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What the Web Needs Now (and how ARTIFACT is here for it)

I recently had the pleasure of joining Dave Rupert, Chris Coyier, and Chris Ferdinandi on the Shop Talk Show to talk about the upcoming ARTIFACT Conference (Austin, TX on Sept. 30 – Oct. 1, 2019). ARTIFACT is an intimate gathering of web designers and developers where we discuss ways to build web sites that work for everyone.

This isn’t our first rodeo! I started ARTIFACT back in 2013 with Christopher Schmitt and Ari Stiles (the team behind the legendary In Control and CSS Dev conferences). At that time, the sudden avalanche of web-enabled mobile devices was throwing the web design community for a loop. How do we best leverage the recently-introduced Responsive Design techniques to adapt our designs to a spectrum of screen sizes?! What does that do to our workflows?! What happens to our beloved Photoshop comps?! How do we educate our clients and structure our billing cycles?! It was an exciting time when we needed to adjust our processes quickly to take on a radically new web viewing environment.

After four events in 2013 and 2014, ARTIFACT took a little hiatus, but we are back for a five-year reunion in 2019. We are returning to a landscape where a lot of the challenges we faced in 2013 have been figured out or, at the very least, have settled down (although there is always room for innovation and improvement).

Is our work making the web better done? Not by a long shot! Now that we’ve got a handle on the low-bar requirement of getting something readable on all those screens, we can focus our energy on higher-order challenges. How do we make our sites work easier for people of all abilities? How do we make our content, products, and services welcoming to everyone? Does our code need to be so bloated and complicated? How can we make our sites simpler and faster? How can I put new tools like CSS Grid, Progressive Web Apps, static sites, and animation to good use?

To that end, this time around ARTIFACT is expanding its focus from “designing for all the devices” to “designing for all the people.” Simply put, we want a web that doesn’t leave anyone out, and we’ve curated our program to address inclusivity, performance, and the ways that new possibilities on the web affect our workflow.

A web for everyone

Inclusive design—including accessibility, diversity, and internationalization—has been bubbling to the top of the collective consciousness of the web-crafting community. I’m incredibly encouraged to see articles, conference talks, and podcasts devoted to improving the reach of the web. At ARTIFACT, inclusivity is a major theme that winds its way throughout our program.

Photo by Jopwell from Pexels
Benjamin Evans will talk about his efforts as the Inclusive Design Lead at AirBnB to create a user experience that does not alienate minority communities.
Accessibility expert Elle Waters will share best practices for integrating accessibility measures into our workflows..
We’ll also hear from David Dylan Thomas on how to recognize and address cognitive bias that can affect content and the overall user experience.

Even better performance

Visitors may also be turned away from our sites if pages take too long to load or use too much data. We know performance matters, yet sites on the whole grow more bloated with every passing year. Tim Kadlec (who knows more about performance than just about anybody) will examine the intersection of performance and inclusion in his talk “Outside Looking In” with lots of practical code examples for how to do better.
We’ll also look at performance through the lens of Progressive Web Apps (presented by Jason Grigsby of Cloud Four). In fact, improving performance is a subtext to many of our developer-oriented talks.

Leveraging the modern browser

In the Good News Department, another big change since the first ARTIFACT is that browsers offer a lot more features out of the box, allowing us to leverage native browser behavior and simplify our code (Viva Performance!). Chris Ferdinandi will be demonstrating exactly that in his talk “Lean Web Development,” where he’ll point out ways that taking advantage of built-in browser functionality and writing JavaScript for just the interactivity you need may make a big framework unnecessary.
Better native browser features also means un-learning some of our old coping mechanisms. We’ll get to delight at all the polyfills and workarounds that have been kicked to the curb since 2012 in Dave Rupert’s tale of “The Greatest Redesign Ever Told,” and we’ll see what best practices make sense going forward.

Workflow and process

One thing that hasn’t changed—and likely never will—is that never-ending hamster wheel of trying to keep up with an ever-changing web development landscape. I’m guessing that if you are reading CSS-Tricks right now, you know that feeling. The methods we use to build the web are always evolving with new tools, approaches, and possibilities, which is why best practices for adapting our workflows and processes have always been a central focus at ARTIFACT. This year is no different. Jen Simmons will share her thinking process for designing a CSS grid-based layout by live-coding a site before our very eyes.
Design systems, which have become a cornerstone of large-scale site production, get the treatment in talks by Kim Williams, Dan Mall, and Brad Frost. (Dan and Brad are also running their acclaimed “Designer + Developer Collaboration Workflow” workshop on October 2.)
Divya Sasidharan will show off the possibilities and performance advantages of static sites in her “JAMstackin” presentation
We’ll get a glimpse of the future of web animation from Sarah Drasner. (She’s bringing her popular “Design for Developers” workshop on October 2 as well).

The web can always do better to serve the people who use it. We’re proud to provide an occasion for designers and developers who care about putting their users front and center to mingle and share ideas. And yes, there will be milkshakes! The very best milkshakes.


ARTIFACT takes place in Austin, TX from September 30 to October 1, 2019 with workshops on October 2. Group discounts are available.