From the moment I entered through the doors of Kings College London, the venue in Waterloo where two days worth of web standards and accessibility goodness was to take place, I could tell that this was a well organised event. Receiving the conference program, notepad and pen all inside a very fetching orange laptop bag (that would later be useful for spotting all the web standards geeks as they headed to the after show parties), a well dressed venue, and excellent catering facilities, highlighted the level of detail that went into the conferences presentation.
After a quick coffee (and trying to spot anyone familiar looking), it was on to the keynote speech given by one Mr. Zeldman. Titled The Greatest Story Never Told, Jeffery gave an insight into the beginnings of the web standards movement and the reasons it was started. Needless to say I think we owe the founders (and todays members) a big thank-you for make our lives at least a little bit easier, and hopefully more so in the months and years to come.
On the accessibility side of things, watching Robin Christopherson navigate some very poorly designed sites using a screen reader (he is blind) really brought home why we should take more responsibility when designing websites. Also worthy of mention were Joe Clark’s two very entertaining presentations that really highlighted some key problems and grey areas.
It would seem screen readers (JAWS being the most popular) not only behave differently between versions and even between point revisions, but the number of settings that a user can choose can really cause headaches when trying to create a site that is accessible to everybody regardless of browser device. This is definitely an area that I need to read more about, and it would be nice if we could get at a version of JAWS installed at work, making accessibility testing a key part of our production process.
My only gripe with @media was that many of the presentations were well below the expectations of the audience. I’m not sure whether this conference was aimed at those who use web standards, or those who should use web standards, but the later was certainly in force, meaning there was a lot of ‘teaching to suck eggs’.
This became very clear on day one with Andy Budd’s ‘Making the Jump to tableless design’. Upon asking how many people were still designing layouts using tables, only one person put their hand up. The finale to the event was Andy Clarke’s Anatomy of a Mouse – which looked like it was going to be more of the same – but he changed tack and entertained and delighted us all in his inimitable style.
We all know what XHTML tags we should be using, and we all know how flexible a tool CSS is for designing. The thirst for real world solutions using these technologies was obvious, and I have no doubt @media will be even better in 2006 in this respect.
Returning to the positive theme, the @media party on day one, and the @media wind down on day two were perhaps as important events as the conference itself. For many I guess meeting people and getting involved with the community on a face to face level is more of what these events are about.
For me, getting to see (and meet) a few of the stars of the community was a worthwhile experience, as you realise they are essentially just the same as you – and more importantly very friendly and easy to chat to. Sadly I only found the courage to do so after a few beers, yet managed to restrain my glee when talking to Douglas Bowman and Jon Hicks. It was quite funny talking to Jon, when I told him I was trying hard not to get over excited chatting to Doug Bowman that he was the same at SXSW earlier in the year – a good case in point.
Overall, the conference and the after show parties were a great opportunity to mingle with my peers, learn some new techniques, get a grip on accessibility and also meet people and make some new friends. The speakers were all of an excellent level, and for me learning of their little wordpl@y brought a little smile to my face and enhanced my experience more so. Here’s to @media 2006!