Technical Director Tim Butler reports from UpFront 2017 Conference

UpFront is 'a front-end conference for anyone who makes for the web' and I was at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall for this year's event on Friday 19 May.

After the chance to meet a few familiar faces in the lobby, the conference kicked off with an inspiring talk from Chris Murphy, who encouraged us to share our ideas for a project by writing them down, screwing up the paper and throwing them around in a snowball fight.

After the madness, everyone was paired with a random person in the room, and we were encouraged to connect with and motivate each other. My 'match' was @BethanVincent, I'll be sure to keep an eye on her progress via Twitter.

After a short break, Monika Piotrowicz, Director of UX at Shopify, began her talk on the complexities of front end development and the discipline's impact on users. At Shopify the front end development team falls under the UX department rather than engineering. That's because, as Monika pointed out, end users don’t care about the technology or tools used by developers, only the overall experience.

Up next was a joint talk by Charlie Gerard and Daisy Smith, talking about a topic that was hugely relevant to the work we are doing at BBI, and especially Trunk, our sister agency. Charlie and Daisy gave an excellent intro into how developers are pushing the creative boundaries of the latest technology, available directly in the browser. Covering everything from 3D to virtual reality and games, Charlie and Daisy's talk made it clear that the boundaries between web development and art are narrowing. Brands can now make their website or app into an immersive experience that is much more memorable and engaging.

Mathias Bynens then took us through a very detailed explanation of the recent changes that allow developers to write simpler regular expressions in JavaScript, giving us greater control and more reliability by writing less code. Sounds good to me!

After a well-earned lunch and email catch-up break it was back to the talks. Heydon Pickering's "Writing Less Damned Code" was a humorous and engaging session about how to simplify the way we work. Naturally this was very well received. This was followed by a series of lightning talks, sessions from the speaker bursary.

The final session started with Szabolcs Szabolcsi Toth, providing an impressive demo of a coffee machine that is fully operated from his laptop simply by entering the command "make coffee". Covering the hardware that is needed to get a project up and running, as well as how we can operate them using JavaScript and other programming languages familiar to web developers, Szabolcs succeeded in demystifying how to get started with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Finally, the keynote speaker was the influential and renowned developer, Sara Soueidan, voted Developer of the Year in the 2015 net awards. Sara has worked on some hugely impressive projects and her talk focused on the creative design challenges she tackled during the recent redesign of the Smashing Magazine website - emphasising that accessibility and creativity are not competing concerns, and that creative layouts can still be accessible.

The event finished with a powerful and thought-provoking message from developer Eric Meyer. When Eric’s daughter sadly passed away, the web community successfully rallied to have a colour named in her memory. #663399 will forever be known as Rebecca Purple.

The conference over, a short walk across town took us to Leaf on Portland Street, where the organisers had very generously laid on free drinks for the attendees. I took the chance to chat with some of the speakers and make some new friends at the bar.

Many thanks to all of the speakers, sponsors and organisers for putting on such a fantastic event. We’ll definitely be back for the next one in March 2018!

By Tim Butler

Technical Director

Us Technology Development