SXSWi 07 Notes: Uniting the Holy Trinity of Web Design

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.

Cameron Adams Web Technologist, The Man in Blue

Sally Carson Interaction Designer, Yahoo!

Dustin Diaz User Interface Engineer, IMVU

Jonathan Snook - Freelance Web Developer

Originally we were thinking of HTML CSS and JS

But then we saw there were other areas. Business User and development

SC: I work for UED at Yahoo! Webdev frontend. Backend engineers

Why does a site fail?

JS: I worked on a site that the client thought they needed to have tagging. I asked what the audience was and it was for language tution in the south.

SC: At bucket testing showed that giving people what they were looking for lowered the total values of sales.

DD: A site fails because one of the three components is out of balance. The key is to balance those things out. If the business is too big, you want to make a crapload of money taht won't work. Or if all you have is users and it's free then there's no value.

CA: What like Twitter? (laughter)

SC: A crutchfield I was a generalist. Now at Y! I'm more specialised. 15 people day to day. There's some overlap in the groups.

JS: Within the agency model the sales people are looking to make as much money and are over promising.

...

Politics:

JS: Communication is really important. We were involved with a company where one of the execs didn't want us to build this app. So he brought in a friend to grill us.

DD: Don't play the game of Politics. I found it frustrating that to be successful in certain teams you had to talk the talk.

SC: If you ask questions about why things are the way they are, you end up digging up a load of politics. When the three legs of the tripod are in conflict you can use research to go head to head with someone.

CA: New people come into the company they can in their naivety take things up to the next level

JS: When I am new I don't want to rock the boat.

DD: My advice is, rock the boat. Why would you want to work somewhere that you don't like. Do stuff you like, build cool stuff.

CA: At the other end of the scale is the bitter and jaded individual which is Dustin. (laughter)

Generalists are out of fashion?

DD: the more you expand your knowledge within certain areas then you can find out your speciality

JS: Way back generalists were the norm. Particularly at the agency, one project was java the next was something else.

SC: Having been a generalist and now becoming something else, is quite scary. I realised I haven't touched much code for a while. The danger is picking the wrong track.

People stand up to work out how many generalists there are in the audience etc....

DD: Don't stop learning new things.

Small teams are good teams

CA: yahoo are good at making small teams out of larger teams.

SC: I work on the sports site. We split into smaller working teams. All of the disciplines are represented at the beginning. Some of the best ideas come form the webdevs or the engineers. Everyone's views are respected. We then feedback to the larger group at like a weekly meeting.

CA: Is there a role for a generalist there?

SC: I'm the generalist there. I am the triangle in the Venn Diagram.

JS: If you understand everyone's point of view this helps.

DD: Sometimes this can be frustrating because as a generalist you can be better at something than someone who does it for there full time job. I'm trying to sound as little bitter as possible!

SC: Share insights. We can draw on shared experiences.

Team Bonding

SC: It's easy if you're physically separated that you become them and us. Even playing foosball together this helps. At Y! we have snack machines which now have salami in the machines. People are now taping salami to everything. Someone changed someone chair settings and then taped salami to every lever.

CA: I've been working with several agile teams recently. There's something about agile that really motivates.

JS: There's something we may have missed here which is involving the end user. Get them in and involve them.

CA: do have any strategies for this?

JS: Some people don't have the budgets for this. But it can be as simple as getting to people to come in and looking at something.

DD: Set-up via bulletin people will gravitate towards that to let you know what they think of your products.

Making People happy

CA: What makes people stick around. Agile and Extreme programming. EP is when two of you are programming the same thing. One person doesn't write the code and they can look ahead and tell you aobut any mines that might explode in your face.

DD: EP should be sporadic. If you have a problem just grab a buddy.

CA: If you have it planned and have EP so you do that every day and then rotate. This gives you a deep reach into the entire team.

SC: At Y! the 15minute standup means people give a quick update to what they are doning and outline any roadblocks they are facing.

DD: Standups allow you to hear what's going on. If the meeting goes longer than 15mins then you're doing it wrong.

JS: If you go through the entire process without showing anything to the client and reveal at the end they are going to hit you with issues that need to be fixed. Better to involve them all along.

Putting together a great team

DD: Don't hire people that suck (picture of Jeremy Keith) make sure people fit within your team.

SC: In interview see if you can sense any animosity towards the business dudes. Get them to meet the business people. Everyone needs to have respect for everyone else.

DD: If I am going to interview, I will be real easy to get by. I like to find out what people do outside of work.

CA: the thing that makes it is an atmosphere. Everyone gets you. You don't have to be a brilliant genius.

SC: If someone mentions a lot of drama in a previous job watch out for that.