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Wordcamp London 2017

Written by Zara Gemmell on

Find out what Zara thought of WordCamp London 2017 and how much she learnt as a Junior Developer


So, I’m going to be honest, I’m being bullied into writing a blog – not because I don’t want to, I love writing.  But writing is usually faceless. Blogging, for me, is like standing up in front of a crowded room performing a dramatic piece.

Thankfully that is not happening and I have the safety of my computer screen this time. I appreciate the push from the amazingly supportive team here at HeX Productions….And one day I will stand in front of that crowd for my dramatic “Women in Tech” performance – Watch this space!!! #WCLDN2020!?! (Don’t hold me to that…)

2017 is the year of my first Wordcamp, I will remember it fondly. I have attended a few pulled together events, but Wordcamp London certainly showed it’s calibre as a well-established event.

So, my initial expectations of my first Wordcamp experience was that it would be highly techy and that a lot of it would probably go over my head – I am now a year into my Web Dev role – and was expecting and looking forward to being baffled and bewildered (the best way to learn I feel!) But, to my surprise and testament to the hard work and dedication of our Creative Director – James Hall – We’ve got it covered.  This was James’ third Wordcamp London and it definitely showed that he was on top of his game (which, of course, I knew already). This is not to say we know everything – that would be silly – but it was nice to go to my first Wordcamp at level higher than baffled bewilderment, enabling it to be a fact finding mission, picking up tips and techniques to enhance our well laid foundations.

Act One – Scene One

Satisfying my filing compulsion:

So, we hit the ground running with Stewart Richie’s Dev Ops for Beginners – A well thought out and well delivered talk covering dependency and media management, automated scripting, VM packaging and visual regression testing. Creating a standardised environment to work from, keeping your coded node babies safe and controlled allowing for a smooth transition when working on version updates.

I was able to take away plenty of questions from Stew’s session – making me think more about the side of development that I have less involvement in. Making me consider how I write my code and how we can break down and standardise everything that we do. I am a great believer that if everything is labelled correctly and filed away neatly then it is easier to find, reference and update, so this was a perfect talk for me, to see it play out in a developing environment and how best to control and monitor an almost virtual world.

Act One – Scene Two

UX – Not just a pretty face:

Crispin “great name” Read launched into an incredible argument to “Design for solving problems”, in other words – design is not just visual – design is structural. It doesn’t matter how pretty a building is if it falls down when the roof goes on. Object User Experience – creating beauty with a naturally flowing website and how to plan and prepare your project to follow the same unique flow. Encouraging your client base in the direction of functional elegance, not just a pretty brand. Crispin offered tools and techniques of focusing your team and your clients on what is important in a website build with the user in mind – not just how the company see’s there business but allowing the user to have a voice through various testing models. Coming away from this talk with quite a few reading topics – excited to put a UX structured approach across to our clients in ways we have only glanced upon.  Clients are not always open to this as Crispin touched upon, but this is where building trusting relationships and introducing it into the conversation gradually helps, leading our clients (when possible) on a journey of development instead of just building them a website.

Act One – Scene yeah yeah we get it

Welcome to your user:

Monique Dubbelman opened with an inspirational tale of a humble bricklayer – his mentality of ‘building a cathedral’ no matter the construction he was currently working on. Monique asked – “Are you building a garage, a cathedral or just laying bricks?”  In short – your aspirations will carry you, just make sure that the foundations you are laying will hold up.

Information architecture – forward planning and future proofing. Looking at context, content, and most importantly, your user.  Ascertaining your user and involving them in the decisions when it comes to the information layout and language used within your website. At HeX we each create a persona for our build projects – humanising our design process helps to keep our ideas relevant to the project and also allows for differences in perspective.

I was particularly impressed by the way Monique spoke about navigation and I took away the sense of being the master of my own destiny when it comes to the structuring of it and language within it. Narrow your scope of options/tasks and think about searches from a global, local and contextual point of view.  All pretty common sense strategies but good to have it prompted back into the forefront of your planning. And a take-away thought – Don’t let your navigation distract from your content.


Fun, Food & Swag:

Here comes the ‘big-up’ to the excellent staff and behind the scenes organisation, catering and security that made the events what is was. Everything seemed to run very seamlessly and there was plenty of refreshment and snacks to keep us going. The sponsors were very informative and – let’s face it – had some great swag for us to take away. Not forgetting the superb Wordcamp London 2017 t-shirts (and the genius localhost reference on the staff t-shirts which made me smile every time I saw it). The social also provided a great opportunity to mix with the likeminded audience and we met some great people having sat firmly at the ‘Hello’ table for a couple of hours.

Act Two – A.K.A Day 2

Sunday was an interesting day, full of inspiration and motivation.

The amazing journey of David Lockie and his brilliant story telling.  His transformation from freelancer to an agency owner provided great insight into the journey that we are currently undertaking here at HeX. How important it is to surround yourself with great people who are always working towards a common goal and that it is OK to ask for help from people who have been there and done it or just know a little more about a particular area of business. Another great reminder of the supportive nature of the developer community  – such a friendly group of people. There’s a common goal to constantly improve the way the web works and we’re all in it together.

The next two talks I would like to approach separately – so, call me a tease but I am going to leave the following subjects below for enticement, to encourage you to come back….(and for motivation for me to revisit my newfound blogging adventures.)

Jim Bowes’ – Introduction to Agile

A topic close to my heart and an absolutely awesome delivery from Mr. Bowes.


Nevena Tomovic – The Art of Empathy in Customer Marketing

Who doesn’t love a good story…

Here’s to Wordcamp London 2018 – Hope to see you there!

Cheers! (Bows and leaves the stage…)