Web Directions Summit 2023, Day Two

By admin
We’re back on

Day Two
DATE

of

the Web Directions Summit
ORG


2023
DATE

conference in

Sydney
GPE

,

Australia
GPE

, looking forward to another packed day of what’s on the web technology horizon.

If you haven’t already, catch up on

Day One
DATE

, and join us as we look for new insights into digital accessibility, artificial intelligence, and the intersection of the

two
CARDINAL

.

Day Two Opening Keynote: Steam Engine Time


Mark Pesce
PERSON

, broadcaster and futurist

The title of

Mark
PERSON

’s talk refers to his proposition that we are still in

the early days
DATE

of AI, and its benefits and limitations are analogous to those we experienced in the age of steam power. Having started his talk by making clear that there really is no such thing as “artificial intelligence” – by definition intelligence cannot be artificially derived –

Mark
PERSON

explained how human consciousness and cognition evolves from birth to become more complex and refined over time.

He suggested that what we call AI still has a great deal of evolution ahead of it, not unlike how clumsy – albeit revolutionary – steam power was in

its day
DATE

before giving way to more complex, streamlined and effective technologies.

My takeaway was that there is opportunity ahead to manage the evolution of

AI
ORG

and its role on the web and in day to day life, if we approach it without fear but with care and caution.

Design + AI = Good or Bad?


MC Monsalve & Phil Banks
WORK_OF_ART

, Product Design Team Lead & Design Lead, ABC iView

MC and

Phil
PERSON

focused on how the principles of

AI
ORG

could support the

ABC
ORG

,

Australia
GPE

’s national radio and television broadcaster, in enhancing user experience. With its multiple outlets in free-to-air national TV broadcasting, live streaming, video on demand, national and local radio broadcasting, podcasting, and apps, the

ABC
ORG

carries a responsibility as a publicly funded entity to provide content in metropolitan, regional and remote parts of

Australia
GPE

to all ages from the very young to the very old, but to do this in a way that satisfies the customized and personalized demands of its individual users. AI is a necessary and usable tool to meet these demands. It is being used now in various ways and its use will continue to grow. It’s therefore important to ensure that

AI
ORG

is used accurately, ethically and responsibly, and the

ABC
ORG

aims to be a leader in this.

My takeaway was that the

ABC
ORG

accepts the responsibility of the national public content network to ensure that

AI
ORG

is used to the overall benefit of its users in every way.

Experimenting with AI at the

ABC
ORG


Anna Dixon
PERSON

,

Senior Service Designer
ORG

,

ABC
ORG


Anna
PERSON

explained the activities of the

ABC
ORG

’s

Innovation Lab
ORG

in exploring how AI is being applied to its products.

Anna
PERSON

gave examples that focused on accessibility, such as AI-generated transcripts of radio and television presentations and synthesized speech generated from text by

AI
ORG

, as well as more general ways that AI is being used to enhance and customize user experience, such as automated language translation in both text and voice. While user feedback has been very positive regarding these innovations,

Anna
PERSON

noted that in most cases, an element of human intervention is still required in the form of checking and editing.

In the Q&A, I asked about other ways in which

the Innovation Lab
ORG

was aiming to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities, and

Anna
PERSON

responded with enthusiasm that the Lab is actively exploring the potential for AI image recognition to produce automated audio description and the production of AI-generated automated captions, among other things. She emphasized that their user research included people with disabilities, and reiterated the need for human intervention for accuracy, bias, and quality assurance.

My takeaway was that AI can be used to improve broad user experience, and to allow greater customization to individual user preferences, including to enhance digital accessibility for people with disabilities.


Conversational AI
PRODUCT

Has a Massive,

UX-Shaped Hole

PRODUCT


Peter Isaacs
PERSON

, Senior Conversation Design Advocate,

Voiceflow

PERSON


Peter
PERSON

focused on the need to improve the way AI handles conversation, clunky and stilted chatbots being a prime example.

Peter
PERSON

sees UX practitioners as the key to making AI voice interfaces more human-like and natural, bringing empathy and user research to the task of training voice AI. At the same time,

UX
PRODUCT

designers need to engage with and understand

AI
ORG

and ML, creating a new skill set around

Conversational Design
ORG

.

In the Q&A, I asked about how, given the apparent “black box” process of using

AI
ORG

, UX practitioners could insert themselves into the process of generating conversational AI, and

Peter
PERSON

responded that it has to be at both ends of the process, in influencing the material on which

AI
ORG

is trained before the generation process, and being able to affect the output before it’s made available to humans.

