Information and Insights from Sessions at SXSW in Austin, TX

Lie to Me: CSS3 Demystified by Haakon Wium Lie

Posted: March 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | 1 Comment »

Tuesday, March 13 – 11:00AM -12:00PM
Håkon Wium Lie CTO Opera Software

CSS Timeline

  • 1994 – Cascading HTML style sheets
  • 1996 CSS1
  • 1998 CSS2
  • 2012 CSS3 Where is it??

HTML has a simple structure, universal semantics, media-independent. It doesn’t have any presentation until the image tag arrived. Somehow the image tag took away the true text. The answer to this was CSS.


  • border-radius
  • box-shadow

Example: The menu on is currently done with images – it could be done fully in CSS3. The problem is (and probably the reason Apple has not done it with CSS3) older browsers do not support this.

  • @font-face (this has existed since CSS2)

CSS3 Transitions

  • transition: 1s; transform: rotate(-360deg);


  • The acid 2 test was created to test browser compatibility with CSS. This put pressure on Microsoft to handle CSS correctly. In IE8, they finally did it.

Paging the Web

  • Opera Reader takes a long web page and gets rid of the scroll. It cuts it up into pages.
  • overflow: paged; is the tag that the Opera Reader recognizes.

Slides and Code Available

Al Gore and Sean Parker Conversation

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Al Gore and Sean Parker Conversation

I sat in on an interesting conversation between former vice president Al Gore and Napster creator Sean Parker about how technology could be used to hack democracy. They talked a lot about their current endeavors as well as things the two of them have done in the past, but the take-away message was encouraging participants to figure out a way to communicate political information via the web without any sort of red or blue slant. It needs to be neutral, and at its core help to make voters more informed on issues without all the noise that seems to make its way into politics.

Cnet put together a good (more detailed) write-up of the session.

IMAG0582 IMAG0581

Auto Meets Mobile: Building In-Vehicle Apps

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Auto Meets Mobile: Building In-Vehicle Apps

Monday, March – 12 3:30PM – 4:30PM
Michelle Avary Natl Mgr Toyota Motor CorporationZach Brand Sr Dir Tech NPR

Telematics: When the vehicle is aware of its location and can engage in 2-way conversation.

Telematic Features/Services

  • Safety & Security (onstar)
  • Navigation Assistance
  • Diagnostics
  • Convenience/Info Service (fuel prices/traffic)
  • Entertainment

Experience in Cars will Change

  • Control + Choice + Ubiquity
  • 70% of people say apps are critical to next smartphone purchase


  • Fragmentation – 15 car manufacturers in the USA with their own systems. 4320 fragmentation to deal with.
  • HMI (human machine interface) – steering wheel controls, voice, mouse-type controls
  • All vehicle components must be built to withstand conditions similar to those experienced in a jet plane (these systems are expensive).

Customer Conundrum

  • Vehicle decisions are made by the heart, and smartphone decisions are made by the brain.

Criteria for App Selection

  • Facilitates safe driving behaviors
  • Enhances driving and ownership experience
  • Allows for enjoyable personalized experience
  • Demonstrates strong brand harmony

Own the Media. Or the Media Will Own You

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Own the Media. Or the Media Will Own You

Monday, March 12 – 11:00AM -12:00PM
Cristina Monteiro Mktg Mgr PepsiCo
Lucas Mello CEO Live AD
Mauro Silva Creative Director Live AD
Ricardo Guerra Head of Consumer Channels Banco Itau

The Rise of Own Media
New digital technologies
Impact of startup culture on brands
Facebook fanpages, a new friendly environment for brands.

Nike Brazil Project:

They connected runners in a massive relay race to proximity sensors for social networks. Sensors on shoes registered checkins. Confessional video booths were set up for runners for them to record testimonials across the race. They were watched by all the runners’ friends. The user-created "Own Media" really made this campaign work.

  • @NikeCorre has 169k followers
  • Facebook Page: 297k fans
  • Influencers group with 3k runners

This project was possible because people are no longer only consumers. They transformed the culture and made the campaign work.

Doritos Brazil

Doritos are not as big in Brazil as they are in the US. Doritos owns 99% of the chip market in Brazil.

