FOWA Expo 07 report

The FOWA Expo was more business oriented then the previous one (Expo extension is for sponsor’s stands on the entrance to the hall, where some interesting product/service demos were held). A vast majority of talks were about lessons learned and dos and don’ts when it comes to startups.

On to presentations… or better yet, speakers

Super-optimistic Chief Performance Yahoo! Steve Sounders, the author of YSlow for Firebug, confirmed what Nate Koechley first introduced at @media this Spring about speeding-up web pages.

You can’t fight the numbers and High Performance Web Sites surely whipped some shocking ones out. I already saw some of the graphs at YUI Blog earlier, but many attendees were left surprised.

Following the High Performance directions, any site can be 50% leaner within a few hours. Given the fact that the companies/organizations invest considerable amounts of money into hardware infrastructure and/or back-end development (for instance, a development of an advanced caching system), it is just silly to skip this first and the easiest step in optimizing site’s performance.

If you’re ready to start making faster web pages, but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to buy a book.

Robin Christopherson, a Web Consultant at AbilityNet, held pretty impressive demonstration about how visually challenged people use the internet. Listening to screen reader playing the endless strings of meaningful text was scary, but at the same time enlightening experience.

The curiosity of the session was – it takes approx. 20 minutes for screen reader to start reading the main content on, because they simply didn’t provide skip to main content link.

Daniel Burka, a lead creative behind Digg and Pownce was a true refreshment. His presentation about community feedback was honest and authentic. He was surprisingly patient to rivers of attendees, without a blink of celebrity pretending. Thanks to his feet standing firmly on the ground, we’ve collected some pretty valuable tips & tricks during the informal discussions afterwards.

Erika Hall from Mule Design in her Copy is Interface gave a bunch of great examples of how careless choice of copy used on the site’s interface can make a site either miss-interpreted or completely blunt. She also pointed out that without knowing your users/audience, it’s difficult to come with the right choice.

The sweet desert of the second day was a survival/essential startup session by Feedburner co-founder Dick Costolo. He extended the presentation well over his minutes, but with a good reason and greatly approved by the crowd.

Launch Late to Iterate Often provided a great insight in common pitfalls in the first year or so of a projects life-span. Pointers like Ask for money when you have it, There’s no such thing as a Standard Deal and Flat Organization are just a few of 14 selected bullets I wrote down; and there was even more… What’s more important – he covered every thesis with a valid example.

All in all, many bits collected and a few randoms I will hopefully post in the next couple of days. In a mean-time, check out the available presentations at SlideShare.

Marko Dugonjić is a designer specialized in user experience design, web typography and web standards. He runs a nanoscale user interface studio Creative Nights and organizes FFWD.PRO, a micro-conference and workshops for web professionals.

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