The Fifth annual Design 4 Drupal conference was held at the MIT Sata Center over the weekend of June 22nd and 23rd and is one of the only front-end, design and UX specific Drupal conferences. Steadily growing in attendance each year, Design 4 Drupal has provided a place where some of the brightest minds in the Drupal community (and northeast area) can gather and share tips and techniques around Drupal theming and design. The keynotes and sessions, like just about all Drupal conferences I have attended, were phenomenal and thought provoking. Here are a few lessons I took away from it.

Richard Banfields (@freshtilledsoil) keynote stressed the importance of designing (in a broad sense) for humans and not technology. With a wonderful analogy between a mobile phone and an obsidian stone knife (used by cave man), Richard pointed out that we have come full circle in the tools we design. Our technology is powerful, small and portable enough where we can once again design tools (in this case websites) for the humans using holding them (via portable devices) and not the devices powering them. The tools we design have to work for humans to be successful, technology is just the vessel.

Dani Nordins (@danigrrl) talk on large scale ux stressed that it is up to us to explain to clients what they do not know. We know what important information we need to successfuly build a clients product, our clients do not. They may think they do, they may think that a website can be built around Lorem Ipsum and a half completed UX apprach, but we know it cant.  It is our job make our clients understand what they do not know. It is our responability to explian to our clients why they cant afford not to do ux and content discovery.  If we are not desiging and building for the actual content we are expected to deliver, then we are never going to deliver a successful product.

John Echmans (@jeckman) session on truly responsive design, approached responsive design from a project standpoint. In a great compliment to the ux session by Dani, John stressed that to be successful sites need to be responsive to the needs of thier users and not the whims of the stakeholders who are paying for them. It is once again, our responsability to explain to the client why that one feature request that will only look good on their desktop PC running IE8, is not a great choice when 80% of thier users access the site from a mobile device. We need to take the reigns when it comes to our projects and act like the professionals we know we are, and not just bend to every whim of our clients. When we agree to build that feature that breaks the responsiveness of the site, it becomes our responsability. We can not plug our ears and say "well that's what you told me to build". We need to explain why features and a good or bad idea for our projects.

Design 4 Drupal was my first Drupal conference where I was not only an atendee, but a sponsor and presentor. Both of these provided new intensely gratifying experiences.  As a gold sponsor I spent a lot of time at the Genuine Interactive (@wearegenuine) booth, talking to just about all of the attendees. I was able to share with many not only why I think Drupal is such a great platform, but also the great projects and work we produce at Genuine.

As a session presentor I was able to give back to the community that has provided me with so much insight.  My co worker Salem Ghoweri (@salem_ghoweri) and I presented "Bumps in the Road to Responsive". We talked about the toubles we have run into as a company when designing and developing responsive Drupal websites and solutions we have developer and learned about.  The session was well recieved, and even sparked an hour long conversation around responsive design with a few of the attendees afterwards. I took that to mean we presented a successful session.

While not the scale of Drupalcon, or some of the other drupal camps Design 4 Drupal is steadily growing in attendance each year and I can see why. I am excited to see what sessions are given at next years.