Doritos uncut contest
Start a story, friends continue story, the story with the most likes gets turned into a story board. The most popular story gets turned into an animated video and the winner gets a trip to Hollywood.

  • 58k fans in 5 weeks.

Summer Promotion
Upload the "worst summer photo" ever. The winner gets a big box of Doritos.
They picked up 142k fans with the contest.


  • You must know your brand well. Make sure you are relevant to your customers.
  • Create a Digital Culture internally.
  • Marry your agency. The more the agency knows about your business and brand strengths and weaknesses the more it will help.

A Brief History of the Complete Redesign of Google

Posted: March 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on A Brief History of the Complete Redesign of Google

Sunday, March 11 – 5:00PM – 6:00PM
Evelyn Kim Visual Designer Google IncJon Wiley Lead Designer for Google Search Google IncMichael Leggett Design Lead, Google Apps Google IncNicholas Jitkoff User Experience Designer Google Inc

In the summer of 2011, Google completely redesigned nearly all of its applications to be more focused, elastic, and effortless. For the first time in Google’s history, hundreds of millions of users could use a suite of products – from Search and Maps to Gmail, Docs, and Calendar – with a unified, modern look and feel. Join the designers who led the effort for war stories and lessons learned in bringing beauty to Google’s flagship products.

This isn’t going to be just the story of a redesign, but the story or priority of design at Google.

It is difficult to design holistically across the brand when everyone is in silo with their own products. The latest redesign is one of the first collaborations between all those different groups.

Google stood out originally because of everything they didn’t put on their home page. It’s very simple and clean.

There was a big redesign in 2011, but there was a “secret redesign” in 2007.

2007 – Kanna:

A small group of 6 designers started to explore and express the Google brand (Kanna – Icelandic “to explore”) across the org. They explored the connection between design and engineering. Four different designs created:

  • Modesty and Minimalism
  • Fun with color and personality
  • Organization (more like desktop apps)
  • Daring – differentiate products by color

How it was presented:
Kanna did not launch. When it was presented, it was shown on a projector.

The Verge has a gallery of photos showing this 2007 design that never was.

2011 – Strawman:

The team was chosen because of their lack of connection and history with any of the smaller groups or history of Google.

Redesign called “Strawman”
Larry Page IM’d the team “if you were to redesign Google, what would it look like?” They were unclear on if it was even a real thing. If it was real, it needed to be done quickly. They did a “design sprint.” They could just jump ahead without any sort of internal fighting based on history.

10-12 screens were chosen representative of Google products and before/after shots were created.

How it was presented:
When Strawman was presented, it was done on 11×17 80lb paper. It just included the before and after shots. The thought was the presentation would be new to the group and stand out. This redesign actually had an opinion.

Started in January, Larry became CEO in April, and told them to launch it in Summer (very very very quickly). The team didn’t even think it was possible. The project name became “Kennedy.” Google Plus had already been in the works, and had to pick up the new design very quickly.

A prototype was created to test the design across the organization. They would swap out CSS on top of simple HTML mock-ups for all products. The prototype allowed them to demo things to the team and play with different variations and show the grid etc. “It felt like a roller coaster only the latches didn’t go down.”

A lot of attention was paid to the buttons and their hover state. The buttons fade out (218 milliseconds, which is one of the designer’s birthday).

What were they after?
Don’t just bring together for consistency, but also boost the feeling that it’s all one thing that works together. It was not intentional that the Google products were spread out, this design brings them all together.

How was it rolled out?
The prototype was so successful that engineers started grabbing the CSS from it (scary) as it was changing. They ended up creating a really large style guide that they could take it. It helped the engineers engage more. It helped to get buy-in when they could actually go out and see it and use it. Many properties just built based on what they saw, which make it a very smooth roll-out. Voice just went out and did the new design on their own and handled it with very few changes. They held “design office hours.” Everyone was really into it and wanted to help.

