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Prior to 1995, that is, prior to the huge acceptance of the Web, Macromedia was a company that made Director. Now, Macromedia is a company that makes Flash. These two tools are very different yet similar, and they define different phases of the digital age of design and technology. With the growth of the Web and the success of Flash, Macromedia has become one of the leading companies that are defining what we see today and may see tomorrow. Their tag line “What the web can be” tells us how essential the Web has become for the company.

Macromedia UCON – User Conference – took place on April 10,11, and 12 at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Traditionally, UCON has been held in San Francisco and this was the first time that it was held in New York City.

The conference opened with a keynote speech delivered by Macromedia Chairman and CEO Rob Burgess who proclaimed that this conference was about “user experience” as well as the actual “users” of Macromedia tools. His brief speech was then followed by Kevin Lynch, President of Macromedia Products and Jeremy Allaire, a founder and a former Chief Technology Officer of Allaire Corporations which recently merged with Macromedia. Despite the fact Allaire joined Macromedia only last month, the duo demonstrated an in-synch presentation that was relaxed yet engaging for the audience.

(Various keynote speakers in including Rob Burgess, Kevin Lynch and Jeremy Allaire)

They presented several case studies that involved significant use of various Macromedia tools and humorously compared successful results with not-so-successful cases. Their presentation was followed by a few demos of upcoming versions of Macromedia products – Freehand 10 and Director 8.5 – as well as some examples of applications for handheld devices such as Palm Pilot and PocketPC.

(Demo of Freehand 10 and Director 8.5)

Over the course of three days, the conference covered a wide range of topics: Storytelling in Flash, Site development in Dreamweaver Ultradev, 3-D in Director, Using Freehand to develop concepts, to name a few. Some of the sessions were conducted by Macromedia representatives and focused on “tips and tricks” while many sessions gave opportunities to industry experts, such as Hello Design and Chopping Block to show off their use of Macromedia tools.

(Exhibition booths)

Although the main theme of this UCON was “user experience,” which is a very intangible topic, the conference still gravitated towards much more tangible tricks and gimmicks. The majority of the sessions was how-to’s in various programs (Dreamweaver, Flash, Director, etc) and many presenters shared their insightful knowledge and creative use of those programs.
“User experience” is a topic that can never be discussed enough. And there is never the ultimate answer to many questions that are constantly being asked by designers and developers. This conference did attempt to ask the question “how can we better the user experience?” Unfortunately, it didn’t really answer that question. The problem was that “user experience” was not clearly defined to begin with.

Although not openly proclaimed, there were two trends that seemed to be underlying the conference: 3-D and narrowband.

There have been numerous attempts at bringing 3-D experience to the Web in the past. With the exception of the gaming industry, the attempts have not seen much success. Director 8.5 introduces a much quicker and easier way to incorporate 3-D interface into your online and offline applications. The exhibition area was filled with vendors of 3-D applications and plug-ins.
It’s now up to designers and developers to utilize that capability without falling into the trap of “tricks and gimmicks” of 3-D.

It seems that broadband is something that has been talked about for a long time but is never getting here, and that narrowband is not going away. In fact, with the recent spread of wireless devices (cellular phones, PDAs, etc), Macromedia has been working with various wireless companies to adapt their standards and introduce various ways to utilize current technologies for those devices.

In short, narrowband is still alive and kicking; broadband is a myth that will never become true.

Macromedia UCON 2001
Macromedia User Conference
Date : April 10,11, and 12 2001
Place : at the Hilton Hotel, New York City, USA

Text and Image: Rei Inamoto From Interfere

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