From the moment I arrived at this year’s Magento conference, I immediately sensed this conference was different. Maybe it was the buzz of Vegas or maybe it was the feeling of kinsmanship among the speakers, attendees and staff. I knew it wasn’t going to be the typical session after session of “look what we can do”,”how great are we”,”blah, blah, blah.” It was more about me than Magento, Roy Rubin, Bob Schwartz or any of the partners or vendors at the show. The strength of Magento’s strong community and giving people the sense they belong to a tight-knit, passionate group of leaders was evident everywhere and this year’s conference certainly solidified that fact for me!
The Magento conference was jam-packed with both technical and business tracks. While there were a lot of great sessions that were full of exciting and useful information, a couple stood out in my mind – one that spoke to the “technical geek” in me and one that inspired me to climb mountains (well, maybe not actually climb mountains, but at least to never give up).
Brendan Falkowski, Founder of Gravity Department, gave a gripping technical presentation on Mobile Experiences: Design Once, Sell Everywhere. I had the good fortune of meeting Brendan the first day of the conference and knew from talking to him that his presentation was not to be missed. This twenty-something year old entrepreneur provided remarkable insights into mobile commerce and how to successfully implement a mobile strategy – he did not disappoint!
Brendan talked about designing for mobile devices, which makes a lot of sense to me. I’m not a fan of clutter and unorganized spaces – whether that’s a website or office space – and when you design for a tiny screen you throw away everything that’s not relevant because you simply don’t have the space. You learn to make hard decisions about what stays and what goes, so you can concisely represent your products, services and ideas to your visitors. In the end, you’re left with only the important aspects of your website. I believe that has tremendous value, especially if you carry over those ideas to the big screen.
Brendan’s discussion on adaptive content was equally intriguing. The general idea is that you can design websites that fit any screen size. He demonstrated this by showing how his pages were fluid, filling the screen space of various devices. He designed his pages to add additional website features when the screen size warranted it, while still adhering to smart, clean website design and usability. Brendan accomplished this all within the same web page using some very interesting CSS techniques. He promised to make his code and techniques publicly available when he has time and I’m going to certainly hold him to it.
Also appearing at the conference was motivational speaker Allison Levine. Alison Levine, the Team Captain on the First American Women’s Everest Expedition, gave a truly inspiring presentation that showed her strength, leadership and perseverance. To say this woman is extraordinary is like saying the Internet is popular; it’s such an understatement that it’s almost ridiculous.
Alison’s account of her team’s climb to the summit and what it took to get there was mesmerizing. She talked about the tremendous stress the climbers experience both physically and mentally by having to climb up the mountain only to climb back down again before going higher. She also described how as you get closer to the top of the mountain, you have to take 10-15 breaths for every step you take, which makes for some long frustrating days. The perseverance and strength that she and her team exhibited was a big reminder that the next time I start losing my patience or feel like giving up, I need to keep breathing and moving forward, because the view from the top is breathtaking!
In the end, it was a great conference! I picked up a number of useful tips in the areas of technology, business and life; and truth be told, I was honored to be part of this great community of business leaders. I’m looking forward to sharing and applying what I learned. And I can’t wait to see what Magento comes up with for their 2013 conference!