I was lucky enough to get to two workshops at this very well-organized conference in Denver (just an hour away, how could I not go?). One came free with my paid registration on Dec. 1 as a special deal; the other was a freebie from John Allsop by way of apology for some Paypal issues with my registration payment. So I got two for the price of, well, none…

First thing Monday morning after a not-too-unreasonable drive down from Fort Collins was Elliot Jay Stocks’ excellent talk about the design process. There were about 30 attendees; most called themselves designers (from freelancers to agency employees or in-house designers) and the rest were either developers or people brand new to the field, whether by choice or by necessity.

I was very pleased to learn that about 95% of Elliot’s process overlaps my own – or at least what my own would be given a large enough budget and enough time. A few things stood out as differences; most prominent were wireframes and prototypes.

I kind of do my wireframes in my head. I do sketch them out on paper, but I don’t really work these up in Photoshop or another tool, and I never present them to a client. I suppose if I had a really large project I would be more inclined to include this step but so far, I haven’t found it essential.

I’ve never done a working prototype. When I work up designs they’re in Photoshop and I send them to the client as .jpg’s or .pdf’s. Elliot’s ideas included using the .jpg as a background image for a simple web page, with invisible links over the clickable parts of the image so that the client could at least get a basic impression of how things would work.

I could do this. I’m not sure if it wouldn’t just confuse some clients who might think (as many in the room brought up) that the prototype was the final, finished web page. I can totally see that happening.

In any event I got some ideas on how to refine or fill out my own design process and it was well worth the four hours of workshop time.

More about the other workshop later.

WebVisions is coming up this week in Portland, Oregon. This will be my first time in Portland (or Oregon, for that matter) and the first web conference I’ve attended since starting my own business in 2005.

I’m looking through the session schedule, trying to determine which ones I’ll go to. I think I need a clone – it would certainly help. But for now I’ve narrowed it down to:

Day 1

  • The Importance of Emotional Connections in Web Design
  • Green Tech panel or Design for Video Game Marketing (!)
  • Social Media Strategies for Creatives or Responsible Web Design or Bleeding Edge RSS or Design is in the Details (here’s where I need three clones)
  • Drupal or User Experience Best Practices or Complementing IA with Instructional Design for Memorable Web Experiences

Day 2

  • Going Fast on the Slow Mobile Web or Visual & Creative Thinking
  • Open Source panel or CSS Transformation
  • Getting Started with Rails
  • What You Need to Know about IE8 and Standards

I guess I should check out the speakers for each of the ones I’m not sure about and make a decision based on who they are and what they do. But that’s not to say my schedule won’t change at the last minute if I hear something interesting…

A very productive May so far – two sites finished and launched, two new clients with signed contracts for mid-sized projects, several new hosting clients, and my business site now has a pagerank of 6.  I got a Blackberry this week and am now wondering why I waited so long. And I’m be going to the WebVisions conference in Portland in two weeks.

I got news of this today, and signed up for it.

On March 19-23, Microsoft is sponsoring a live/online event featuring a large number of speakers and sessions. You can attend any of them online; there are several tracks, like any live conference – security, business financing and money matters, marketing and IT.

I know that this will be heavily tainted with the essence of Microsoft, but it’s free, some of it sounds like it might be useful, and it won’t hurt to spend an hour or two checking it out.

The registration screen was pretty nifty – although I did not appreciate the long signup process after choosing my sessions. Typical.