The Naughty Baptist

Missing the point of An Event Apart

Note: I wrote this back in October while at An Event Apart, and then promptly forgot about it. Just rediscovered it, and figured I'd go ahead and post it.

Being an introvert at a conference means I spend a lot of time listening to other folks. Not that I don't chime in; on the contrary, I've met some great people here at An Event Apart.

However at lunch today  I heard some coders that are a great example of missing the point. In saying all this, I don't mean to imply they aren't swell people, or that they aren't great at their jobs. I'm sure they're awesome.

But, based on what I overheard, they're also dead wrong.

The crux of their complaint was that An Event Apart is geared primarily at designers and, since they're not designers, they only found "three or four" of the fifteen (so far) sessions actually useful.

This is both disappointing to me, and annoying. It's another instance of coders thinking that, if it's not our code, it's not really important. And that attitude simply won't fly on the web.

I am not a designer. I can do a lot of things, and I do some of them really, really well. Design is not among those. I admire the crap out of guys and gals who are good at it. But I'm not good at it, just like a lot of those great designers couldn't write the kind of code I do. We all have our specialties. Fair enough.

But those lines are blurring. Sure, if you're rebranding your entire business you do not want me creating the look and feel of your website. But creating a site that loads quickly? Javascript that fails gracefully, and doesn't barf if there's an error? That I can do. But I can't do it well if I don't understand and appreciate the design decisions behind it.

And a lot of the designers around me here do write code. Javascript is code, folks, and it's powerful.

I do design. Not just user interactions, which I actually am good at, but also how things will look to the user. It's unavoidable on the web where everything is visual.

I don't know why the comments I overheard struck me as they did. Maybe it's because we're at a conference that's billed as a design conference. Maybe it's because they were tossing out buzzwords, including saying "So-and-so is his own scrum team." (Either So-and-so does not understand that, or the complainers didn't.)

Mostly, though, I think it's because it's the kind of thinking that seriously limits the cool stuff we can do. There's this idea that, if it's not code, it's easy. And sure, everything looks easy until you try to do it. Take design: How hard is it to pick colors, and that's all y'all do, right?

We -- meaning coders -- need to get the chip off our shoulders. We have a lot to learn, and a lot to teach, and a lot of nifty things to do.