The web lets us build relationships with people all over the world. That’s one reason why conferences play such a key role in we web professionals’ lives. Many tech companies include education—often through conferences—as an employee perk. Many marketing teams host and sponsor events as part of their promotional efforts. And with friends from afar, fantastic food and drink, and new cities to see, what’s not to like about attending a conference?
But as our industry has matured, the number of conferences has exploded. Designers and developers now face analysis paralysis when filling out their calendars.
To help prevent that paralysis, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite conferences in several categories.
Our favorite design conferences
“Design” can be a catch-all phrase for our industry, and so can “design conferences.” The gatherings below address topics ranging from information architecture to responsive images to gender equality—sometimes all in one event!
1. An Event Apart
The folks behind A List Apart created this, the grandaddy of web conferences, way back in 2005. It happens several times a year in various US locations, with a varied lineup of speakers and topics each time.
2. Beyond Tellerand
A unique event held in Germany, Beyond Tellerand asks you to look past the edge of your plate (i.e., “think outside the box”). It’s a great mix of talks and workshops on various topics, all designed to expand your horizons.
Touted as the conference for designers with “a free heart and a love of details” and developers who “code for joy and are filled with a passion for technology.” Held in Columbia, South Carolina, ConvergeSE focuses on cultivating community.
Like An Event Apart, The Future of Web Design has been around the block. The brainchild of the folks at Future Insights, this conference has several events each year in London, NYC, San Francisco, and Las Vegas.
6. HOW Design Live
Another mainstay of the design conference circuit, HOW Design Live runs just once a year from Chicago. This is a larger event, with keynote talks each day, along with various smaller sessions in the mornings and afternoons.
7. Hybrid Conf
As the name suggests, Hybrid Conf focuses on how designers and developers can work together. Attendees always speak highly of the community feel. Bonus points: the event takes place in Dublin, Ireland, in 2015!
8. IA Summit
This event has a fairly narrow focus: information architecture. Who’s it for? As the site mentions, “information architects, user experience designers, content strategists, and all those who work to create and manage information spaces.” So, pretty much anyone in the web industry. This event takes place in Minneapolis.
9. Smashing Conf
Smashing Mag’s conference features several events throughout the year in various locations (LA, NYC, Freiburg, and Barcelona in 2015). With its diverse lineup of speakers, Smashing Conf is another well-rounded event.
Designers and developers now face analysis paralysis when filling out their calendars.
Conferences for developers
Here’s a couple of dev-specific options for you code ninjas.
10. CSS Dev Conf
If you work with CSS, you may want to circle this one on your calendar.
11. Front End Conf
If you work with CSS, but also get your hands dirty with JS, HTML, responsive techniques, and more, this one’s for you. Talks and hands-on workshops included.
Business and entrepreneurship conferences
Many of us are just as interested in the business side of the web. These conferences tend to focus on how to launch and grow your own company.
This Behance-team brainchild has a worthy goal: shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution. With a diverse lineup, you’ll walk away from this event with a lot to chew on.
13. Big Omaha
Held in Omaha, Nebraska, and boasting a cow for a logo, this conference may not set your expectations very high. But the past 6 years have shown web events can be “diamonds in the rough” too.
Held in one of the world’s most beautiful settings (Whistler, BC), the Grow Conference focuses on how technology and our connected lifestyle will impact business and culture in the future.
Customer support and success conferences
Let’s not forget that customer support is a huge part of user experience.
Userconf drives this fact home. Running in Portland and London in 2015, this conference targets those involved in customer success, support, and product management.
General web and tech conferences
These broader conferences encompass the web in general, so design remains important, but isn’t the sole focus.
A larger conference, TNW takes place several times a year (Amsterdam, NYC, and São Paulo in 2015). With speakers like Tim Ferris, David Allen, and Shingy, this is a high-profile event.
17. WSJ.D Live
From the Wall Street Journal, WSJ.D Live claims to be “where the digital world connects.” This one-time event in Laguna Beach, California, features speakers from the biggest companies in tech. Previous events included the likes of Tim Cook and Marc Andreessen.
Nonferences focus on deepening the relationships that start online.
The past couple years have seen an increase in events with a different purpose for getting together. Instead of focusing on high-profile keynote speakers, the “nonference” focuses on the in-betweens, highlighting the conversations that take place between talks at more traditional events.
These events defy succinct summaries. But nonferences focus on deepening the relationships that start online. If you want an opportunity to spend time with humans, to be challenged and stretched, these events are for you.
Fresh off the inaugural event in Lake Tahoe, Epicurrence #2 will take place in Oahu, Hawaii, later this year. A complete non-conference, Epicurrence is small and has a laser focus on human to human interaction. Our own Stephen Olmstead was there in Tahoe, and learned a lot about using vulnerability as a design tool.
19. Greenville Grok
Another true non-conference, Grok has a unique structure. Along with a handful of keynote presentations, Grok holds mediated 10/20s: Attendees propose a topic. After 10 minutes of conversation, the mediator chooses to extend the conversation, or asks for another topic. The key here is everyone participates.
Even one event can have a huge impact on your career—and your life.
Some events just defy categorization. For example, XOXO and SXSW are more festival than conference, but the benefits are similar. Good music, good food, provocative discussions, and face time with people you admire.
A unique event focused on helping people learn how to put on great events. Very meta.
21. Do Lectures
Part conference, part festival, part camping trip, Do Lectures bring creative people together to tell their stories. And to leave changed.
Ok, it’s massive. More circus than conference. Fair enough—but it’s still an opportunity for us web professionals to learn a little more about our craft and connect with like-minded folks. And if you like a good party …
A truly unique event, Webstock takes place annually in Wellington, New Zealand. Their tagline says it all: “A spectacular of astounding talent & splendour set to edify, enlighten, dazzle and delight.”
You could call XOXO SouthBy’s quirky kid sister. Created by the magical duo of Andy Baio and Andy MacMillan, XOXO “is an experimental festival celebrating independently produced art and technology.”
Not a conference-hopping socialite with little to hold you to home? No problem! Even one event can have a huge impact on your career—and your life. Choose the one that suits and pass the link on to your friends.