Over the last few years, the web design and development conference calendar has become increasingly congested. From events focusing on a broad range of web design topics right through to those that cater to a particular CMS, there’s plenty of choice — perhaps too much choice.
Choosing a conference that’s right for you, and your budget, isn’t easy. Not only is there the financial cost to consider, but also the time away from the office and client work. It’s important to make the right choice.
However, the benefits of stepping out of your usual routine and hearing from industry experts can often be the perfect tonic to help reinvigorate your work and a great way to keep up to date with industry developments. Plus, adding the human element to our digital world by meeting, and talking, with people IRL should not be underestimated.
This year also marks the first ever Shopify partner and developer conference, which takes place on March 22-23rd in San Francisco. Unite’s lining up to be a fantastic two days and one not to miss if you work with Shopify or want to start.
Convinced? If so, the next step is to pick a conference that works for you. Over the last few years, I have been lucky enough to attend a number of great web design and creativity focused events. Here are a few of my top picks for you to consider in 2016.
Reasons, as it’s popularly known, happens twice a year in the UK. February sees a short one day single-track event taking place in the wonderful L.S.O. at St Luke's concert hall in London. The festivities then transfer to a full three day multi-track affair at Brighton’s Dome theatre.
I’ve been a regular attendee for a number of years and it’s certainly a highlight for any conference goer. With a healthy mix of technology, design, animation, products, and more, Reasons always leaves me inspired to get back to work. Arrive a day early for the Brighton event and enjoy the late summer sun (hopefully) whilst wandering around the Lanes.
- London, UK — February, 19 2016
- Brighton, UK — September 5-7, 2016
Smashing Conf has grown from an annual event in Freiburg, Germany to a series of events taking place across Europe and America. The conference is spread over three days — one day of workshops and two days of single track talks focusing on practical takeaways with real world examples.
- Oxford, UK — March 15–16, 2016
- San Francisco, USA — April 5–6, 2016
- New York — June 14–15, 2016
2016 also marks Shopify's inaugural partner and developer conference: Unite. Unite will be an exploration of the future of commerce and the next steps for the Shopify platform. It'll be a great opportunity to connect with other designers, developers, and partners working in the ecommerce design from all over the globe.
You’ll also have the chance to meet the team behind Shopify and learn about upcoming developments. With a mix of keynotes from Shopify leaders and in-depth technical workshops, it’s set to be a fun, and informative, two-day event.
- San Francisco, CS USA — March 22-23, 2016
Unusually, Creative South starts on a Thursday and ends on a Saturday evening. Their programming focuses on process and experience with the overall goal of connecting attendees with others from the industry. There’s also a large dose of Southern hospitality thrown in with plenty of social activities and food lined up during the event.
The 2016 lineup is already announced and includes Aaron Draplin and Anton and Irene. With a motto of “Hug necks! Come as friends and leave as family” good times are guaranteed. This one is definitely on my hit list for 2016.
- Columbus GA, USA — April 7-9, 2016
Speakers are a mix of well-known industry leaders and emerging talents. If you are interested in speaking, you can submit your own idea.
- Columbia, SC USA — April 13-15, 2016
Launched in 2013 Generate has grown from a London based event into a global series of conferences. This year sees it returning to both London and New York with rumours of further cities to be announced soon.
Run and curated by the team behind Net magazine and Creative Bloq Generate is a source of inspiration, practical advice and networking opportunities.
You can watch the entire New York 2015 conference on YouTube — it’s a great way to get an idea of what to expect.
- New York, USA — April 22, 2016
- London, UK — TBC
Squares focuses on design, UX, front-end, development, business, and products. Featuring a day of workshops and a day of single track talks, it’s an opportunity to learn from world-changing leaders, designers, and innovators in both the non-profit and tech community.
Our very own Levin Mejia will be running a 3.5-hour workshop on building Shopify themes at this years Squares.
- Grapevine, TX USA — April 27-29, 2016
If you fancy a trip into the heart of Europe then I strongly recommend you pick one of the two (or both) Beyond Tellerrand events taking place in May and November.
Now in it’s sixth year, Tellerrand continues to impress — thanks largely to the enthusiasm and passion of it’s sole organiser Marc Thiele. Describing itself as an event about web design and development, there’s plenty for everyone at this single track two-day conference. With established speakers from all parts of the globe as well as new and emerging talent taking to the stage, you’ll not be disappointed.
Finally don’t skip the evening sessions as they are a great highlight. And don’t worry if your school German isn’t up to par as all sessions are conducted in English.
- Düsseldorf, Germany — May 9-11, 2016
- Berlin, Germany — November 7-9, 2016
If content is your focus then Confab should be high on your list of go-to conferences for 2016. Now in it’s sixth year, their main “Confab Central” event attracts 650 content strategy enthusiasts from around the world. With a broad range of speakers and topics there’s plenty to learn.
- Minneapolis, MN USA — May 18-20, 2016
- Seattle, WA USA — September 19-21, 2016
Web Design Day began in 2009 with the aim of bringing the best of web design to Pittsburgh in a fun, intimate, and affordable conference. It’s organized by G. Jason & Val Head and attracts attendees from across the globe. With a great mix of talks and social activities, it's not surprising attendees come back year after year.
Last year’s speakers included Denise Jacobs, Ethan Marcotte, Aaron Gustafson, and Lyza Danger Gardner. While this year’s lineup is still under wraps, you can bet that it will undoubtedly be great.
- Pittsburgh, PA USA — June 22-23, 2016
I headed up to Birmingham last year for my first Canvas Conf and was not disappointed. 2015 was the fourth outing for the event and its popularity showed with a packed audience. It’s not a web design or development conference, but web technology, and its effects were on show throughout.
Canvas gathers a cross-discipline audience of engineers, designers, and UX professionals into 10 sessions over a single day. 2015 saw speakers from Medium, Easy, Graze, Birchbox, and NASA. If Canvas is a conference you're considering, then take the time to watch all the sessions from last year's event for free before you make a decision.
Here is curated by the team behind the popular website It’s Nice That and is an annual symposium featuring some of the world’s best creative talent — from the biggest names to the most cutting-edge practitioners. While Here is not entirely dedicated to web design, it’s nice to step outside of the web sphere and see what’s happening in other, often related, industries.
I attended the 2015 conference and learnt about branding, animation, tv commercial design, and much more. On a side note, it had one of the best goody bags of the year!
Did we miss any must-attend web design conferences? Share your favourite in the comments below.
Photo credits: All photos by Marc Thiele except Beyond Tellerrand which was taken by Nils Wittler