From responsive to reactive: harnessing context on the web

My latest talk went on quite the journey - from responsive web design, to sensors and storytelling.

It’s been a busy start to the year, with a highlight in January being something I was keen to do more of in 2013: public speaking.

Over Christmas I was asked by David from FreshEgg to give a talk about responsive web design at one of their monthly events in Brighton. I had planned to share the fundamentals of RWD – technical considerations, emerging trends, and examples in the wild – but considering the widespread availability of great resources on the subject’s foundations (and numerous talks), I opted to look beyond screen size to the tricky subject of context. The audience would largely consist of non-technical experts in digital marketing, so I wanted the talk to focus on how RWD techniques could be applied to the type of interaction the attendees were likely to be designing in the future.

Titled ‘From responsive to reactive: harnessing context on the web’, I explored the ways in which contextual data beyond screen size and browser capability (including location, environmental factors, social contexts) could be used to personalise interactions online, and shared some current thinking on the subject.

The ‘reactive’ part of the title refers to the term coined by Dan Donald in his recent writing around the subject; I’m not sure this label is applicable (or useful) in the long-term, but for now it’s a helpful way of distinguishing the use of contextual information from the type of information currently harnessed to apply RWD techniques.

I really enjoyed the evening, and shared some interesting discussions after my talk with some of the forty or so people who had packed out the downstairs area of The Globe. It was refreshing to discuss the subject of RWD beyond my peers in design and front-end development, and I really hope to broaden the type events I attend locally this year.

There’s a nice writeup of the evening on the event website, and If you’d like to check out the slides they’re available to view or download from Speakerdeck. The narrative of the talk may be a bit tricky to follow without my commentary, but if I get the opportunity to deliver the talk again I’ll try my best to record it in some way.