Jeremy Keith, author of books such as Resilient Web Design and Going Offline and co-founder/developer at design agency Clearleft, will present the keynote “The Way of the Web” at edUi 2018. We wanted to get to know him a little better, so we asked him a few questions.
edUi 2018 is our tenth conference! Thinking back to 2009, what has changed and what’s still true in our industry?
First of all, congratulations on ten years of edUi—that’s quite an achievement! Here at Clearleft, we just had the tenth edition of our UX London event, so I know how much effort it is to run something for so long—kudos!
2009 was an interesting time. The hype around the term “web 2.0” was finally dying down, and we were mostly just getting on with the task of building interactive websites (or “web apps”, if you prefer…which I don’t). We were also desperately trying to come to grips with mobile. Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design article was still a year away at this point, so there were all kinds of short-term strategies, like having separate mobile sites—often with drastically reduced functionality—that we would try to direct mobile devices to, using browser sniffing, which is always a bad idea.
But while designing for mobile was still in its infancy, the broader field of UX design was finally establishing itself. We had spent years trying to convince people that user-centred design mattered, and it was ’round about this time that it started to feel like that was happening.
Oh, and on the technical side, 2009 was when HTML5 was really starting to rumble. It would hit the mainstream a year later—along with responsive web design—but for those paying attention, 2009 was a good opportunity to test the waters. These days, we don’t really talk about HTML5, not because it wasn’t successful, but because it was *so* successful that it’s now taken for granted. I could imagine the same happening for UX design: I wouldn’t mind if it became so ubiquitous that it was simply understood to be part of the word “design.”
As for what’s still true in our industry, I always find it interesting to look for commonalities across different time periods. For example, in the 90s, we had to think about slow dialup connections, so we were very conscious of performance. But at some point, we forgot about that and started assuming that everyone had broadband. But when mobile exploded, we were caught off-guard—suddenly people were on slow connections again. So keeping performance in mind isn’t something that we should ever forget.
If your professional life was a movie title, what would it be and why?
Here’s a whole film festival…
- “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”
The story of making websites.
- “The Long Web”
In a world where everyone else seems to be intent on creating short-term business on the web just to get bought out by a bigger player, our protagonist persists in making projects that he maintains for decades.
In a world where there’s work to be done, one man can’t help goofing off on the internet all day.
The somewhat boring story of a middle-aged, white, heterosexual man playing life on its easiest setting.
In only three words or phrases, what is your worst UX story?
- Emerging market
- Performance budget
- Client-side React
What are you going to talk about at edUi 2018?
I’m going to talk about my relationship to new technologies. Whether it’s on the web or out in the wider world, I’ve noticed that I’m increasingly nervous—even fearful—about recent technological developments. And yet, there are plenty of areas where I still get quite excited about emerging technologies. I’m going to do a bit of self-analysis to figure out why my relationship with the future would be best described as “it’s complicated.”
What is the biggest misconception about past web tools and technologies?
I think a lot of people tend to think of technologies as successive waves. One technology is dominant and then a new technology comes along and supplants it—the kind of “fill-in-the-blank killer” that headline writers love.
The truth is that technology—like culture—is a process. New technologies don’t spring fully formed from the forehead of Zeus; they evolve from existing technologies.
In his book, What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly makes the claim that no technology has ever gone extinct. On the face of it, that seems like a ludicrous claim, but it’s verifiably true—someone, somewhere in the world is still using neolithic technology today.
William Gibson famously said that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. That’s equally true of the past. The past is still here, it’s just not evenly distributed.
About Jeremy Keith
Jeremy Keith lives in Brighton, England, where he makes websites with the splendid design agency Clearleft. You may know him from such books as DOM Scripting, Bulletproof Ajax, HTML5 For Web Designers, and, most recently, Resilient Web Design.
He curated the dConstruct conference for a number of years as well as Brighton SF, and he organized the world’s first Science Hack Day. He also made the website Huffduffer to allow people to make podcasts of found sounds—it’s like Instapaper for audio files.
Jeremy will present the keynote “The Way of the Web” at edUi 2018.
You can hear Jeremy and more than 50 other inspiring speakers talking all things UI and UX at the tenth annual edUi 2018, Oct. 8-10 in Charlottesville.