Inspired by Nienke, I’d like to share some of my highlights and learnings of 2017.
2017 was the first full year working via my Dutch company, after I had hiddedevries.nl Limited struck off the English companies registry as part of my personal Brexit. The Dutch company was there since January 2007. It’s been over ten years now, but it feels so much shorter.
This year, I really, really wanted to focus on work with social impact (in government, culture or non-profit). How millennial! But really. In a world that is more and more powered by technology, choosing what kind of technology to work on and which people benefit from that technology seemed super important. This was not easy per se. If I’m honest, as a contractor, the kind of work I can do largely depends on what kind of projects I am approached for. Recruiters usually laughed when I mentioned my preference. But I feel it would be sad if all the bright minds of our industry helped some webshop create a better checkout flow and sell more tvs, if we could have helped citizens get the support they need. I tried being proactive, but luck and chance were probably as important. Anyway, I got to do some pretty impactful projects this year.
- At Wigo4IT I worked on a web page where people can apply for income support from their local government (for the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague)
- At Logius I worked on a website where Dutch governmental organisations can generate an accessibility statement
- At KOOP I worked on the redesign of various data-heavy websites, like overheid.nl and wetten.nl
- For Web Conferences Amsterdam, I worked on visual design for the CSS Day and PhoneGap Day EU conferences (building upon Stephen’s designs)
- I made various small changes to websites of Xander Publishers, Trio42, Stichting Piet de Vries and others
- I joined Mozilla’s Open Innovation team as a contractor, and my contract was extended until far into 2018
Conferences and events
I have attended a couple of conferences this year:
- CSS Day, which this year was a two day event about CSS and Browser APIs (write-up)
- PhoneGap Day EU
- Brique, a design conference by Fabrique
- Patterns Day, about pattern libraries (write-up)
- Fronteers 2017, its tenth edition and the first where I had no responsibilities whatsoever, great catching up with people
- the year opening of Communication & Multimedia Design in Amsterdam, which I thought had a ‘work on stuff that matters’ theme to it (write-up)
- Web Accessibility Live (which has no website, but it was great to see Job and Bruce speak)
- I talked about hiding content (slides) and the basics of accessibility (slides, video), at meetups.
- At Fronteers Jam Session, I did an even shorter version of my talk about hiding content
- At Inclusive Design 24, I spoke about the argument for accessibility from philosophical ethics (slides, video)
- For Fronteers, I hosted two workshops about CSS Layout, which, to my own surprise, sold out. It’s awesome to see so many people excited about new lay-out techniques
Also to my own surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed preparing and giving talks. So much, that I would love to do more in 2018. Nothing much planned so far, but the CSS Layout workshop is running again and there may be another workshop in the first half of 2018.
On this blog I published 32 posts, some longer than others, some more interesting than others. There were also many posts that did not make it past the Draft stage, I guess that will always be the case. Writing can take up a lot of time, but I can recommend it to everyone working in the web field. It helps understand stuff better, can expose what you don’t know yet and also just to align thoughts.
These are some of the most read:
- Did CSS become more complicated since the late nineties?
- This website now uses Grid Layout
- How to make inline error messages accessible
- Accessibly labelling interactive elements
- On hiding content
On April 1st this year I stopped volunteering at Fronteers, after over 8 years. It’s been a lot of fun and I learned a lot, yet it felt very good to step down.
The decision has given me a lot of free time, which was good. But I couldn’t really help myself and did organise a small event with Sharon: a film screening of Hanzi the movie, its European premiere. Responses were great, some people even suggested we could do a monthly design documentary meetup in Rotterdam. That would be very cool.
Things I learned
Finally, some random things I learned:
- In two projects I was involved in we had official WCAG 2.0 audits, it was great to get feedback on our accessibility efforts. Before the auditor came I had done all I could to be 100% compliant, but they found several issues anyway, most of which we were able to resolve, others we could use as leverage to convince people of different prioritisation. Because accessibility is, as many things, team work.
- I presented a couple of sprint review demos. It was fun to try and explain our technical projects to an audience with various less technical people in it. I learned to switch quickly between more and less technical narratives.
- Remote working can be tiresome, especially working across time zones. I’ve had to force myself to do some non work things in my days to balance stuff out. Knowing when to ignore notifications late at night is acceptable and also key.
- Learned loads about how big organisations manage projects and how to be political about getting accessibility to be a priority. For example: be nothing but positive and constructive in meetings (this is a skill I’ve had to get much better at). I owe a lot of this year’s progress in that part of work to Jeroen. who is very good at this stuff
- It’s been good to plan for holidays. However much it might seem like they’re not necessary, they absolutely are.
Some resolutions for the next year:
- More reading of books and newspapers, less looking at my phone
- More public speaking if I can
- Better time management
- Help other people get started with a personal blog like this one (get in touch if you need proofreading/advice)
I am looking forward to 2018. Happy new year!