External Events

Celebrating everything Front-End at Frontier

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Frontier is a new conference in London’s Skills Matter CodeNode, showcasing the full-spectrum of front-end development. Frontier promised to cover a wide range of topics within front-end, including:

Skills Matter CodeNode

  • User Psychology & Experience
  • Design
  • Style (CSS)
  • Development
  • Future Tech
  • Typography
  • and, importantly, Inspiration

And it didn’t disappoint!

Frontier provided seven very different speakers over a wide range of topics, while maintaining a strong consistent message that front-end development should be beautiful, impactful and simple.

First up (following some delicious pastries), was Aral Balkan and his talk on surveillance capitalism and the business of farming human beings. It was an exciting and eye opening talk about how we, as developers, can work together to build ourselves a better future, with some concerning ideas about what may happen if we don’t.

Following Aral was a typography talk by Richard Rutter, with one key message:

“Web design is 95% typography.”

– Oliver Reichenstein

It is only logical to say that a web designer should get good training in the main discipline of shaping written information, in other words:

“Every web designer should be trained in typography.”

The day progressed with talks on Flexbox, by Zoe M. Gillenwater, and the nifty tricks you can use for progressive enhancement of your website, and the story of Sidetracked magazine, by John Summerton.

These talks were especially interesting as we have recently released the Emerging Technology website which uses many of the techniques described, including Flexbox as progressive enhancement. The new website showcases all of our demos through an engaging visual catalogue and we will be taking on board the typography lessons learnt at Frontier to keep improving that experience.


After lunch we jumped straight in the deep end with Ben Foxall and his live social coding talk using cojs. CoJS at first appears a simple in browser text editor with JS rendered in an iframe, but this all changes when you find out you can broadcast your work so people can follow along or even write code with you. The talk had everyone on their phones and using the Web Audio API with Ben’s keyboard we could play tunes through everyone in the audience’s phones.

Ben’s talk felt very familiar to me as I have recently released the Controlled English Editor, an online tutorial and playground which allows a user to build Controlled English models in the browser and see their model visualised in real-time. I spoke to Ben following his talk to discuss his implementation of CoJS and the CE-Editor, which resulted in a new plan to integrate CodeMirror as the text editor allowing me to create a custom syntax and easily enable useful editor capabilities like tab completion which have previously been unavailable for any Controlled English environment.

Following Ben’s enthusiasm would be a difficult task for anyone, but Ross Chapman managed to engage us yet again with a talk about bringing design and development together.

“Putting the user first starts with your team.”

This talk was very close to home with IBM’s own transformation into Design Thinking and prompted some interesting discussions about the values of wireframing!

Dean Taylor followed with an engaging Design talk with a remarkable focus on door handles and old radios.

“Don’t make me think.”

“Don’t make me think” was the slide that Dean kept coming back to throughout the talk. Meaning, a user doesn’t care about positive or negative interactions with your UI, a user wants the UI to be invisible so they can reach through the technology to accomplish something.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-14-00-21Finally, with a very extravagant entrance, Ruth John put on an exciting explosion of visual effects controlled through music as she told us how to become a Street VJ (visual jockey). Visualisations were parameterised using the music frequency to create artistic designs. CSS blends and filters were used to create different visuals, which could be switched between using a Midi controller.

Overall I had a fantastic time at Frontier, and will hopefully go again in the future to watch the conference grow!

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