Reflections on EEUK13.

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Reflections on EEUK13 on DesignKarma
EEUK13 delegates in the Bridgewater Hall Foyer

After months of preparation, promotion and perspiration, the latest installment of EEUK is in the books. This time around I collaborated with Joel Bradbury (SquareBit) and add-on supremo Lodewijk Schutte (aka “Low”) for a 2-day ExpressionEngine extravaganza here in Manchester.

2011 was great but I wanted a more polished event for 2013, and I settled on The Bridgewater Hall as the venue early on. That was actually my preferred choice in 2011 but it was out of my price range back then. The space was perfect, with great acoustics, as well as being surrounded by hotels and public transport. Right behind is Rain Bar, a good choice for the after-party as well as Low’s workshop.

First step was securing sponsorship so we could pay for all this stuff. Luckily we got four of the best in EngineHosting, Focus Lab, Hippo and Solspace. EEUK.13 could not have been possible without their support. We also got some email credits and love from Campaign Monitor.

Low was already on board for the workshop, so next it was time to invite speaker proposals for conference day. We actually didn’t get that many, which was surprising. Still, it was difficult deciding on the final six and we ended up squeezing in seven. We felt it would be interesting to have some new faces and mix in peripheral topics like MySQL/optimisation and CSS future layouts. With everything in place, we went ahead and launched tickets. At that point, you go into promotion mode and hope for the best. There was a decent buzz on Twitter, plus EEUK got listed on Lanyrd, Smashing Magazine, .net, and various other developer hangouts, which all helped.

EEUK week came around fast. The fabulous @mrsflinger flew into town and stayed a couple of nights with us, impressively dismissing jet lag to remain upright for 36 hours – even withstanding some strong Belgian beers when we hooked up with Low on Tuesday night. Wednesday was spent working and worrying before things kicked off the following day.

Workshop

Joel and Low were handling the workshop, so I was hoping for a lie-in Thursday morning. But Joel texted early because the Rain Bar had no power extensions (turns out they’re always being nabbed at previous events). Time to dash into Manchester and drop off a bunch of extensions before everyone’s batteries ran dry. All done in the nick of time. I did say to Joel “if this is the only hiccup, then we’re fine”, and it really was. Even the guesstimated times for breaks/lunch/finish on conference day were pretty spot on. The workshop was heavy, but everyone I spoke to gained a fresh understanding and approach to add-on development which will no doubt pay dividends down the line. Pre-conference drinks started out at Rain Bar before moving on to Dukes 92. Pros that we are, Joel and I ducked out around 10:30 ready for an early start next day.

Conference

The conference was well attended with only one no-show. We kicked off with John Henry Donovan Bending the EE control panel. This was a great overview of correcting some of EE’s UX issues and going the extra mile for the client. I’ll certainly be giving DashEEanother look. Next was Ben Croker showcasing his new Open API add-on, sure to be a big hit. It’s clear there’s been a tremendous amount of thought and work gone into that.

Reflections on EEUK13 on DesignKarma

After the break, Joel Bradbury demo’d some EE hybrids inspired by some of the real-world multi-platform clusterf***s he’s encountered. His EE/Shortlist/Wordpress mashup was particularly impressive. Whilst far from desirable – it showed it is possible to blend multiple platforms with EE when absolutely unavoidable in the real world. Weird, but pretty cool. A great first half to the day, and we all headed for lunch.

We kicked off the afternoon with MySQL expert Tim Mahoney who gave us very thorough primer on server setup and performance. This was Tim’s first time speaking and he did a great job on a topic that’s often overlooked by EE devs. His slides are going to be a great resource for many. After Tim we switched gears with some CSS from W3C Fellow Chris Mills, and he gave us a great overview of Flexbox and other future layout techniques, proposed new queries and selectors.

Time for our last break before the final push, starting with Carl Crawley taking on the tricky subject of multi-language EE development. He managed to inject some fresh insights into an old topic, including the importance of font size in some non-western character sets, and colours to use or avoid in some cultures. Last up was Christopher Imrie who has a history of dropping something big at his talks. He didn’t disappoint when he announced Entry Analytics. I know of several clients right away who will be delighted with this – a tremendous piece of work.

After-Party

We finished bang on 6 o’clock, and it all seemed to go without a hitch. Time to head over to Rain Bar and the EngineHosting-sponsored after-party. Pretty much everyone came along and many stayed on to the end. Somebody got the munchies later on so about 15 of us headed for a midnight curry – big thanks to Low for that! In a re-run of 2011, we finished off with a boogie in Tiger Lounge till about 3am.

Thanks to everyone who came. We had delegates from all over Europe, which was terrific. Thanks to our wonderful speakers who worked so hard. Thanks to Joel and Low for all their efforts. Thanks to our amazing sponsors, and thanks to the crews at Rain Bar and The Bridgewater Hall. Great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Hope everyone had a blast – I know I did!

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