not only displays the ever-useful time to first paint but also the time to paint of the last hero image, which may be useful for other performance tracking.
Other features that Mike highlighted can shave seconds or even minutes off a developer's workday thanks to their convenience. As an example, in the "Elements" tab, after highlighting an element, you can adjust values in CSS by using the up and down keys, holding
Alt to increment or decrement by tenths and
Shift to do so by tens. While the many features Mike discussed are far beyond the scope of this blog post, I highly encourage you to check out his session video for more.
A keynote from Dries about the future of Drupal
"Drupal needs to provide a cutting-edge experience for its own users, the content creators and site builders." —Dries Buytaert
All in all, Frontend United was an enthralling experience thanks to the high-caliber content that participants have come to expect from such a well-considered conference. I encourage everyone, even those who may not consider themselves interested in design or front-end development, to consider having a second look at Frontend United, as it is more than worth the trek across the pond.
Soon to come on the Experience Express, we forge new ground at Drupal Developer Days in Lisbon by asking several key questions about Drupal's future. Among the quandaries considered: Does Drupal's most promising future lie with developers who expect the flexibility of decoupled Drupal or with site builders and content editors who prefer a seamless experience, even if it isn't necessarily monolithic? This and much more coming from your correspondent in Lisbon. Até logo!
Special thanks to Mike Herchel for his feedback during the writing process.