Written by Mandy Michael

People, Creativity and the Web

What my first Web Directions taught me

Web Directions 2015 was an amazing experience for me. As I listened, discussed and observed the conference I found myself pondering a lot of things, in particular how we approach creativity on the web.

The common underlying theme for me was that the web creates opportunity and connection, but as web professionals we need to treat that opportunity with respect and take responsibility for what we are delivering online.

We have access to more content than ever, we are able to communicate more easily than before, but we have to ensure that the connections we make have a purpose.

Communication without context becomes a distraction without meaning.

Hannah Donovan discussed how we should design for desires not needs and that “the future of content is understanding the balance between human and computer”. It was clear from her talk that without meaningful connection our relationships, ideas and products are weakened. They become part of the noise in our life. What we need is more purpose, to focus on why we do something.

So I asked myself, how do we achieve this? Turns out Web Directions had all the answers already.

The People

Step one is building a team with the right people. The opening speaker Cap Watkins talked a lot about building teams and evolving culture, but what struck a chord with me the most was his point about people.

"People are not resources. They’re your teammates and colleagues" — Cap Watkins

There was a touch of frustration in his voice that I could relate to. We all have deadlines, budgets and constraints, but treating people as resources is simply prohibitive thinking. It prevents people from reaching their full potential. This seems obvious but it is something we can easily forget. Caring about your team, treating them as people helps to build trust, when you have trust in your team you stop fighting each other and are able to work together better.

Understanding this is the first step to innovation and inspiration, and it doesn’t just apply to the workplace. Having a solid support structure is incredibly important, the people around you will fuel your ideas and give you the push you need to achieve your goals.

Take a step back

A great team is a good start, but it isn’t enough on it’s own, we also have to take risks, it’s easy to follow the leaders but remember, they make mistakes too. If all we do is recycle the ideas of others we aren’t identifying the issues that need to change just exaggerating the flaws in the original design. We are developers and designers, we iterate, we change and push updates. Without risk we are just perpetuating the noise and bloat filling up the web.

Maciej Ceglowski said "Information shouldn’t be designed for someone sitting on the public toilet bored" which is hilarious, but also painfully true. The web is becoming the same, we are limiting ourselves by restricting our thinking to what someone else has already done because we think it's the right thing to do.

It’s important to take a step back, look at what you are doing, find the passion and the feeling in what you are trying to achieve. If it has no purpose should you even be doing it?

Take responsibility

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept" — Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO

This isn't a quote from Web Directions 2015, but it is one of my favourites and I feel it applies to so many aspects of life. It basically just means, take responsiblity.

If you are not making an attempt to change, whether it be large or small, if you stand by and say “that is just how it is” or “we always do it that way” then you are accepting the standard and frankly, you have no right to complain. If you think something isn’t acceptable do something about it.

You are probably making up lots of excuses right now, but ignore that inner voice that tells you to stop, stand up for what you believe in. Everyone is capable of making change happen. When you are in a team that has trust change isn’t always hard, and when it is just remember, you don’t have to move the world all the time. Celebrate the small wins, push the small changes and eventually you will get to the big ones.

At every chance you get take the opportunity to communicate your ideas, you could be the person that changes the way we view the web.

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