Christian Heilmann

Chrome developer summit 2013 – Day two review

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 at 4:23 am

The second day of Chrome Developer Summit continued as strong as the first one, with few surprises but solid information.

Here’s my personal reviews of the sessions – again to be taken with the knowledge that I spend a lot of times at conferences so there is less “new to me”.

Blink: Behind the scenes – Greg Simon and Eric Seidel

This session was a well paced, good introduction of what is new in Blink and what this means to Chrome. It seems Blink is concentrating on interesting things like Webcomponents, partial layout and CSS grids (which was a bit of a surprise seeing that it is the IE contender for Flexbox). The presentation was solid and delivered with the right amount of “look at us”. Interesting.

#perfmatters: Instant mobile web apps – Bryan McQuade

Bryan gave a performance talk that was catered to making a web site to show up in a mobile browser in one second rather than the twenty it originally took. He explained the steps needed to make that happen, repeating a lot of information that has been mentioned in talks in for example Yahoo some years ago but that sadly enough keep getting forgotten.

I liked this presentation a lot – rather than just showing off the tools Chrome has to analyse your content it showed the difference a few tweaks can make. A lot is going back to what we did in the past and replaced by clever JS trickery – like writing static HTML instead of generating a, well, static page.

Best UX patterns for mobile web apps – Paul Kinlan

Paul Kinlan is a good, dry and very down to earth presenter. He showed a lot of issues with web products being shown on mobiles starting with an analysis of the top 1000 pages in Alexa and the very basic things they do wrong, like omitting a viewport definition. He then proceeded to show how the results of that research got incorporated into the Pagespeed Insights tool in a new “User Experience” section to follow which allows you to fix the biggest issues. This experimental feature (enabled by adding a ux=1 parameter) needs feedback, so play with it. Good talk and insights.

Multi-device accessibility – Alice Boxhall

It was great to see an accessibility talk at the event and Alice did a good job repeating the need for basic keyboard access and mistakes being made that are simple to fix but result in a massive barrier for people with different abilities. She also did a good job debunking the idea that accessibility is only for people with severe problems but a matter of availability. The talk covered various accessibility issues and how to fix them, the accessibility add-on for Chrome devtools which allows to debug ARIA and shows problems to fix and ended with a list of free resources like screenreaders to test with. Nothing new here (to me at least), but very important information for this audience. I get a bit worried about ARIA as a solution though as it really is meant to be a fix. A lot of times it is not needed if you use the correct markup to start with.

Got SSL? An overview of why you need it and how to do it right. – Parisa Tabriz

This was probably my favourite talk of the day. Parisa did a great job explaining why you should use SSL, how to do it, what it protects you and your users from and what still can go wrong in terms of privacy and security. A good reminder that HTTPS is not slow and expensive like it used to be but actually easy to go for these days.

DevTools for Mobile – Paul Irish

Paul is a seasoned presenter and has gotten better and better over time. I am not very partial to the “yay, dudes, this is how easy stuff is” style of presenting and was happy to see that this was not one of them. Paul did a good job of telling a story of how developer tools evolved and bit by bit showed the audience the great new features in Chrome devtools to remote debug on mobile devices and simulate devices on the desktop. A boatload of great new features have been added. Talking to other people there was not much here that wasn’t in his Google IO talk, but I was impressed, both by the features shown and the nonchalant way he presented them.

Optimizing your workflow for a cross-device world – Matt Gaunt

Matt took over from where Paul started and showed how to test on various devices in parallel and using tools like Yeoman to work on desktop and mobile in parallel without having to reload any of them. He is a valuable new addition to the devrel team and dealt with breakage of demos gracefully explaining simply what could have happened. It is refreshing to see a native developer share his story how he got more web focused and bringing his tooling requirements to the new environment.

Chrome and Android leadership Q&A panel

The final panel had the leads of different technology platforms in Google answer people’s questions with Jake Archibald trying to juggle the answers and collate lots of different questions. Interesting insights here and some good explanations why some decisions were made that look like going back in the “don’t be evil” and “HTML5 is the platform” messaging. If you want to know why packaged apps were the way to go for Chrome, there were some good answers here.

Breakout session: Code education

The last thing I attended was a longer session on code education covering Coder which was a very open discussion about online education in general. Coder is an interesting idea and I tried to see how we can align and re-use some of the content of Webmaker


All in all, I have to congratulate the Chrome team on a very successful event. There was a lot to take in, there was no dull moment and all the speakers did a good job mixing news with explaining the why and repeating important messages. There was no hand-waving but we heard about the possible but also about what still needs to be done.
My initial fear of getting a Chrome indoctrination over two days was not at all validated, this was a summit about web technologies and how Chrome solves some of the problems for developers but also for their needs. There is a lot of innovation going on here and whilst not all will come to fruition it is something to compare to the work of other people and align to get this ready for all.
It was very much worth my time coming and I had no trouble staying interested and following the action. Great job all around.

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