Earlier this year most of the web team attended the first UpFrontConf which was a huge success and it received lots of praise from both our team and the community.

On the back of that success our very own Simon (@s10wen), Dan (@hereinthehive), Jack (@speaktheweb), Rachael (@RachieTp) and Katie (@katiegallagher) decided to run a smaller event called UpFrontMini this month. I didn’t manage to attend the main UpFrontConf so I was very excited to bag tickets this time round, and I wasn’t disappointed! The team did an absolutely outstanding job.

There were a variety of talks, covering subjects such as Git, Leadership Thinking & UX Design, Web Components, JavaScript API’s, Young People & Technology and Mobile Testing. Every speaker did a brilliant job, but my personal favourites were “Applying Leadership Thinking to UX” by Lily Dart (@lily_dart), “Using Polymer, Today” by Sam Beckham (@samdbeckham) and “WhatRTC? Everything you need to know to connect browsers to the world” by Phil Nash (@philnash).

Applying Leadership Thinking to UX

Lily spoke about the qualities designers need to be successful at working within teams. She explained that the most effective designers have strong leadership qualities. Those being empathy, collaboration, direction & focus, and mentoring.

The truth is, user experience design is a team sport. Everyone on the team is making UX decisions at various points on a project’s timeline (whether they realise it or not), so a good designer needs to be able to rally the team and get everyone on the same page.

As one of the main designers on the web team here at Carbon, this talk really hit home. I learnt that I really need to work on being empathetic to the needs of others, which will help me motivate them and understand their concerns. I also learnt that setting goals gives everyone a direction and helps to avoid conflict within a project. We’ll be working hard to apply this thinking to our own workflow and processes!

Using Polymer, Today

Sam’s talk on Polymer was a huge contrast to Lily’s, but I was really excited to learn about Polymer and how it could help us to start using Web Components, today!

Web Components are essentially self-contained reusable widgets, composed of custom HTML elements. Or in other words…you can make your own HTML tags! Polymer has a suite of various “elements” which cover everything from core user inputs to animation and offline caching. You can read more about each element here: https://elements.polymer-project.org/. To show us how easy it is to get up and running, Sam created his very own “ element! What better way to make use of web components?!

Polymer looked really easy to work with, and Sam managed to get his custom element up and running within a matter of minutes!

After Sam’s talk I couldn’t wait to come away and start playing around with Polymer and web components. Unfortunately, the browser support at the time of writing is limited to just Chrome and Opera so we can’t start using it on production websites just yet.

WhatRTC? Everything you need to know to connect browsers to the world

Phil’s talk covered the new technology “WebRTC”, which essentially means “Web Real Time Communication”. To explain WebRTC and how we can use it to communicate with people across the web, he set up a really basic (but awesome) video conference call, just using the `getUserMedia()` API built into the browser (and a little help from Twilio)!

All in all, UpFrontMini was a brilliant day out. I can’t believe they managed to pull off such a successful and feature-rich event for £35 a ticket! I’d seriously recommend attending the next UpFrontConf in 2016.