Notes: How to Be A Web Design Superhero

The following are my panel notes from SXSW. As I am not the fastest typer I have paraphrased what was said. Should you notice any mistakes please do point them out in the comments for corrections.

Andy Clarke and Andy Budd.

If understanding us is any Barney then let us know.

AC: When I grew up I wanted to be a astronaut and not a web developer. I wanted to be super hero. We did a survey and out of the ten people we asked 85% wanted to be a superhero.


To survive in the modern world web developers need to be superheros.
What makes a superhero?
Every super hero has an origin story. Most of us didn't start lives as web developers. We got into it through our interests. Thnk about your origin story.

Super heroes have a strong moral code and this is a lot true of web developers. Most super heros are selfless. Web design superheroes are also selfless. We help people out bloggers write article and contribute to making the web a better place.

Superheroes have special motivations:

Web designers are driven by special motivation Doug B has a motivation of good design. JK is driven to spread the world of the DOM. I don't undestand web designers who aren't passionate about the work they do. You guys are all her because you are passionate.

Most superheroes have a secret id.
Most web designers have secret online identity. Take the opportunity to talk to as many people as possible. People that might not have a big name are still important.

Superheroes often retreat to secret hideaway.
Web developers have their secret hideaway as a source of inspiration. place to store your powerbook.

Superheroes are easily identified by their logo. Web developers also need their logo.
Super heroes often have a mundane day job and exercise their super powers by night. this is also true of web developers

Sometime super heroes group together to form powerful teams:
Web developers in groups also have more power. Adaptive path happy cog etc.

Some superheroes don't have superpowers relying instead on gadgets and special abilities.
Designers also have a box of tricks be it fonts and techniques.

super heroes main defining feature is their super power.
This is also true of web developers in their defining specialization.


Super Speed: To keep pace with new trends and technologies.
We need this to keep up with pace of changing tech. New ideas and new techniques. Keeping up with blogs and everything that's going on.

Elasticity: Ability to stretch ourselves very thin when it comes to looming deadlines.

Telepathy and clairvoyance: The ability to see into a client's mind and understand what they mean by "I want it easy to use." Clients often don't know what they want.

mind control: Ability to convince the client they don't need that flash splash screen. We need to be able to stand up and tell teh client that they are off the mark.

Empathy: An ability to understand the users. We are designing for the users not the client. we need to understand the goals of the user too.

Danger Sense: Ability to sense problem projects or clients see problems and rectify them before they happen. Head of trouble at the beginning. Project management is seeing when you need to pull in additional resources.

Precognition: An ability to see into the future and anticipate new trends.

X-ray vision: The ability to see through visual presentation to the underlying semantics. we are always looking as designers to complete the visual result. this can lead to non-semantic markup.

invulnerability: Sometimes we need to develop a bit of a thick skin as bullets do fly in the comments of design galleries or on design forums. Trolls start to get involved and people get picky about the smallest details.

AB: JSM has an article on his site about critiquing sites and taking critique yourself.

Invisibility: Where are the women in web design. Congratulates Veerle on her redesign and the ability to get 200 comments in a day.

Alongside many superheroes is a sidekick.
Web designers also have pals (picture of Emeyer and jSM)

Every super hero has a villain:

Who are your heroes?


Some super heroes have a vulnerability what yours?
AC: (from audience - sideburns) I'm too trusting and take people at face value. I should be more wary of people with ulterior motives. You have to get P/Os contracts and things written down.

AB: I'm self taught so sometimes I don't have the vocabulary or the training in design.
AC: in education there's a focus on applications and not on users. It's easy to think I don't have the training but we are making it up as we go along.

Q: Do we need perseverance to convince colleagues of the value of standards based web development.
AB: the barrier has been broken and that it's downhill from here.
AC: On the web there are key site and superpowers within their respective industries. Amazon, Yahoo! google etc. There are good people within these companies pushing standards. AB: the BBC is a good example.

AC: Thinking of certain sites (makes shapes of big ears) a design agency is chosen and sometimes the work that has been done and then that may be replaced.
AB: There are people that sow the seed of standards so when they leave they have affected the other developers.

Q: Collaboration is missing. how do you approach collaboration with developers.
AB: clear:left do the whole thing and service the back-end developers. We have the back end developers sort out the programming and we just give them the CSS file.
AC: I'm going to disagree when I started it was a one man band that does everything. But these days are gone. There's a split between design and code. Thy have a design department and then the designs go of to an external department for the coding , The designers say well why does this site not match my design.
AB: designers need to understand the medium.
AC: We are taking a brand and adding meaning and structure to it. A designer is better to understand the markup to use.
AB: you can't just be a visual designer. Purely graphical design. There's a misunderstanding of what design is.

Q: Storm can effect the weather is this like Molly driving the winds of change.
AC: What is so pleasing about coming to events like this is seeing so many people that are passionate. Plug for the WaSP annual meeting.

Q: What are you stories of victory?
AB: People coming to me not having to explain everything. Where people respect my opinion rather than question everything I do. People are slowly understanding the importance of web design.
AC: I get paid for doing something I love to do and I like that.

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