This week, Simpleweb front-enders Ben, Mike and Nichole, went to Render, a front-end conference in Oxford.

Mike said Render was easily the best conference he’d been to. “I’d never had so many like “aha!” moments in one day. Loads of little breakthroughs in understanding things.”

Nichole ranked it highly too saying “it was one of the best conferences I’ve been to, they had a great variety of talks from deep tech talks to cool fun talks to inspirational ones. The standards for all the talks were also consistently high. Will definitely be going again next year.”

Simpleweb front-ender Ben and UX and front end designer at Basekit David Darnes, even made an episode of their podcast, Bit, on site at Render, and freelancer and long time friend of Simpleweb Kier Moffatt joined them for the first half show.

Bit Podcast is an ongoing series about games, design & development. If you haven’t heard it before, absolutely go check it out right now at

This Render themed episode looks at 10 talks from day 1 of the conference, with a short overview of what they were about and what Ben, David and Kier made of them.

Here’s a quick lowdown covering a fraction of the points made in the podcast but do go and listen to it for yourself here.

Bruce Lawson

Bruce is the deputy CTO at Opera, the web browser, and advocates open standards. In his talk, Bruce discussed a little about working at Opera and talked about the divide between the web and native apps. With web apps powerful with often much lower barriers to entry, why are native apps more and more becoming the way we use the internet?

Jack Franklin

Jack’s talk was about jQuery and its position in our current web development world. People are getting excited about writing off jQuery as dead because of new tech, but, Jack argues, jQuery is still a fantastic tool for people getting into the industry. It has value over and above just being a tool or a framework, it helps people to learn normal JavaScript, something Ben and David can both relate to. Kier adds that, in his experience as a freelancer, jQuery also makes a lot of business sense because it’s a well known and well documented library, and therefore easier for different people to work together with and pick up on work started by others.

Val Head

Val is a designer and web animation consultant and she talked about meaningful animation. The talk was one of Ben’s favourites and David and Kier agreed that Val’s personality, humour and great slides backed up her fascinating content perfectly. In her talk, Val discussed how often in design, animation has no purpose and just creates background noise. However, when used meaningfully, to back up or explain information, animation can serve be super useful and on brand.

Alicia Sedlock

Alicia spoke about front-end testing and visual regression testing, something that Ben, David and Kier had mixed feelings about, due to their different experiences working for different companies and on different products. One point they all found interesting was the notion of taking the time front-enders often use fixing bugs and channeling that into writing test code instead.

Harry Roberts

Harry is a front-end architect who talked about a whole host of CSS things, including a lot of what he’s captured through his site. The talk was pretty intense, David, Ben and Kier agreed. Harry has a strong voice and a lot of opinions that tend to divide opinions, but they agree that it’s sometimes refreshing to hear someone talk like that rather than just saying ‘who knows?’ Kier points out that when Harry proposes a theory, he (Kier) may not agree, but does start asking questions that really get his mind working.

Sara Soueidan

Sara, a freelance front-ender from Lebonon talked SVGs and the different ways of embedding them into web pages and animating them. She crammed a lot into 35 minutes and Ben and David found it hard to keep up but her content was amazing. She talked about GSAP animation and JavaScript animation and pros and cons of both. “She’s shit-hot” says Ben, “she knows everything about SVG, she’s absolutely on it.”

Mariko Kosaka

JavaScript developer Mariko’s talk seemed to blow pretty much everyone away. She programmed an old knitting machine with Node.js to knit a jumper. “We were applauding at this idea of taking this one thing, javascript that’s work and boring” says David “and turning it into something super fun and creative and that produced an actual thing.”

Mariko’s slides got a lot of kudos, funny with nice illustrations that backed up her talk perfectly.

Something Ben and David found really useful was something she’d learned about sharing photos. She learned that if you upload an image to Twitter, Twitter compresses the image with jpeg lossy compression. Mariko wrote a programme that inserts a 99.6% transparent pixel in the top left corner of the image. Then, when you upload that image to Twitter, it gets uploaded with .png compression a get a perfect image. Really useful for taking back to work.

Katie Fenn

As one of the scheduled speakers was ill, Katie stepped in and gave a last minute talk on Chrome development tools. Ben and David are both pretty familiar with Chrome dev tools but they both agreed that Katy’s talk was great, super simple and factual and would have been a great introduction to the topic.

Robin Christophersen

Robin is a founding member of AbilityNet and gave a really interesting talk on accessibility and not relying on one point for data, so that when you output data or content onto a website, it should be able to split off into other dimensions.

Robin’s talk was super thought provoking and emotional at the end when he welled up thinking about how technology had improved his life so much.

Frederik Vanhoutte

This talk was a bit of a curveball says Ben, as Frederik isn’t a developer but a medical radiation physicist. Frederik was funny, confident, clever and casual and his talk was a fantastic end to day 1 of Render.

He started off talking about creativity and how you mightn’t want a creative surgeon for example, you’d rather someone methodical and reliable. However, you do want a surgeon who is able to think outside the box, and really, that’s what creativity is all about.

Frederik also spoke fantastically about rainbows and even coded a simulation of a rainbow based on light refracting through water particles to show how rainbows are completely different to what you’re taught. Ben and David didn’t want to give the twist away but definitely recommend looking up rainbows, they’re probably not what you imagined…

Render is an amazing conference. Everyone we spoke to was blown away and couldn’t wait to return next year. A huge shoutout to Ben and David (and guest star Kier) for creating the podcast so we can all experience it. Check out Bit podcast here.

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