Webstock is New Zealand’s largest web focused conference. In 2015 it was yet again an awesome experience. The quality of the speakers and the variety of topics was fantastic. Speakers came from Australia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and the US, and there was a good gender balance of 8 female speakers to 13 male ones. The two days left my brain exhausted, but happy.
I’ve been asked to pick my top five talks to recap, and getting this list down to only five speakers was a hard task! Here are my picks, in chronological order:
Des Traynor – Product Strategy and Customer Success
Des had a lot of good points on how hard it is to manage the scope of continued development of a product that's in production already. There are a lot of conflicting requests that you'll be met with, and you have to remember that generally people value new functionality the most before you've built it, don't care that much once it's available, and will say that you're killing the product if you take it away. The important information is who is using what and how often, because the more features you add, the harder it gets to use your core features.
If you've never said "no" because of your product vision, then you don't have a vision.
Matthew Patterson – Customer Service and the Chamber of Secrets
Matthew talked about the tendency for customer feedback to get stuck in an organisation and never make it to the people who can act on it. Customer service people often know more about the customers' needs than the product developers or managers, so it's essential that they are heard, and heard early. He also stressed the importance of communicating with your customer service team so that they can provide correct information to customers, such as when a solution to their issue is coming.
Kate Kiefer Lee – Writing in the Real World
Kate gave a practical talk on writing in a professional setting, with lots of tips on adjusting your tone depending on the content type and the reader's feelings. She said that your first draft should be bad and messy, and then you roll up your sleeves and fix it. An important thing to keep in mind is the Curse of Knowledge - your readers don't know what you know, but you don't realise it. One strategy to help overcome it is to imagine you're writing for someone you know, like your mom, which will help you avoid jargon or buzzwords. Say what you mean and say it nicely.
Derek Featherstone – Designing for context, not the device
Derek's was one of the talks that seemed to cover the obvious, yet was so novel. He talked a lot about context priority that changes over time or depending on distance. Very few websites take it into consideration, and yet there is no technological reason for not doing it. For example, an event website could display ticket booking information prominently leading up to the event, but on the day, the home page could redirect to the schedule page, as that's the most likely reason for people to visit that site at this point.
Kim Goodwin – The values are the experience
Another talk that brought up a lot of thought-provoking points. How we behave in our jobs, or how companies behave, is based on values, not analytics. We may claim to have some values, but how we act reveals the real ones. A statement like "we don't have time to do user research" is not a statement of fact, but a statement about values - we don't value user research enough to give it the time that we're spending doing something else.
Janet Crawford – The Surprising Neuroscience of Gender Inequality
Janet was one of the best speakers, not just in terms of the topic, but speaking skills as well. She talked about our subconscious gender bias, and it was scary how much it happens and we don't even know it. She gave an example of a CV being reviewed by groups of students: the same CV, but some students received it with a female first name, and some with a male one. The male applicant was described as strong and ambitious, and other positive terms and the female one as bossy and power-hungry, and other negative terms. This starts very early on, with mothers overestimating the skills of their sons, and underestimating the skills of their daughters.
More Webstock goodness
To check out the rest of the speakers for Webstock 2015 and view videos from past talks head to the Webstock website. Recordings from this year will be released shortly. Our header image is used with thanks to Webstock, for more photos from the conference check out their Flickr.