Respond 16: Masterclass — Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane

As is often the case, our next major event — Respond 17 — is not only a two-​day conference, but also has a third day devoted to a Masterclass workshop with Vitaly Friedman (in Brisbane, we’ll present only the workshop).

Our roster of past Masterclass workshop leaders reads like an album of who’s who in web design over the last decade, and Vitaly represents another great page in that album. Given that his session is on packing all these great responsive design tools and techniques into a cohesive and comprehensive toolkit, you should give serious thought to coming along.

For perspective, here’s our Wrap account of the Respond 16 Masterclass led by Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane. This was written by Simon Vrachliotis, a first time web conference attendee who decided to join the Masterclass at the last minute.

Responsive Design: Content, Code, Collaboration

presented by Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane

Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane

Described by Simon Vrachliotis

I’m at Darling Harbour, on a glorious autumn Sydney Wednesday morning, and the anticipation is high.

I’m about to step into a responsive web design workshop hosted by none other than Karen McGrane and Ethan Marcotte. Respond 16 is my first major conference, and the idea of even being in a room with these people feels almost surreal.

My co-​worker Matt is also attending. We got our tickets at the last minute, and the prospect of spending an entire day sponging knowledge from two iconic industry leaders has us pretty excited.

Ethan Marcotte kicks thing off with the first presentation. This guy doesn’t just give a talk, he gives a performance.

Each word, spoken with a slow-​paced, calm voice, seems carefully designed. The long pauses allow my mind to process it all, the spikes of humour perfectly break up the intensity.

The room is lapping it up and soaking it in. Ethan is a master at the art of public speaking, and has clearly put a lot of effort into putting together top quality content.

The only thing we can reliably know is the size of the browser window.”

Karen McGrane is up next. Her style is very different. Ethan’s philosophical, almost poetic performance gives way to some sharp, provocative, cold hard facts about the wide gap that sits between responsive web design and the corporate/​enterprise world.

Slide after slide, Karen brings us infographics that carry undeniable business value, the sort of stuff you can print and show a CEO to give you instant leverage when suggesting a responsive web design strategy.

Karen does a great job at calling out situations with which most of us have been familiar throughout our careers. She gives us ammunition for the next time such situations occur.

Mobile first is about designing for focus.”

We then undertook a group exercise where content hierarchy had to be structured on a stream of post-​it notes stacking on top of each other. This had the participants talking to each other, and some interesting discussions were sparked among the teams.

It felt like the workshop had kicked in and there would be more of this. However, after the groups regained their sitting spots, the day went back to listening to Karen and Ethan and there were no more workshop activities.

Between them, the two presenters made convincing cases for using fluid layout and adaptive design, demonstrated relevant techniques, showed how to build a business case for responsive design — and did this with clarity, insight and humour.

If I could have improved anything, it would have been having more hands-​on exercises and do-​it-​yourself activities throughout the day. We were told we could bring our laptops, but never really needed to use them.

The quality of the information delivered was extremely high. We all came away with a much better understanding of designing to suit content delivered on an unpredictable range of devices.

Karen and Ethan clearly have extensive experience and skill in both responsive web design and public speaking. Attending their workshop was a privilege.

Respond 16: Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane

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Respond 16: Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane

Respond 16: Ethan Marcotte and Karen McGrane

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