Friday the 19th of January saw FrontEndNorth kick in to full swing for the 3rd time. Hosted by Make Do, FENorth, is a full day conference crammed full of Web Design, Development and Digital talks with a focus on FrontEnd technologies. Held every other year, it invites some of the industries brightest stars to come and speak. And with such an exciting schedule lined up again this year, it seemed it would be impossible for people in attendance not to learn something valuable from the experience.  So we sent our Front End team along and we were not wrong!

Here is one of our Junior developers, Emma Price-Horton’s, take on the day.


On Friday the 19th of January, we embarked on a mission to Sheffield, to attend the FrontendNorth conference. The day was packed with excellent talks aimed at different areas of skill sets, experience and of course, development.

The Talks

Night of the Living Style Guides – Sarah Semark

Sarah’s talk described in full, what a living style guide was and why we should use one. A living style guide is a set of standards which would be traditionally used for printing and designing, by having a living style guide, sites can stay consistent and its excellent for design documentation. The Frontend Team here at Fisheye, have set up documents that closely follow this idea, allowing us to keep styling consistent on our new build sites.

A valuable point I took away from this talk is that near enough everything can go into a style guide! Colours, buttons, fonts and copy including voice and tone… but a big point to remember is to describe what it is, how and why it is that way.

Offline First Apps with PouchDB and CouchDB – Lorna Mitchell

Lorna’s talk was extremely interesting. An offline first application means creating something that works fast and well, regardless of whether the device is connected, experiencing network glitches or offline completely. This is definitely something that interested the team.

A point I remember Lorna explaining was that “Offline is not an error condition, they should work the best they can” so it doesn’t matter if you’re in a car, bus, or even on a mountain… that website should still work to its best ability! I believe this is the future of the web and myself and the team will be looking into Lornas blog and reading up more on offline first applications.

“Offline is not an error condition, they should work the best they can.” ~ Lorna Mitchell

Designing Form Validation the Right Way – Damian Nicholson

Have you ever felt frustrated whilst filling out a form online? I bet you answered yes… Same! Damian talked about how important it is to style forms.

The way a form responds to a users input is extremely important. We really don’t like it when we are told we’re filling things in wrong, especially when we’ve not even finished inputing our data.

Something I took away from this talk was to ensure positive feedback throughout the site is given, and making sure it is always consistent.

Reacting to Change – Ben Cooper

Ben Cooper spoke about how we have come to learn JavaScript in the past. There has always been a large emphasis on understanding the prototypical model and how you apply object orientated patterns, such as encapsulation to a language which lacks a class type.

Ben described React using pizza, how we can pass it from one objects (or person) to another. This talk highlighted the power of React and how popular its becoming in the industry.

React JS is something that the team really wants to look into, and Ben made an excellent point that everything we need to know about functional programming JavaScript is what we already know, we just need discipline.

Agile Working in a Slow-Moving World – Chris Marsh

Chris Marsh works in a university implementing agile working in one of the slowest industries. Web Development moves extremely fast and as a digital team, we always want to deliver the best work and as a quickly as we can… it’s important that the whole team here at Fisheye works together to enable this to happen.

A really good point I won’t forget is if you create an environment where people aren’t afraid to share or speak up, you will end up with an amazing team of people that constantly bounce ideas off each other, which is beneficial for everyone.

if you create an environment where people aren’t afraid to share or speak up, you will end up with an amazing team of people that constantly bounce ideas off each other. ~ Chris Marsh

Build Anything with React – Jani Evakallio

This was a really interesting talk and showed us the power of React JS. Jani explored how we can use familiar tools like React and JavaScript to build amazing applications across platforms. Jani told us that ironically React’s idea was to go back to how things used to be done.

Jani’s talk showed me that anything was possible with React… even rendered charts in the terminal, because why not? It looks like React Js is the future for Augmented Reality (AR) too and this is something that we found really cool.

Owning Innovation – Teejay White

Teejay’s talk explained how the word innovation is a phrase that is being bandied around a lot recently. “Going to conferences is a really good way to generate ideas” and we agree, we learnt so much from Teejay and the rest of the speakers on Friday.
Something I remember very clearly from Teejays talk was her quote:

“My product needs to be all things things!” but actually, it just needs to be less things, but better… we want a site thats fast and efficient, detailed but quick and useful.

Overall we learnt that less is more, less is always more!

Selling the Front-End – Kimb Jones

Kimb explained how accessibility or performance should never be an optional extra, ever site should be accessible and perform well no matter what.

All Frontend Developers are described as “Batman” but really, you are batman not us! We are Alfred, we’re the guy in the chair in Spider-Man that makes things happen!

I took away two brilliant points from Kimb’s talk, the importance of communication and to be the guy in the chair not a superhero! Us Frontends, are here to help and support you, not be your hero… well at least not all the time anyway!

One thing I’m personally going to look into is improving my language and learning to adapt quickly and more efficiently.

Automating Critical CSS – Rich Higgins

Rich Higgins spoke about how he used Critical CSS to optimise usuable load time! Rich gave us a number of links to look into which provide detailed information on how to make CSS faster to load.

If a site has the speed index of or around > 3k, then the site is too slow. A good way to hit the performance goal is to optimise images and loading CSS, Javascript and fonts asynchronously. You should optimise server response time by caching, using a load balancer and having an excellent content delivery network (CDN).

A good way to test the performance is by using application response testing, webpagetest.org, google page speed insights and browser throttling.

Overall, the best points we took away from Rich’s talk was to avoid blocking requests as this delays page rendering, always load them asynchronously. Deliver the most important CSS inline to serve usable web pages much faster, set cookies once CSS files have been loaded asynchronously and make sure its mobile first… make sure the connection has a friendly approach to page rendering. So, lots to think about and work on!

Marty Mcfly Has Alot to Answer or – Craig Burgess

Responsive Web Design has ruined Web Design as we’ve gone from a “can do” to a “no thank you” industry. ~ Craig Burgess

Craig’s talk was an excellent end to the day, unfortunately our Frontend team had to explain to me who Marty Mcfly was before Craig come on stage… but I know now, its cool!

Craig talked about how we’ve lost creativity, its extremely important that we look beyond the big banners with text and buttons on them and start looking at a whole new idea.

From a Frontend Developers aspect this was a real eye opener… instead of saying we can’t make something, we should really start looking into different solutions because designers bring the secret sauce and always will do.

We loved Craig’s live magic tricks and his talk!

Our summary

FrontEnd North was a fabulous day and the whole team stayed late into the night! The after party was a excellent chance for us to catch up with other likeminded people. We socialised with the event team and got the chance to speak to the speakers of the day!

The best part about FrontEnd North was being accepted into a community despite being young and only an intern. We will definitely be coming back next year for sure!

From all of the Frontend team here at Fisheye, we would like to say a huge thank you to the team at Fisheye for giving us the opportunity to attend FEN and of course Make Do for organising a brilliant conference!

So before you go… we have an important question from us to you, what do you say lunch or dinner? 😉