On the demise of Future of Web Design…

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I just spotted that Future of Web Design has been cancelled and the company responsible seems to have filed for bankruptcy. Sad but I’m not surprised.

I went there a few times and I’d considered going this year but was put off by high ticket prices. Add that to the cost of a London hotel for a few days and the fact that there are now plenty of smaller local conferences and unless you’re working for a big company you’d struggle to persuade your boss that it justified the expense.

The first few years were great and a real credit to the organisers at the time (the event was sold off a few years ago). I’d leave with at least one or two ideas that I could put into practice and generate a return on my employers investment. But something changed. The last couple of times I’d left with no new ideas to justify the cost. The speaker list became dominated by freelancers intent on building their personal brand. That’s to be expected, but the problem was the lack of quality. I didn’t see why a particular speaker was worthy of a place on the lineup when I’d looked at their work.

I grew tired of seeing presentations by UX ‘experts’ who behaved like evangelical preachers. Affecting exaggerated joy and glee when describing a nice example of interface design. And then raining down fire and brimstone on some poor bastard who designed a lift button he didn’t like in Prague.

The final straw for me was the workshop. I’d enjoyed the previous ones by Molly Holzschlag, and I remember a really good one by Aarron Walter from Mailchimp. But the last one I went to? It was run by two guys who talked a really good game but if you checked out their website you’d really scratch your head as to why on earth they were sitting up there as self-appointed experts. They relied on a gift of the gab and gimmicks to disguise a lack of anything new to say. They’d dole out sweets, and hand out random objects to ‘inspire’ people during the group work. The workshop was written the day before (it showed), but this wasn’t because they were lazy and were taking us for mugs. It was apparently because they ‘wanted the material to be as fresh as possible’– how’s that for spin?

And then the group work started. A collection of random objects were handed round to the different groups – I can’t remember exactly why, I think there was some nonsense about how they were supposed to be inspiring in some way. I just remember a young web designer in our group eagerly tapping away at a typewriter with a look of awe and glee on his face. He’d never used one before.

At that point I buggered off to the pub.

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