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Last week, Web Design Day was hosted in my awesome hometown of Pittsburgh, it would be a crime if I didn’t attend – one of the best conferences a mere two blocks away. The annual meeting was a fully packed day of learning new techniques & processes, listening to other’s career insights, and networking. It was my second time attending and I was ready to learn. (Check out my learnings from last year’s conference.)

Right from the start, a talk given by Jen Simmons made me completely rethink all of the web layouts I have ever created…and cringe just a little bit. She focused on how we can create more modern web layouts that tell better stories by drawing inspiration from editorial design and film. But, how can we do this when we’re limited as web designers with how we can design? Jen states, “We’re making the design fit the tools rather than making the tools fit the design.” She then introduces a solution to this problem by demonstrating a lot of really amazing new CSS properties that are on the way to being fully supported: drop caps, viewport units, object fit, clip path, CSS shapes, and – saving the best for last – CSS grids. Check out some of these new tools in action at her website: labs.jensimmons.com

“We’re making the design fit the tools rather than making the tools fit the design.”

Eric Meyer had the daunting task of speaking right before lunch when people were itching to stand up and gobble down food, but his talk was so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop. He spoke about the importance of creating better user stories based on his personal experiences of navigating the web while in crisis. He recommends creating stories around users in different states of mind during different times of the day. For example, his user stories focused around 3 personas that were each feeling differently: happy, stressed, and in crisis. He repeated the tasks for each of those 3 people while thinking about what they might be feeling in the morning, the afternoon, and the night to achieve a more accurate study. He says that rather than assuming your user will be a joyful, stress-free, stock-photo-worthy person, we need to assume and design for someone whose is feeling something other than perfect.

Lastly, many speakers talked about the importance of empathy in communication. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “empathy” spoken so frequently in one day. They stressed the importance of learning to communicate with people better by trying to understand how they might be feeling, understanding their perspective, and practicing better listening. They concluded that empathetic communication has helped their teams to function and interact more smoothly.

Tina Castillo
Tina Castillo
Senior Designer & Front End Developer

A web developer and designer who loves to merge form with function, Tina specializes in user-interface design and front-end development. She has previously worked as a web developer at the University of Pittsburgh and a web design instructor at CCAC. She has built and launched many award-winning websites for the university’s schools and departments. At Smith Brothers Agency, she works on almost every digital account - working with the team to create and maintain our websites. She holds a B.A. in Digital Media Arts and a M.S. in Media Technology from Duquesne University.