Frontend United is awesome

Frontend United is a non-profit, developer-first, community-focused conference. It is held every year in a different European city and this time it was Utrecht in the Netherlands’ turn. I was lucky enough to attend it along with some 400 people and several dozen more that joined remotely from India, Rwanda, Thailand, and Suriname.

Group photo at Frontend United 2018

Questions were organized using sli.do, which gave everyone a shot at getting additional insights from the speakers. Of all the questions submitted, the most popular ones would get posed at the end of a session. Which shows, yet again, how Frontend United strives to make the event as inclusive as possible. That purpose and positive energy could be felt throughout the conference.

Browsers are awesome

Sessions began with Harry Robert’s excellent keynote on CSS and performance. From comfy cinema armchairs (main venue is a cinema), several jaws dropped as we learned that content can be rendered progressively by including link tags in body. Firefox, Edge, IE, and very soon Chrome, will only block the rendering of subsequent content, and there’s absolutely no cons or even fallbacks needed.

Although we as developers dream about browsers supporting all the latest web specs in a consistent fashion, we are faced with a more complex reality. That said, I am more and more impressed by how smart browsers are becoming, and in turn by the incredible work that the people developing them do.

Simona Cotin gave a fantastic talk about Progressive Web Apps and all the options already available. On a side note, she explained how they came to fruition. Apparently back in 2015, wife and husband Frances Berriman and Alex Russell were out for dinner and while discussing the web and what would make it even more marvelous (as one does), they came up with the concept and coined the term.

Another example of how browsers work hard on making the web as usable as possible came with Cristina Chumillas’ session about responsive images. She explained the difference between scaling images and art direction, and went into detail about what information needs to be provided for browsers to do the math and still show high quality images. Catering for different devices in a responsible and creative manner is crucial as the landscape just keeps changing, as we saw this past week when Apple announced that the WebKit browsing engine is being ported to watchOS.

CSS is awesome

No, I’m not being sarcastic. Hidde de Vries explored doing graphic design in CSS as we now have many properties and techniques that have the potential to revolutionise how content is displayed and make external libraries obsolete. Plus, it is a lot of fun! Aga Naplocha shared how she got her creative juices flowing back by borrowing inspiration from print designs, and encouraged everyone to escape the trappings of generic-looking designs.

It was also very interesting and almost liberating to hear Charlie Owen note that many of the criticisms directed at CSS boil down to devs not understanding or wanting to deal with the cascade. Undesired leaking can be avoided with well-structured CSS, it’s talking to people that is hard.

Charlie Owen speaking at Frontend United 2018

The web is awesome

But making sure it is for everybody, is the responsibility of everyone involved. At the event’s closing session, Heydon Pickering made sure that we revisit our priorities when making websites, all while making people laugh hard along the way. To facilitate building better user interfaces, he’s created a library of inclusive components.

Keydon Pickering speaking at Frontend United 2018

People are awesome

On the first day, after lunch, I snuck into the hotel for a quick nap (my already late flight got delayed by four hours and a lightning storm joined us along the way, but that’s a story for another time). I ended up not being able to sleep. My brain was too active from all the cool information it had received, and that was just the first morning.

But what truly makes Frontend United so remarkable, besides the content itself, is the people. Organizers, volunteers, speakers and attendees. It was great to get to chat with a few of them, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s edition!

June 7, 2018
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