Forging Ahead in the World of the Web

Forge Conference advertises itself as a conference for those of us who are shaping the future of the web. It’s a huge responsibility, and an enormous honor. This week at UX Booth, we’ve interviewed two speakers at Forge Conference, which is coming up this Friday, September 26th, in Philadelphia.

What does it mean to shape the future of the web? Designers, developers, and product people all play a role. Every experience you create and lesson you learn helps our community to forge ahead. At Forge Conference, your colleagues and fellow-creators come together to share their stories of failure and triumph. In preparation, we’re interviewing Marc Sasinski and Wren Lanier today, both of whom will be sharing their stories at the conference.
As if hearing from two inspirational designers wasn’t enticing enough, Forge Conference is also offering a free ticket to one lucky reader! At the bottom of our interview with Marc Sasinski and Wren Lanier, you’ll get a chance to win a ticket and attend Forge Conference yourself! So, without further ado, we present to you Marc and Wren.

Tell me a little about your talk.
Marc: Wreszt Hart, my colleague at Riot Games, will be co-presenting with me, and our talk, Designing Engaging User Player Experiences in Gaming will provide an overview of the UX team’s role in creating engaging experiences for our [online game] players. The evolution of our Team Builder feature will serve as a case study to illustrate how we think about design as a team, as well as how we approach and do the actual work.
What drew you to thinking specifically about team design?
Marc: As UX Designers, both Weszt and I were also gamers, but hadn’t worked in the industry. We think that we’ve learned a great deal and we’d like to share some of that with the broader UX community.
We believe that Design Thinking in gaming is still relatively nascent. However, in many ways, the industry has always been at the forefront of creating engaging experiences by pushing art, technology, and social experiences. We think it’s time to have a conversation and bring it all together.
That’s fascinating. Wren, you’re looking at web design from a different angle, is that right?
Wren: Right. My career has gradually evolved from general web design towards a focus on mobile/application/product design. When designing mobile apps with a lot of buttons, toggles, filters and such, I’m always running out of space and looking for clever ways to simplify the UI. Most of the patterns that excite me involve hiding or revealing elements—things like secret panels and animated transitions—so I wanted to really understand the nuances of how those work and how to combine them to make beautiful and delightful interfaces.
My talk, Designing on the Z-Axis is a way to talk about designing with layered elements that move independently of one another. It’s particularly useful in mobile design, but there are nifty ways to use the z-axis at any screen size. In my session, we’ll look at a few examples and study the internal logic of how to use layers & transitions in interface design.
Designing in three dimensions sounds tricky! How did you first discover this added depth, and how has it impacted your design work?
Wren: I started by studying design patterns, particularly mobile interfaces, and trying to understand the magic behind apps that were highly regarded. Why do some menus just feel better than others? What are the principals that make layered designs both exciting and useful? Some of these patterns are quite common, and have been around for a while, but we don’t always notice them because “good design is invisible.” It’s helpful to draw attention to those invisible elements you’ve seen a thousand times, and talk about why they work and how that can inform the designs we’re working on.
I can see the connection there – good design is so often invisible that we can miss out on seeing what makes it work, and that’s true for all sorts of design. Marc, getting back to game design, what have you learned from that realm that influences how you approach web design?
Marc: Although there are certainly game design principles and mechanics that web designers can benefit from, in our minds, it’s less about platforms and more about end-to-end experiences. We try to focus on experiential goals and outcomes first; the specific technology is secondary.
Our product has also always been an inherently social experience. And the web is now very much social. It’s like electricity; you just expect it to be there.
Overall, web technology will continue to allow us to come together in terms of work and play. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface in terms of richer and more synchronous web experiences. (For example, we couldn’t imagine not using Google Slides to collaborate on our actual presentation!
Forge Conference is a place for people to meet as they/we/you build the future of the web. Where do you personally think the future of design is headed?
Marc: Wow, that’s a big question! In short, Wreszt and I believe that design will continue to become a greater competitive and strategic advantage, allowing companies to differentiate. It’s an exciting time for design thinkers, makers, and entrepreneurs that put experience design first.
In terms of influence, we’ll continue to see more and more designers in leadership positions making real differences in business strategy and overall direction. We’re obviously already seeing lots of disruption across verticals; what’s ripe are some of the more traditional industries that are just now beginning to see the light.
Wren: I think we’re headed towards a world in which technology is more seamlessly integrated into our lives. The Internet of Things and designing with sensors are opening up amazing possibilities that don’t require tapping buttons on a screen. Screens are a limitation; even though most of our work today involves designing for screens, we need to prepare ourselves to design information in contexts without screens. Imagine moving through the world, checking your email, getting directions, sending messages to your friends – without staring at a screen. How do we design that experience? We’re closer to that day than most of us realize, and our idea of what “design” means is going to radically shift.
Thanks for chatting with us today. One last question – what do you hope people will leave your talk thinking about?
Marc: From our past experiences, a lot of innovation occurs by simply taking an idea that already exists in the world and repurposing it a bit. As experience designers, Weszt and I certainly like to look to other areas and art forms for inspiration. Hopefully folks will come away from our dialog with some new ideas and apply that thinking to their particular problem spaces and design challenges.
Wren: I want people to get excited about what’s possible in interface design today, and leave with ideas that they can take back to their desk on Monday and use in their work. But I also want us to think more about what design really means, beyond playing around with boxes and colors on a screen.

A huge thank you to Wren Lanier and Marc Sasinski! If you want to win a free ticket and join them at Forge Conference this Friday, simply follow @uxbooth on twitter and leave a comment with your twitter handle below, telling us what you think the future of web design will bring.
We’ll randomly draw one name, and contact you tomorrow. See you in the comments below!

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