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Long attention span

Today I gave a one hour lecture at the Mediacollege in Amsterdam for a group of design and development students, their teachers and some invited professionals. I talked about new defaults in web design (the presentation is in Dutch), the idea that the old habits we have when designing for the web are not as useful anymore. The talk usually consists of five sections. One about the old assumptions, and four about new defaults: activate instead of hover, small screens instead of desktops, content instead of cruft, and command line instead of, well, nothing. I chose to leave out the command line part and replace it with a live coding demo of creating two semantically correct monsters that shoot lasers out of their eyes. I was told that kids have a short attention span, so this sounded like a more attractive way to end the lecture.

The talk went a bit faster than I had planned. After half an hour I started with the laser monster bit and fifteen minutes later I was answering some very good question. But still, after the questions I had some time left. I was very happily surprised with the last question. A student asked me if I could just continue the talk and tell them about why I think designers should be involved in creating functionality on the command line. And why they should be involved in choosing the right CMS for the job. All the other students nodded their head. So I told them about CMS’es, and that designers should be involved in choosing the right one. And I told them that they should start using the command line and that they really don’t have to be afraid of it. I borrowed the brilliant example that Stephen Hay uses in his talks where he compares the friendlines of a terminal window to the intimidating interface of Photoshop. I told them that designers should partner up with a nerd, and that nerds should partner up with a designer.

I really enjoyed giving this talk. It could be that kids have a short attention span, but obviously not when you talk about web design, semantically correct lasers and the command line.


    • Nick
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    The lecture was great! It was really informative with humour to keep it alive. I learned a lot in that one hour and it was a real motivation boost!

    • Vasilis
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    Hi Nick. I’m very happy to hear that you liked my talk, thanks!