Field Notes: An Event Apart Boston 2016


Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community.

This week, designers Kjell Reigstad and Mel Choyce and code wrangler Kelly Dwan attended An Event Apart in Boston, Massachusetts. An Event Apart is a tech industry conference built by, and for, designers and developers who believe “that through advocacy and hard work, each of us can make a meaningful difference.” Mel shares her experience from the event.

Yesenia Perez-Cruz, taken by Jeffrey Zeldman. Photo licensed CC BY-ND 2.0.

Yesenia Perez-Cruz, taken by Jeffrey Zeldman. Photo licensed CC BY-ND 2.0.

Every now and then a conference comes around that makes you want to get up and go work. That’s always been An Event Apart for me — I leave feeling energized and amped up, with a strong desire to make the world (or at least the web) a better place.

An Event Apart is a series of one-track conferences hosted across the United States, focusing on designing and developing the modern web. The speakers are top-notch industry leaders, who present eye-opening talks on topics ranging from the technicalities of using CSS Grids to designing for people in crisis.

Throughout this week’s event in Boston there was an undercurrent of compassion, empathy, and understanding for the real people who use the products we create. The web should be accessible to everyone — not just people with fast connections and modern devices, or perfect vision, or people who only speak English.

This sentiment was woven into talks about designing deliberately, creating for touch screens and physical interfaces, building products that last, and improving your site performance. More than their technical expertise, each speaker’s humanity shone through in their presentation. I can’t imagine leaving An Event Apart and not being inspired to make the world a better place.

At WordPress.com our mission is to democratize publishing. That means making a space for everyone on the web to have a voice that is their own, that they control — not us. If you ever want to leave WordPress.com, you can take your content with you, no strings attached. Making a place that enables you to tell your story and carve out a niche on this world wide web is critically important to me and to everyone here.

To see people using WordPress.com to kickstart their careers as writers, build their businesses and support themselves, and share their experiences with their family and friends is inspiring. Seeing what y’all build here is a reminder of how beautiful and diverse our world is, and An Event Apart is a perennial reminder that our work touches and empowers so many communities.

In addition to the three of us attending, WordPress.com had the great privilege of sponsoring this event. Before and after sessions, Kelly, Kjell and I (Mel — oh what rhyming we brought with us) hung out at our booth, where we handed out stickers, buttons, and some beautiful WordPress pennants from Oxford Pennants. (I can’t wait to hang mine up in my home office!)

We also got to talk to people about their love of WordPress. Pretty much everyone who approached us throughout the conference either used WordPress at their current job, or at a previous job, or were trying to convince their job to switch to WordPress. We got to chat about the benefits of using the Jetpack plugin for self-hosted sites. Folks seemed really excited about the new features we’ve been introducing into Jetpack, especially Jetpack Manage, which lets you manage and update your self-hosted sites from WordPress.com — a feature I wanted when I worked at an agency and had a lot of client sites to maintain.

I was sad to see An Event Apart end, but I’m excited to get back to work. If you’re a designer or another member of the tech industry, I encourage you to check out an upcoming An Event Apart in your area.

If you’re as pumped as we are about making the web a better place, WordPress.com is currently hiring Product Designers, Marketing Designers, and is on the lookout for our next Head of Design!