Smashing Conference 2013 – It was smashing all right

Published 2 years ago under ConferencesReading time 7 minutes, 48 seconds

You have probably heard that Smashing Conference 2013 was a blast. We won’t tell you otherwise, it was smashing all right and not only because the Smashing Band performed a song “Like a rounded corner” by Bruce Lawson, but the lineup and the presentations were truly – smashing.


This year Lucijan and I decided to visit Smashing Conference in Freiburg. The whole Tailored4WP team usually loves going to conferences but this time it was “The Brothers” turn. So, with Marko and Irena (from Creative Nights, organizers of amazing FFWD.PRO conference in Croatia) we went on a road trip that lasted more than excpected (9 hours car drive according to Google Maps was more than 13 hours in the end — both ways). Sorry for that champs, the last time I hit the european roads with a car, it wasn’t such a bad traffic ;).

Freiburg is a lovely German city in Baden-Württemberg region and it looks like a bigger version of Brugge in Belgium (at least from my point of view). Freiburg is also home of the Smashing Magazine (ftw). The conference was held on 9th and 10th of September, with 11th left for workshops. Both days were better than we expected. A fantastic “Avengers Style” lineup with excellent speakers from all over the world and so many speakers from USA, what was surprising for European conferences. The team at Smashing Magazine did a terrific job.

It’s difficult to say which talks were the best since all the speakers did really good talks, but to name a few…

Dan Mall – Change the way you design

Dan talked about changes in the design process so we no longer need to show people how the website “will look like” but rather “how the website will feel like”. He also gave some good advices on how to create/keep your own visual inventory before even starting the design process. Use an elements collage to show how the website elements will look like and lay it down horizontally so the clients don’t think it’s a website. And the process changed as well, form the classic waterfall method it’s now more agile – we should keep talking, sharing and learning.

Tim Kadlec – Bad performance is bad business

Tim discussed performance and especially the “mobile performance” of RWD websites and how the website speed affects the visitors. Although the average size of a webpage today is around 1.5MB, this is not very optimized. Tim suggested that we remove unnecessary elements (we already tend to do this in our process here at Tailored4WP), to optimize the carousel and not to include elements that are not “all that important”.

Luke Wroblewski – It’s a write/read web

People sometimes think that you can’t do a lot of stuff on your mobile phone. But then, Ebay alone has $13 billion revenue from mobile purchases. Importance of mobile web and applications rises every day. While we design for mobile we should think of how to ease the use of our webpage or application. Luke pointed out some clever examples like Hotel Tonight app where the reservation of your stay is pretty easy and straightforward.

Day one – in general

In general, the first day was excellent. We should mention Elliot Jay Stocks who talked about his beginnings in web design (and the flash era). Inayaili de León Persson talked about her experiences managing a dislocated team. Dan Rubin discussed some motivations behind what we do, it was a very good talk because we all feel we have rather similar motivation behind us. Andy Hume talked about redesigning Guardian, with some clever techniques on how to optimize load experience for users with older browser versions. Jake Archibald made a show out of his presentation with the quiz we all played (to some of us the score was not that important ;)). In the evening session Brad Frost talked with the directors of “Indie Game: The Movie” Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. It was a perfect ending of the day that started with the Smashing Band live performing “Like a rounded corner” by Bruce Lawson (original video here). #epic :)

And yes, one of my pictures on Instagram was selected as Instagram winners and I got a poster from Startup Vitamins (unfortunately, I have forgotten it in a hotel room ;( )


Ethan Marcotte – godfather of responsive web design

Although we suspected who the mystery speaker was (and it was not Klaus Schmitt who played accordion on stage without any help from Javascript :)) it was good to hear Ethan Marcotte on stage talking about – responsive web design. With the story of how the Manhattan streets were laid out he made the reference to the responsive web today, and the many phone models that are used across the world (especially in under developing countries) to get access to the internet. Inspiring talk to say the least.

Jason Santa Maria – good design happens around good constraints

In the second presentation of the day Jason talked about the design process, giving some valuable insights into his own. We are all uncomfortable showing our “not finished” work to others but Jason pointed out that showing our work is pretty normal today since the web design process changed (evolved?) a lot during years. Probably the most important point from his talk is to use prototyping and sketching and to iterate quickly for best results.

Nishant Kothary – the design of people

Nishant’s talk was covering the design process from the psychological perspective. This involves not only the project team but users and decision makers as well. Nishant talked about cognitive psychology and biases like diagnosis bias, loss aversion and confirmation bias. Although this is the kind of topic you don’t know much at first, we strongly recommend that you read books from Nishant’s reading list.

Jeremy Keith – how we built the websites back then

Jeremy was the last speaker of the Smashing Conference and it was the perfects closing of marvellous 2 days in Freiburg. Without any slides he remembered some of his past websites and how he built them and what impact some of those projects had on him. He also talked about the past design principles and how they stood the test of time. Truly inspiring talk from a guy who once played on the streets of Freiburg :) (before he decided to be a web designer).

Day two – remarkable speakers all the way

We should also write a couple of lines of the speakers we didn’t mention in more details. David Březina, the creator of the Skolar font system gave an interesting talk about the birth of a typeface. Addy Osmani from Google talked about speed problems and how to diagnose it. Natalie Downe shared her experiences from building Lanyrd and Nicolas Gallagher talked about CSS application architecture.

In conclusion, we can say:

  • Smashing Magazine team did a great job with the conference and we’re looking forward to both Oxford conference and the Smashing Conference 2014 in Freiburg.
  • Freiburg is wonderful city to host a web design conference
  • The beer is good, and the parties are awesome
  • Brad Frost did an awesome job as a master of ceremony
  • Noel Tock has a lot similarities with Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad, and he’s a guy you should hang out with
  • Vitaly Friedman knows where to eat good
  • Freiburger Wurst #ftw
  • From Zagreb to Freiburg there is no “9 hour drive” and you shouldn’t go with your car. Never!
  • Coverage of Smashing Conference 2013 including slides from the presentations can be found on their Lanyrd page

See you next year!