The web platform at Fluent 2014

Our Project Programmer Analyst, Chul Hee Yoon, recently attended the Fluent 2014 conference. Below is a recap of his experience and key takeaways. For more information, get in touch with Chul via email or phone at 416-978-5311.

Fluent 2014 has been a blast! It's been busy three days from the beginning to the end, full of learning.

For many people, Javascript is more known as a client-side script, and accustomed to using php as server side language and Javascript for client side language. Since the introduction of Node.js, which is a server-side Javascript platform, it is possible to create entire web application using Javascript. During the first workshop I attended - "Build a Real Website with Node and Express.js" - we had a chance to create a simple application using Node.js and Express.js. Express.js is a framework on top of Node.js, which is sort of like "Bootstrap for Node.js", and comes with a template generator so that we can have our own html template on top of model / controller. By using Express.js framework on top of Node.js, it ultimately gives developer access to MVC pattern.

Node.js is considered as one of the big thing in the industry as many companies such as Yahoo, Paypal, Trello and eBay uses Nodejs. I believe more companies will switch over to Node.js eventually. Compare to an application written in PHP, the performance increased drastically. In addition to Node / Express.js, the instructor also gave us a demonstration on using git as well. As we use git a lot every day during our development projects and became comfortable with git, it was more of a refresher for me.

For those interested, the slide for this session can be found at http://bit.ly/fluentNE

Other heavily emphasized technology during the conference was "AngularJS". AngularJS is a JavaScript framework developed by Google. A few reasons why AngularJS is very popular are:

  • Pure Javascript, it's not extending / inheriting
  • Superb data binding
  • HTML5
  • Use of Templates
  • Incredibly Modular
  • Has following advantages
  • Light structure / orientation
  • Less code
  • Easy to test
  • Lightweight

A recent example of using AngularJS in the University of Toronto is the newly redesigned Weblogin page.

Throughout the conference, there were numerous workshops about AngularJS, all the way from the very beginner stage to the advanced level. I think NodeJS (+ Express.js) and Angular JS been the biggest takeaway from this conference that we can actually make use of it in the future Although there will be a learning curve to understand those two, but at the end, we can make our web applications more light, have better performance and be more up-to-date with the latest technology.

In one other session I attended - "Designing for Front-End Page Speed", the speaker - Lara Swanson from Etsy - emphasized on the importance of the performance on the front-end side. From the presentation, user expects the web page to load within 2 seconds, and after 3 seconds, 40% of the user will abandon the website. Having a website with a good performance, it will build more trust / loyalty from visitors. Therefore, combining good performance with beautiful UI will drastically improve user experience.

There are few parts we can keep in mind to improve loading time on the website:

  • Image
  • Font
  • Semantics and repurposability
  • Responsive web design - go with mobile first design approach (which we do!)

Lara concluded the session by emphasizing that everyone is responsible for the performance, and keep in mind that "Good Performance is good design." Other than workshops and keynote sessions, there were many opportunities to network with other Fluent participants. One of the main highlight was "Google Mixer," that a few of participants were invited to Google San Francisco office and chance to network with other participants.

Photo of conference attendees networking

Also, there was a networking opportunity during lunch hour that group of people gathered together based on the interest / backgrounds. I was part of a group for "academic institution" that many people from different universities got together, introduced ourselves, what we do at work, share experiences from the conference and how we can apply what we learned back to our work. Throughout the conference, I was able to connect with many interesting people from different industries, and backgrounds. Even though we all came from different backgrounds, I was able to connect with others by the desire to learn and keep up to date with latest web technologies and exchange information. 

My recap's been based on parts that are relevant to ITS and things we can make use of it. I believe that we can improve our websites / web applications lot by applying those latest technologies and keep up to date with latest technologies. There could be some learning curves, but I believe things like Node.js or AngularJS are worth putting efforts to study and make use of them in the future.

Watch the Fluent 2014 Keynote with Brendan Eich

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