An Event Apart Nashville 2016, Day One

Unfortunately, I was unable to spend Tuesday in Nashville for An Event Apart (for reasons that will be revealed in about a month), but I did catch Monday and it was amazing.

The esteemed Jeffrey Zeldman kicked the day off with a talk entitled Designing with Web Standards in 2016. A theme he touched on repeatedly was that none of the problems we are facing in web design today are new problems. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, something I wrote about in the closing chapter of Adaptive Web Design’s Second Edition and recently spoke about at EnhanceConf in London. He knocked this one out of the park and my head was nodding so much my neck began to hurt.

Next up was my former WaSP colleague Rachel Andrew to give us the skinny on CSS Grid Layouts. This is an amazing spec that I’ve always struggled to understand fully (despite the fact that’s i’ve written a Javascript polyfill for it). Rachel made it crystal clear and got me very excited about the future of layout on the Web.

Jen Simmons dropped some serious CSS-related design knowledge bombs that perfectly complimented Rachel’s talk. She discussed Flexbox, CSS Shapes, Multi-column layout, viewport units and more, demonstrating how they can be used right now to progressively enhance the design of your sites.

After lunch, Brad Frost took to the stage to talk about Style Guides. I only caught the last half—I’ll admit to doing some last-minute rehearsing in the hallway—but the bits I did catch were good. I’ve seen his Atomic Design talk a few times, which this one builds on. In this talk he touches on a lot of the atomic design concepts, but he also talked a lot more about workflow and the role of the front-end developer. No doubt the evolution of this talk has come in large part through writing a book on Atomic Design and in hosting a podcast with Anna Debenham on website style guides.

Next, I was given the opportunity to share some thoughts and advice on designing and building. My talk, The Features of Highly Effective Forms, evolved out of several earlier talks on building forms. With this one, I wanted to strike a little more balance between the nuts and bolts of building forms and the hows and whys of building better forms.

The deck, which I’ve posted to SlideShare, doesn’t stand on its own quite as well as some of my other forms decks simply because the talk contained a lot of storytelling I chose not to pair with slides—instead opting for an black screen so folks could focus—but I did call out the salient points. I’ve begun writing up some of the recommendations as part of my Modern Web Forms Best Practices series and will continue to do so in the future. And one of the stories I told, which I highly recommend you check out, had to do with a lesson Facebook learned in managing how users report offensive photos.

Josh Clark wrapped the day up with a discussion of the future of interface as things move from digital back to physical. He talked about a lot of really cool new tech that has me excited about the future, including the Physical Web, which Josh had running as a live demo. I wonder if anyone noticed I had a beacon running too ;-)

All in all, day one was a blast. As always, Jeffrey, Eric, Toby, and Marci do an awesome job programming their events. I’m really bummed I could not stick around to see Val, Jason, Krystal, Eric, Kristina, and Cameron rock it out though. I’m sure it was amazing.

You can check out attendees thoughts from the event by searching Twitter using the #aeansh hashtag.


  1. @AaronGustafson really enjoyed your presentation Aaron! This was my first AEA and was blown away by the whole event. Thx @zeldman @meyerweb


  1. Amber Weinberg
  2. Thomas Pietrosanti
  3. Weisburd