Manage Risk and Measuring Success
(Google likes data)
Qualitative research: 80 participants were shown a variety of screens which included both the old and new design for 10 seconds each… just to get an impression. The participants were asked to rank the design on a randomized set of 15 out of 30 attributes (simple, sparse, modern, clean, etc.). The emotions they got out of it were the goals they had, and goals that Google was known for. The research told them they were heading in the right direction

Quantitative research: because there are billions of queries each day, there are many experiments going on. Google can make statistically significant fine-grained measurement for many things. The new design was tested on many users.

Eating our own dog food: Rolled out to Google internally.

“The company has made additional refinements… that reflect a newfound respect for the intangible.” -Khoi Vinh

Simplify CSS Development with Sass & Compass

Posted: March 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Simplify CSS Development with Sass & Compass

Sunday, March 11 – 3:30PM – 4:30PM
Alex Lemanski Founder/Web Craftsman Bitfyre

Slides, Links, Examples:

  • Saas allows for variables so you only have to replace elements in a single place in your style sheet.
  • Nesting selectors so you don’t have to repeat multiple tags or divs
  • Nesting Statements as well


  • Web Workbench (Visual Studio Plugin)
  • (Mac/Windows/Linux)
  • CodeKit (Mac)
  • Scount

Commandline Tools:

  • Saas itself
  • sass convert
  • Middleman
  • Compass

Debugging Tools:

  • Generated Line Comments
  • FireSass for Firebug

Common Good Practices in CSS (same for Sass):

  • don’t nest more than 4 selectors deep
  • break things down as much as possible
  • work from the main area of content out

Number conversions can be created to convert px to em or back.

For the actual compiled CSS output, you can display it whatever way you’d like:
nested, expanded, compact

Nice mixins for the various browser-specific syntax – Sass can just bring them all in.

Creating Responsive HTML5 Touch Interfaces

Posted: March 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Creating Responsive HTML5 Touch Interfaces

Sunday, March 11 – 12:30PM – 1:30PM
Stephen Woods Sr Software Engineer Flickr

When working on the desktop, we’re worrying about browsers. You have to cover every case with various browser-specific CSS. On mobile, we worry about devices and not browsers.

Most mobile platforms run webkit, but there are a few other (less used) browsers out there.

Screen Size: Media Queries, Break points, liquid layouts.

We need to concentrate on interfaces that feel good
Modern mobile devices are crappy computers with decent video cards.

How do you make a devices (low powered) feel like it’s high powered – perceived performance. Tivo plays the sound the second you hit the button. On the web we throw up spinners. Touch interfaces are tactile – they need to have immediate feedback. When you touch something, you feel how it works, you have a much better sense of when it doesn’t work.

When interface stops moving during a gesture, it feels like it died.

One on Android
11 on iOS

Making Gestures Work
Prioritize user feedback
Use hardware acceleration
Manage your memory
Don’t do loading during gestures.

Use native if possible when scrolling
-webkit-overflow-scrolling: touch;
Scrolling is very very important.

Don’t use native pinch to zoom – you can’t control it.
Use Matrix Transforms instead.

Dealing With Browsers
Feature Detect
Add transitions, don’t depend on them.
Gesture interaction is an enhancement, clicks should still work.
Be able to disable features per user-agent, if necessary.

Adobe Shadow
Charles Proxy
Just change the UA in Webkit
Pile of Devices (just test on the real thing)
(Device Simulators & Emulators are useless for web development)

Can a Social Web of Things Keep TV Cords Connected

Posted: March 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Can a Social Web of Things Keep TV Cords Connected

Sunday, March 11 11:00AM -12:00PM
Alison Moore Sr VP, Digital Platforms HBOGilles BianRosa CEO FanhattanJack Flanagan VP Sales Bluefin Labs IncRhonda Lowry VP Emerging Social Web Technologies Turner Broadcasting

What is Social TV?

  • It’s currently in an evolutionary state (HBO Go). You can plug in conversationally no matter where you watch (GO, TV, Xbox etc.). How does it evolve without being disruptive to consumers. It’s all about water cooler stuff – keeping people engaged but also keeping the conversation going.
  • 1. Looking for something to watch, people use social to determine where to go with it.
    2. While I’m watching – depends on the content you’re watching.
    3. Talk about it afterwards with you friends.