My takeaway was that

Conversational AI
PRODUCT

has significant implications for digital accessibility, with the potential to make user interfaces more accessible to some people with disabilities, and less accessible for others.


Baking Accessibility
ORG

into Your Design System


Simon Mateljan
PERSON

, Design Manager,

Atlassian
NORP


Simon
PERSON

gave an overview of how a design system can be constructed and developed to meet digital accessibility needs, and how this is not something that can be applied on top of a design system but needs to be baked in from the start.

Simon
PERSON

described how the

Atlassian
NORP

design system applied to a large range of products, which demands a design system that is both consistent and respects individual product specifications. It inevitably requires some education and explanation for its users, and needs to allow for ongoing refinement over time, while remaining true to brand requirements as well digital accessibility standards.

My takeaway was that it is possible to create an accessible design system for a large company with a diverse range of products, if the company chooses to set that as an aim and supports the work required.

WCAG

2.2
CARDINAL

– What it Means for Designers

Julie Grundy &

Zoë Haughton
PERSON

, Senior

Digital Accessibility Consultants
ORG

,

Intopia

Julie
ORG

and

Zoë
PERSON

walked us through the changes to

the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
ORG

in version

2.2
CARDINAL

, explaining what each new success criterion is, what it focuses on, and how to test for it.

Julie
PERSON

and

Zoë
PERSON

explained the success criteria in language designers could understand and provided practical examples.

In the Q&A, I asked about how to manage attitudes from designers that, for example, the new

Focus Not Obscured
ORG

success criteria were redundant because their issues were already covered by

Focus Visible
ORG

.

Julie
PERSON

responded that accessibility consultants need to convey that the new success criteria are refinements in addition to

Focus Visible
ORG

, allowing identification of more specific issues and techniques to remediate them. They agreed that this was also an education issue for more experienced accessibility engineers, but noted that ultimately the goal is to fix content accessibility problems and whether that’s done under one

SC
ORG

or another is less important than that they are fixed.

My takeaway was that WCAG

2.2
CARDINAL

aims to build on WCAG

2.1
CARDINAL

and improve accessibility guidance on issues that relate to users with cognitive disabilities, low vision users, and touch screen interfaces.


Day Two
DATE

Closing Keynote: All the Things That Seem to

Matter

Tea Uglow
ORG

, Director,

Dark Swan Institute

Tea
ORG

’s talk was an over-arching view of how web technology has evolved and what the future might hold, seen through the lens of a technologist who founded

Creative Labs
ORG

for Google in

Sydney
GPE

and

London
GPE

and has become noted for her work in the intersections of technology, arts and culture. Tea walked us through an anecdotal timeline that gave a perspective on the history of web technology, informed by both her work and personal life, including her gender transition and her LBGTQ advocacy and activism.

Her reflections were deeply incisive and forthright (expletives, ribaldry, and possible libel included), pitching her own experience of how obstructionist working in web tech can be against the ongoing potential for inclusion, liberation and creative development.

My takeaway was that the history of web technology is filled with contradictions, frustrations and creative breakthroughs, and what its future holds largely depends on us, the people who build the web, individually and collectively.

Conclusion

As always at live conferences, I gained as much from the conversations between sessions as from the talks themselves. As well as catching up with my tribe – long term, like-minded web tech friends and colleagues – I also met several new people with whom I engaged to great effect, including some who worked in higher education, design systems, product design, cloud development, content strategy, and, of course, digital accessibility. I’ve no doubt these new connections will be as fruitful and long-lasting as the old tribe.

It’s worth noting that Web Directions makes recordings of all Summit presentations available to attendees post-conference, so while I physically attended

seven
CARDINAL

talks, I’ll be to view videos later of the other

78
CARDINAL

across the

seven
CARDINAL

tracks of the conference. This is done via the

Conffab
ORG

archive, which uses the most accessible platform for such a purpose I’ve ever encountered.


Videos
ORG

have full user controls, closed captions that can be turned on or off, a rolling transcript that is synchronized to the speaker with current sections highlighted, a separate searchable transcript that can be turned on or off, control over video quality and speed, and accessible slides that are also synchronized to the presentation. These people do conference presentations right.

The

Conffab
ORG

library has presentations from

more than 40
CARDINAL

Web Directions conferences over

the last 10+ years
DATE

, and I believe it’s possible to subscribe without being a conference attendee. Part of the thinking is that people should be able to construct their own personalized conferences consisting of selected presentations.

My thanks go to the Web Directions team for organizing such a brilliant conference, and to TPGi for supporting my attendance. I’m already looking forward to the next one.