Ten Years, Ten Speakers: Part II

As part of our A Decade Apart celebration—commemorating our first ten years as a design conference—we recently asked more of our favorite speakers from the past decade what they were doing professionally ten years ago, in 2006. Here are some more of their answers. If you missed Part I, have a look back.

Richard Rutter

I was a matter of months into the adventure that is Clearleft. We'd already moved into our first office and hired our first couple of employees, but we had no real idea that in ten years we'd be in our own four-story building with nearly thirty people working for us.

At the time we were working a lot for dotcom start-ups, which I seem to recall was great fun, albeit somewhat stressful as everything had to be done on a shoestring budget. Also we were feeling our way in how to combine design work with business and development processes—Agile hadn't really entered the scene at that point.

Back then I was also blogging far more than now—something I'm trying to get back into. Short, to-the-point posts were a common thing back then, perhaps surpassed by even shorter tweets now, not necessarily in a good way. Looking at my 2006 archive, one post caught my eye in particular: “there's a different approach to web page layout which is gradually getting some traction. The idea is that the layout is changed to best accommodate the window size.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Sara Wachter-Boettcher

I became a copywriter at a small print-advertising agency. As the team's resident eagle-eye, and lowest-paid staffer, I was responsible for proofing and copyediting every piece before it went out the door—including the little brochure-ware websites we were increasingly being asked to create. Only, I wasn't actually proofing websites. I was proofing print-outs of websites, delivered to my desk on large-format paper each day by our traffic manager. And proof them I did: right down to marking up line breaks I didn't like. I imagine our developer chuckling to himself, adding a few arbitrary <br/>s to the page, hitting print, and then immediately removing them.

Less than a year later, I'd left that gig to become a web writer at another agency—and I haven't reviewed a printed website since.

Jaimee Newberry

I was a Partner and Director of Interactive at a boutique animation/interactive agency called eatdrink. A lot about what I was doing then, and with whom, makes me smile today. I loved my work and I loved my team, I learned so much about how to, and how not to, work with clients and personalities of all types.

If 2016-Jaimee could go back and share some insight with 2006-Jaimee, I would tell me this: “Speak up! Write and share more about what you're doing and what you're learning. You love to write—don't suppress that. It will be a great tool of growth in the coming years for you and for others. Don't hide quietly/shyly in the background all the time. Learn out loud.”

Dan Mall

I was busy speaking and writing about how to use Flash and web standards in harmony, as well as helping to open the Philly office of Happy Cog. Great year!

Brad Frost

I was a junior at James Madison University, where I took a Dreamweaver course and a Flash course as part of my Media Arts and Design major. The major was a combination of media studies and hands-on multimedia design training. I dove headfirst into it all, making obnoxious Flash sites and animations. My summer job in 2006 was designing my university's English department website, which hilariously is still up.

The following year, two weeks before I graduated, our class was visited by two alumni who worked for AOL. They said “if you're interested in this whole web design thing, you should read this book called Designing With Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman.” I graduated and sat unemployed in my sister's apartment reading Jeffrey's book, realizing everything I'd learned was wrong. And, well, here we are.

Jeremy Keith

I was spending most of my time talking and writing about Ajax. It was the hot buzzword back then and everyone was going ker-razy for Ajax. My concern was with how people were using Ajax. Instead of treating it as an enhancement, I was seeing a lot of sites that made JavaScript and Ajax a prerequisite just for retrieving information. I ended up writing a book called Bulletproof Ajax wherein I described how Ajax and progressive enhancement make a perfect match. I even coined my own terrible buzzword—Hijax.

We don't talk about Ajax that much these days but we do talk about React, Angular, Ember, and other JavaScript frameworks that are driven by Ajax. Me? I'm still banging on about progressive enhancement. I'll probably still be banging on about it in another ten years. It's an approach that has stood the test of time and keeps proving its worth again and again.

Ten years ago I was writing on my blog. Lots of other people were writing on their blogs back then too. That would soon change, though. Twitter and Facebook were picking up steam and soon they'd be luring bloggers away with enticing and seductive short-form convenience. I've stubbornly continued writing on my own site. I fully intend to keep on writing there for the next ten years too.

Aarron Walter

I was a college professor and freelance web designer obsessed with microformats, RSS, and PHP. UX wasn't really a thing at the time—we were still thinking about information architecture (IA). I was building my first web app and making so many mistakes. My PHP was not exactly organized in a tidy MVC structure. It was server-side/client-side soup!

I remember seeing Todd Dominey speak at AEA at Turner Field in Atlanta that year. I was blown away by his candid explanation of how he built SlideShow Pro into a company. Nine years later, he joined my team at MailChimp. Life's a funny circle.

Jonathan Snook

2006 was a transitional time for me. I had recently started freelancing and had my first taste of going to a web conference: SXSW Interactive. It was such a great experience to be able to meet people that I had only previously connected with online through forums and blogs. It connected me with a book publisher, which led me to write books. It also connected me with the conference organizers, which led me to start speaking. Those connections are ones I still cherish, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make new connections with people every day.

Veerle Pieters

I was running Duoh!, my design studio, just as I do now. Only, I believe 2006 was a turning point for me. Exciting times were about to come. My blog was becoming rather popular. I attended my first SXSWi conference, where I spoke on a panel and met most of my internet friends in real life for the first time. That was double excitement for sure.

In terms of workflow and tools I can't say things have drastically changed for me, but that's probably due to the fact that I'm mostly focused on pure design work and less on coding. I'm still using pretty much the same software tools for designing. Some things are just done more efficiently due to the development of the software. Other things are harder and take way more work such as designing a fully responsive site.

Kevin M. Hoffman

I was the director of electronic communications for a prestigious art and design college in Baltimore. I had a staff of one awesome person, and together we built big and small websites as needed. I remember an image optimization tool being indispensable, but I can't remember its name for the life of me. I also deeply loved my “blackbook,” which was the black MacBook Pro at the time.

I had no idea what the next ten years would hold, but I certainly didn't expect to be speaking at a conference as prestigious as An Event Apart. I remember attending it when I could afford it, going all the way back to AEA Atlanta at Turner Field in 2006.

Oh wait, our awesome ten-year-old son was born in 2006! Whoops, I probably should have led with that one.