Dayspring Takeaways from SmashingConf 2019

When we build custom software for our customers they rely on us to help them choose the best technologies and trust that we utilize industry best practices. Because of this, we work hard to keep up with the latest technological trends to help ensure the success of our projects. Since one of our focuses is UI and human-centric applications, we sent a couple of our developers and one of our primary UX designers to SmashingConf 2019, a tech conference dedicated to front-end web development and UX Design, to learn from some of the best web developers and designers.

We came away having learned and thought about many new things. Three highlights were:

Accessibility matters

Sara Soueidan, a leader in accessibility conversations in the front-end world, led both a workshop and a conference talk on the importance of web accessibility. A conservative estimate is that 4.5 million people in the US alone rely on screen readers to access the web. If your software or website is not accessible, you will be at risk of alienating millions of internet users because they are unable to access important buttons, interactions, or labels! Sara taught us about aria tags and conventions that adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The A11Y Project gives even more insight into the importance of making modern websites and applications accessible.

In addition to caring for your users, there are also very practical reasons to keep your developers up-to-date with accessibility standards and prioritizing accessibility from the get-go for your applications and websites.

  • It makes future refactoring projects much less painful if you build with accessibility in mind from the beginning.
  • You are protected from legal implications and potential lawsuits.
  • And finally – as the world population ages (some estimates project that the number of people over the age of 80 will triple by 2050), it will become even more important to keep your web app accessible to all.

Exciting New Development Tools

As the ways people access the web change, so do our web applications, and therefore our techniques. At SmashingConf 2019 we had the opportunity to learn about the latest updates to a number of up-and-coming technologies. The most significant were:

CSS Grid

Similar to Flexbox, CSS Grid is forecasted to be a powerful tool in managing 2D layouts that traditionally were accomplished through other hacks. It allows more granular control over the section layouts of your web pages.

Service Workers

Provides rich offline experiences even when your connection is broken. By installing a “worker” in between your app and your server, even when a user’s online connection is interrupted, they can continue to use your app in a meaningful way until connection is restored.

Variable Fonts and CSS Variables

Already used in one of our projects, we’ve experimented with using Variable Fonts for fluid font resizing. Traditionally, if your webpage required five different styles of fonts, you would need to import five sets of fonts. With Variable Fonts and CSS, it’s possible to only import one font and control the rest with CSS, thereby reducing the size of assets you need to send to your user.

We’re also keeping an eye on Brotli Compression, WebP Image Formatting, WebAssembly, and HTTP/3 – These technologies, though not yet ubiquitously adopted, may pave the way for more efficient compression or browser rendering. Smaller sizes for your data and code ensure faster loading times and ultimately better experiences for users.

Improvements for Dayspring Partners

  • We are always looking for tools to improve our workplace and project teams. One of our devs really liked Pattern Lab. We are now experimenting with it as a cross-collaboration tool between devs and designers allowing a real demo of our custom software at every stage of the development process. We are excited that it can also speed up developing time.
  • We’re thinking about when and how having a design system in place would be helpful, standardizing CSS with ideologies like BEM or SMACCS. We want to be forward looking and keep front-end performance in mind to better serve our users.
  • We enjoyed a delightful talk by Jennifer Brook and David Simon about how to create an inclusive and collaborative culture in the workplace. Culture matters, and a better collaborative culture leads to better ideas and better work on behalf of our customers.

Check out the rest of the resources from SmashingConf 2019 here!

Our developers had a great time, learned a lot, and look forward to using these learnings to serve our customers better.

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