Frontend United 2017 - Retrospective
During four days from May 25-28, Athens hosted the Frontend United 2017 conference. Frontend United is a conference that travels around Europe each year, aiming to bring together frontend developers, designers and Drupal themers from all possible backgrounds in order to share knowledge, experience and ideas. After Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Copenhague and Ghent, it was the time for Athens. The conference is non-profit and is organised annually from different volunteers of the Drupal community. From Point Blank, Iro Palampougiouki and Kostas Kourakis participated in this year's organization committee.
In Athens, the conference duration was increased from two to four days by adding an extended social event on Thursday (first conference day) plus one day of dedicated to sprints and workshops on Sunday, last day. The two main conference days included four keynote presentations as well as 18 more talks in two distinct parallel tracks.
Social Event (& pre-keynote)
The conference began with a keynote talk by Vitaly Friedman (editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine) titled New Adventures in Responsive Web Design as well as the Mozilla Roadshow Event. Vitaly provided an inspiring talk about designing for the web, the designer/developer stereotypes as well as ideas to overcome them.
Mozilla, the conference's platinum sponsor, after presenting the novelties that are being developed for Firefox, talked about aframe and WebVR and continued to do an extended demonstration of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. Attendees had the chance to play with a VR headset in a classic shoot-em-up game as well as a 3D design program. The night concluded with socialising and free beers provided by Mozilla.
The first day of presentations started with a Lightning talk by Mozilla about the new browser they are preparing, Presto. Presto is an answer to the question: What would a browser look like if we started coding it in 2017?
The first keynote was by Lea Verou (author of CSS Secrets) titled CSS Variables: var(--subtitle);. Lea presented what CSS variables are, how they work, focusing on the fact that it is a technology ready for use today. It was an excellent presentation with many examples and live coding.
The keynote ending the day was Responsive Web Applications with Container Queries by Jonathan Snook (author of SMACSS, Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS). Jonathan presented the work they did on Shopify using Container Queries, explained why Media queries could not provide a solution for the needs of Shopify, how we can use Container queries today, as well as several more thoughts around the direction of the standardization process of Container queries.
The night found us in the Verve bar in Psirri, where the conference sponsor Druid supplied plentiful alcohol. There was a lot of socializing and many discussions about the future of frontend and Drupal. Keeping with the tradition of Frontend United, during this night we decided on the next city to host the conference (an announcement follows at the end of the post).
The second day of presentations began with the keynote of Rachel Andrew (author of Get ready for CSS Grid Layout) titled Start Using CSS Grid Layout Today. Rachel presented CSS Grid Layout, its resemblance and differences to flexbox, its history and future, as well as how we developers can help shape it, ending with practical examples and fallbacks. Browser support for grid layout is almost universal, and there is no longer a need to have css layouts full of hacks.
The final keynote was Evaluating Technology by Jeremy Keith (author of Resilient Web Design, HTML5 For Web Designers). Jeremy guided us through the history of technology and the design principles that affected the evolution of the web and internet. Raising the fundamental question of not how well a new technology works, but how well it fails, he examined the latest web technologies providing useful insight. The talk was followed by a lively discussions with good questions and even better answers, exposing the depth of thought of Jeremy Keith.
The night continued with the organizers and speakers dinner, and later on with cocktails at the bar Red Lotus in Exarchia.
Workshops & sprints
The last day of the conference had two very interesting workshops, Advanced CSS Layout with Flexbox and Grid by Rachel Andrew and Data flow architecture with Redux and Angular by Nir Kaufman as well as Drupal frontend sprints (sprints are the way Drupal code is produced, in a meeting of multiple developers in the same space, where all of us collectively contribute to our favorite project). In this sprint we worked mainly on the new theme of Drupal core, unami, as well as on mega menu.
The conference was attended by 278 participants from 22 countries (GR, NL, BE, IE, GB, FR, RS CY, ES, US, BG, DE, AT, IT, CA PT, PL, FI, EE, SE, HU, MD). We had around 25% women participants and we will try to increase this percentage even more next year. The conference was financially successful and will transfer all profits to next year's conference organization.
Frontend United 2018
The next Frontend United will be in 2018 in Holland's Utrecht. We thank the members of the dutch Drupal community for accepting the invitation.
On a personal level, I would like to thank all the team that helped put together the conference: vickymos, iropal, darketaine, thpoul, mathieuspil, bserem and vgiannoul. The team worked very hard, very professionaly and with very little friction. It was an honor to be part of this group and I thank everyone by heart, hoping for more collaboration opportunities in the future. Also, let me extend a big thank you to our speakers, who, understanding the community spirit, accepted to give presentations in the conference with little or no remuneration.
All photographs by Nikolas Grigoriou.