Back in April, I requested through my boss at the time to attend a web development conference called HandHeld. It promised to be a great event, with speakers including Jeremy Keith and Jeffrey Zeldman. I was lucky to have this request approved, and therefore spent two nights away last week attending this great event, held at the Millennium Centre at Cardiff. Before the main event on the Thursday, I went along to a pre-conference event on the Wednesday evening. It consisted of several 20 minute talks on Arduino experiments, NodeCopter demo's and the like. Very interesting stuff - I've never seen a JavaScript-programmed drone bouncing to dub-step before! Thursday saw the conference proper take place. Starting bright and early, the audience played Guess Who? using SMS and lasers - nothing specific to take away here, as it was more of an exercise to get the audience engaged at the start of the day. In between each talk was a small feature or comedic interlude, featuring everything from the Welsh national anthem being played Hendrix-style on the guitar through to gymnasts climbing high into the air. For me, Bruce Lawson's comedic guitar performances and the open letter to the industry were spot-on. I've summarised the talks given during the conference below:

The Long Web - Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith is someone I first had the pleasure of meeting back in 2005 when I worked for a large Swiss agri-business during my industrial placement year at university. Jeremy gave a talk entitled "The long web", with the major theme being about introducing longevity in to everything we do when developing for the web. The main theme is one that resonates with responsive deign principles: You cannot predict what device someone is using. He goes on to talk about making web pages work at any time, past and future.

Icon Design Process - Jon Hicks

Jon Hicks is the guy behind the FireFox logo. He has designed for large clients around the world, including such names as Shopify. He runs a studio based in Oxfordshire. Why use custom icon fonts? Why don't we use custom icon fonts? Why make your own icon fonts? The Icon Audit Before the icon font creation process can begin, an "icon audit" first needs to be carried out. This is used to: The 3 elements to an icon font Useful services: Lastly - don't forget to add the following attribute to any HTML element being used as a "hook" for an icon: aria-hidden="true"

The Business of Responsive Web Design - Mark Boulton

Mark Boulton, of Mark Boulton Design, gave a talk about what responsive web design means. Responsive Web Design is about CHANGE. That change is broken down into three areas: Content, Process and "The Trend". These are described below: Content Process  The Trend

Carefully Everywhere - Brendan Dawes

Brendan Dawes is a data visualiser. He advocates the use of data to tell stories. A few key points from what was a demo-heavy presentation:

When responsive sites work as well as a chocolate iPhone - Ling Valentine

Quite possibly the best entrance to a talk I've ever seen. Ling Valentine arrived in a BBC Dalek, being pushed on stage by Andy Clarke and Jon Hicks. Upon popping the lid she gave a superbly comedic speech about how mobile experiences have to be tailored. She runs a car-leasing business, and therefore she has a lot of information that people would naturally want to research. Her desktop experience is the only practical medium to do this, and therefore her "mobile site" is actually a few gimmicks with the serious intention of directing folk to her desktop website. She's generating a net profit of £400,00 a year, so it must be right. Key points from her talk:

Building the HandHeld Conference Website - Eddie Machado

Eddie Machado was tasked with building the 2013 website for HandHeld, and he shared his experiences in doing so. Key points to take away: He shared some useful resources he found along the way too:

How to call your client an idiot without getting fired - Andy Clarke

Andy Clarke, author of Hardboiled Web Design and owner of Stuff and Nonsense, gave a talk without using slides about his experiences in dealing with clients. In summary, his points for effective client relationships and steady project progression are as follows:

Ten Commandments of Modern Web Design - Jeffrey Zeldman

The father of web standards, Jeffrey Zeldman, gave the closing presentation of HandHeld Conference 2013. Entitled "The Commandments of Modern Web Design", Jeffrey gave one of the best presentations I've ever heard. Here's the commandments in all their glory.
  1. Entertain
    • Say "hi" to users.
    • Draw and make things. Make a style. Use yourself.
    • a 404 is an opportunity to entertain
  2. Test everything (including assumptions)
  3. Iterate
    • Make things better. Constantly. By was of little nudges in functionality.
  4. Ship
  5. Engage thy community
  6. Love thy user as thy self
    • Don't assume what users want
    • Assume prioritisation however
  7. Remember content and keep it holy
    • Right content, to the right user, at the right time
  8. Make magic
    • But don't chase perfection
  9. Prioritise
  10. Be true to yourself
    • If you have perfection, leave it at that!


Sadly, it was announced that the 2013 HandHeld conference was to be the last. A shame really, given that 1200 conference-goers walked away re-energised about how great developing for the web is. I for one am feeling great about the skills I have and the work that I do. Developing for the web is an exciting place to be right now, with its rapid pace of advancement showing no slow-down.