Do Rad Work: GIANT Conference

June 24, 2014

Two weeks ago, I had the great opportunity of traveling to Charleston, South Carolina with three other Digital Services Georgia team members. We, along with hundreds of other UX designer and developer fanatics, attended the GIANT Conference.

And it was giant.

Six keynotes, 14 breakout sessions, 2 workshops, and 5 full pages of notes later, I am a whole new person.

After days of hearing the ultimate design rockstars such as Aaron Draplin, Jared Spool, Josh Clark, and Ethan Marcotte, my world has changed. For example, Josh Clark's inspirational speech expanded the boundaries of my thinking. How can we share action and not just content? Or with Jared Spool discussing the pros and cons of imitation vs. innovation. Innovation is more expensive and riskier, but when you get it right, it has a bigger payoff and adds new value.

In regards to the breakout sessions, here’s a quick overview of some high points:

  • Career advice with Joanna Castle Miller.
    Be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related) with your goals.
  • Learning how to handle conflict in the work place with Bermon Painter.
    Sometimes we revert to a "lizard brain" where in times of conflict, we choose fight or flight. It's important to keep in mind, a successful conflict is 100% honest and 100% respectful.
  • Applying film concepts to website development with Adam Connor.
    In film there's constant movement. Now, I'm not saying that we should add flash to every page for movement. Instead there should be some form of pacing. Adam used the example of Amazon. On the product page, the images are huge and you take your time to read through the information. However, once you're ready to buy, everything turns fast and short. Thus, pacing. So how can we, as state agencies, create pacing on our websites?
  • Learning new code with Scott Sullivan.
    Learning code is like being punched in the face. It sounds terrifying and horrible, but it doesn't hurt as badly as you'd imagine. This talk also made me feel extremely inspired with all the new innovations and ideas coming to fruition. And then came the feelings of panic that I haven’t done enough with my life.
  • Creating “office hours” with Erik Dahl.
    Dahl's company sets aside time for "office hours" once a month where their doors are open for clients to walk in with any problem. We basically have that already for Digital Services Georgia through our ticketing system. However, the idea of physically letting agencies come over if they're having a recurring problem changing something on Drupal sounded alluring to me.

On the last day, we had workshops with hands-on experiences. I went to Google’s Abi Jones’ workshop where she taught us how to use storyboarding techniques to solve problems and convey ideas. I created The Food Stamps Saga using completely non-anatomically correct stick figures to convey the importance of accessing one’s Food Stamp account online. We then stuck our storyboards on a wall for everyone to see. Abi gave us stickers to place on the storyboards we found effective. Some people had zero while some had 5. I acquired 2 stickers.

So maybe next time when we're facing a problem and can't figure out a solution, just storyboard it. Draw it out. Think through each step. Visualize it. Imagine the emotions people might feel with each panel. By putting myself in the shoes of a single mom trying to buy food stamps, I realized the importance of being able to easily access COMPASS online.

All in all, GIANT was an exhausting week but full of great information. It’s not every day we computer nerds get to come together and geek out over certain innovations (such as responsive design).

Bethany McDaniel

About the Author

Bethany McDaniel served as the Editorial Director for Digital Services Georgia from 2013 to 2016.

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