Render Conference

The Render conference, 21-22 April, that took place in Oxford, was an incredible experience! I’ve learnt so many new cool things and met amazing people.

The opening speaker was Bruce Lawson (@brucel), deputy CTO at Opera, who gave a very funny and entertaining talk on the challenges that the web is facing, in particular – native apps. Where web lost the battle against native is called the land of UX. Progressive web apps have so many advantages compared to native ones that it’s imperative to invest in very very good UX. Probably one of the biggest arguments supporting web is the app size. With limited memory on the device, a user would consider “hey, is this app more important than my photos collection?”. An example of the difference is an app that can be 1MB on web and 403MB implemented as native. Next, they live on the server, so there is no update distribution lag and they can now be functional offline, due to the service workers.

Speaking of service workers, another amazing talk came from Jake Archibald (@jaffathecake), developer advocate at Google. He gave a great walkthrough on how to use them in your app, with a visual confrontation in offline mode and very very slow Wi-Fi, which he called Lie-Fi. Lie-Fi is indeed even worse than Wi-Fi, since you get to stare at a white screen for an indefinite time. Whereas, when you’re offline, at least you get a message saying that you’re 100% offline, you’ve got no connectivity whatsoever. His talk made me realise just how important it is to think about offering users a good experience when they’re offline. You can always smartly cache, save their input and alert them that their actions have been successfully performed as soon as they’ll be connected again (e.g. Facebook messenger’s chat messages). For example, when I showed a friend of mine that he can play a Mario-like dinosaur game in Chrome, when he’s offline, he was fascinated. There is also a great short course on Udacity, my favourite MOOC platform, on offline web applications. It shall receive my full attention soon!

Even though I aim for simplicity in an app’s design, Val’s (@vlh) talk on integrating animation smartly was amazing! I had no idea how much you can achieve only with CSS and how much support there is in the browsers’ dev tools for testing and debugging them. Smart, subtle animations can make a huge difference to your app, compared to static elements. They come in and enhance the UX, without the users even noticing them and help communicate your business’ brand and personality. She also gave a great tip on the best book used by great animators and it comes from no one else but the masters of animations: 12 Principles of Animation from Disney : The Illusion of Life.

Another talk I liked was given by Alicia Sedlock (@aliciability) and it was on front-end testing. She went through all available options, including unit tests, automation, acceptance, visual regression, accessibility and performance testing. She emphasised the need to prioritise testing on the front-end side and offered examples of great tools for each category. Jeremy Keith (@adactio) also offered an incredible talk at the end of the conference, discussing resilience in the world of web. Emphasising progressive enhancement, his talk was a real inspiration for a young developer like me. He brought great arguments in favour of this approach, which is summarised in his slide below:

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What was new at RenderConf was that, as a scholar, I’ve been assigned to a guide during the conference. I’ve had Seb (@seb_ly) as a guide, an amazing conference speaker, graphic designer, passionate about animation and building stuff from scratch. He showed me some of his coolest latest projects and I’ve been particularly impressed by this one on Laster Light Synths.

So these were the best moments I enjoyed from the 2-day conference, but there were much much more I can write about endlessly. I also had the chance to meet Todd Motto (@toddmotto) and after the conference, I started his  course on Angular JS, which is absolutely incredible so far! I’ve been caught up with final coursework and exams, but I’ll finish it soon.