Why should we care about this? People have been talking about TV forever.

  • It pinpoints the buzz and helps us to focus new activities. It is all about engagement – the tools that people expect to have when they watch content.

Impressions vs. Expressions

  • Impressions are the ratings – how many people are watching etc.
  • Expressions are what consumers are talking about – how many time something is shared etc. What is the level of engagement of consumers of a show? We can now understand what is being said. Evaluate based on the conversations about a certain show.

Studios create brands and then try to link together everything about a certain show (itunes episodes, soundtrack, hulu videos, website, etc.). A consumer should be within one click to get anything they want about the show from episodes to t-shirts.

Don’t push the conversation, but enable the conversation. Don’t just advertise your content.

Get the Look: Use @Font-Face + CSS3 Like the Stars

Posted: March 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | Comments Off on Get the Look: Use @Font-Face + CSS3 Like the Stars

Saturday, March 10 5:00PM – 6:00PM
Sean McBride Web Dev Adobe Typekit

Taking iconic sign styles and transforming them into the web using web technologies.

Ideas vs. Forms
Idea -> Design System -> Form

Many times we try to go from an original form to a new form without any sort of consideration of where it came from and how exactly to get it into that new form.

Call @font-face and point to the URL of the web font.

CSS Transform will let you rotate the font on the page.

you can add offset and color as well as multiple shadows to text. (this is not supported in IE9)

you can use an image to hide and show certain elements using transparency in PNG images. (unofficial property, so it won’t work in many browsers – currently only webkit browsers)

Slides and visuals from this presentation located at:

Designing for Content Management Systems

Posted: March 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '12 | 1 Comment » Saturday, March 10 12:30PM – 1:30PM Jared Ponchot Creative Dir Lullabot Slides available here. Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order. (Victor Papanek) CMS create ways to impose a meaningful order. How a CMS Thinks
  • Contexts
    • A context provides conditions and reactions based upon a defined criteria. Conditions might be things like sections, content types or user types. Reactions might be things like display a list of these chunks from this type of content in the sidebar.
  • User Types
    • Who is using the site?
    • What are they using it for?
    • Anonymous or Authenticated
    • What can they access or not access, create or not create, edit or not edit?
    • Authors, Editors, Administrators, Moderators
    • Baby Got Backend
    • Put yourself in the shoes of the content creators early and often and you will better understand the correct structure of the content, produce better designs, and increase your likelihood for a successful project and a happy client!
  • Content Types
    • What are the types of content?
    • How can we break down these types of content into discreet chunks?
    • Finding out what these types are helps you to model this content first and then style at the end.
    • A List Apart: Future-Ready Content
    • Content types provide a sensible target for creating goals for your website. Set goals for each type of content in your design process.
Why should we think this way?
  • We need to know our tool.
  • It simplifies the complexity.
  • We can’t design for each PIECE of content on a dynamic site! (this is also helpful for responsive design)
  • Create 3 groups with everything, and begin to put things into groups. Prioritize them with the chunks of each content type.
Gestalt & Other Fundamentals
  • Position
    • eye moves top to bottom, left to right
  • Proportion
    • we notice big things, it can override position
  • Proximity
    • creates visual relationships – too much similarity visually make it hard to tell what something relates to
  • Symmetry
    • we perceive objects and tend to perceive them as symmetrical shapes that form around their center – our brain wants to make patterns
  • Similarity
    • thins that are similar are perceived to be more related than things that are dissimilar
  • Alignment
    • this creates relationships and beauty (grid systems)
  • Contrast
    • create visual importance
  • Color
    • warm colors stand out, cool colors recede
  • Isomorphism
    • similarity that can be behavioral – the brain wants to make things right and create story out of pattern
  • Unity
    • things look like they belong together
  • Pause
    • awkward silence in our design – a way to really draw something out
Tips & Tricks
  • When you blur your eyes you begin to see where the visual weight lies between two similar objects.
  • Create a style guide page that shows every single style in the CMS and how they work together. (be sure to include system messages and pagers and form elements etc.) Drupal Style Guide Module
  • Style Tiles help to create a visual language.
Ask yourself regularly how can I have fun?