“Focus on process, not on image” and other things I learned at SmashingConf NYC

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to attend the first stateside conference hosted by Smashing Magazine in New York City. Smashing is my go-to source for inspiration, field-tested research, new techniques and basically the brain trust for what’s happening on the Internet. Attending the conference was my chance to step into the pages of the site and hear from the experts who are driving forward the craft of what we do as designers and developers.

I learned some solid techniques that I can apply right away, like adding the async defer attribute to script elements to optimize page load. But in reflecting on two days of listening to speakers, chatting with other attendees and following the conversation on Twitter, my biggest takeaway is that in a field that sometimes seems dominated by making money or doing things in the fastest/newest way, what most of us actually want from our careers is to do the right thing.

Eva-Lotta Lam talked about the hidden value of sketching: In the time you spend putting something down on paper, you get the chance to actually think about it. You can visualize what you’re doing, and in the process reflect and evaluate, and maybe even come to a better understanding of what you’re working on.

SmashingConf NYC

Sketching notesAfter her introduction, she had everyone put away their MacBooks and iPhones, and pull out paper and a pen. She led the attendees through some basic exercises to practice drawing simple shapes and explained how sketches don’t need to be good to convey meaning.

Taking that concept even further, Oliver Reichenstein stepped away from the podium and didn’t share any slides for his talk, “Information Entropy.” His company Information Architects Inc. sells its work by sharing metrics they’ve helped other customers achieve: millions of dollars made, billions of pages clicked. Internally, their achievements can be attributed to applying these rules to their work:

  1. Slow down.
  2. Focus on process, not on image.
  3. Embrace negativity.
  4. Build trust.
  5. Attention to detail.

Through both of these talks (and several others), what really shines through for me is the need to be considerate in my work. Do things that allow you to take the time to think, capture the details, and create the best solution for the project you’re working on right now.