Web design and development uncovered at Microsoft ReMix 2008 UK

It’s been a good two days down here in Brighton at Microsoft ReMix 2008 UK. It’s a relatively small scale show but we’ve had some good insights into the construction process behind the way the web should be built, according to Microsoft.

It’s been a good two days down here in Brighton at Microsoft ReMix 2008 UK. It’s a relatively small scale show but we’ve had some good insights into the construction process behind the way the web should be built, according to Microsoft.

“Microsoft wants to be taken seriously when it talks about design,” enthused the company’s principal researcher Bill Buxton during the opening keynote. Buxton delivered the most impassioned tech speech I’ve ever seen – seriously, it was Ballmer goes crazy level. Good though.

With lots of obvious parallels to the construction industry, we were told time and time again that you don’t build and then design afterwards. Slapping a GUI on at the end isn’t good planning and we should design before we build. Not exactly revolutionary stuff, but good to hear none the less

We had the most fabulous presentation from a chap called Robin Christopherson who is head of accessibility services at AbilityNet. This guy presented to a hushed audience for an hour on how people with “impairments” such as the blind or deaf should be able to use the web if developers and designers would only build it properly.

He was funny, engaging, slightly camp (although married – but then, this is Brighton) and after 45 minutes said, “Well, I don’t use a keyboard because I can’t see a bean!” I tell you, every jaw in the room dropped – he was so proficient with his laptop when presenting and he kept his eyes open, we had no idea.

Other OSs are, apparently, years behind Microsoft in accessibility – and that’s from a blind man with blind sister with MS that uses the web to run her life. Stirring stuff.

There’s a new BSI next year that will drive all web sites to have to be accessibility compliant – it’s called BS8878.

Obviously we’re also being fed heaps of stuff on Silverlight 2, which is “out soon” and there’s plenty to dig into in terms of the connections to .NET 3.5 SP1. New features abound as does support for JavaScript debugging and JavaScript Intellisense. The list goes on…

There’s a big design theme going on here – and the take home is that designers are a special part of the development process. Although everyone thinks they can “do” design, it takes a professional - as follows:

“Design has to be a priority for everybody in the company – not the job of everybody in the company, just the priority.”

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