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Harrison Shoff @PulsoConf: “Great design no longer sets you apart from everyone else”

PulsoConf is just a few short days away, as is BogotaConf, a parallel event organized by and for developers. During the three-day gathering, we’ll hear from numerous leaders within the programming community, including Harrison Shoff.

Shoff is a Design Engineer at Airbnb, one of the fastest-growing startups to emerge over the last few years. Out of the U.S., the company has made big strides in the international market, including Latin America, and is a prime representation of the potential facilitated by a strong idea, solid business savvy and excellent design.

An expert in JavaScript, HTML, CSS and Ruby on Rails, Shoff performed research at the Sensors, Energy and Automation Laboratory (SEAL) prior to working with Airbnb. At PulsoConf, which will be Shoff’s first experience in Latin America, he will discuss the evolution of Airbnb’s frontend architecture. He will also touch on lessons learned, methodologies and where the company is headed.

Emily Stewart: In your work at Airbnb, what has your experience been in being part of a company that’s taken off so quickly? What problems have proven most difficult to solve?

Harrison Shoff: The best part has been seeing the amazing Airbnb community grow. There are so many great hosts around the world that I want to go meet and stay with. I love hearing all the stories from hosts and guests about how Airbnb has changed their lives. Like a host I stayed with in Boston, Massachusetts who was renting her place out to help pay for her father’s medical bills. Or the host that used money from his Airbnb bookings to fund development of his iPhone app Cloth.

I can’t help but smile when I realize we’re just getting started. There’s still so much to do, I’m more excited now for what Airbnb can do than ever before. It’ll be fun to see where it all goes.

ES: What trends are you noticing in the programming and design community? With the rise of mobile devices, how have things evolved?

HS: It’s great to see design become more prominent over the last couple years. Great design no longer sets you apart from everyone else, it’s expected to be there. It’s important to realize that the public has much higher expectations for design and user experience than five years ago.

The current trend in design is flat and minimalist design. Buttons and containers don’t have borders, there are no shadows or gradients and the font family is usually Proxima-Nova or a similar sans-serif that has both a heavy extrabold font weight and a nice thin weight. A great example of this is the recent redesign of www.rdio.com or the Windows Metro UI. It’s a nice departure from the skeuomorphism trend, where everything looked like a visual representation of something from the real world.

In the programming world, the best trend has been all of the services and tools that help reduce the friction and time between idea and deployment. It feels like we’re living in a golden age of web development with all the great services like Amazon Web Services, Heroku, Parse, and Firebase. There’s never been an easier time to get started on a new idea.

ES: What do you think will be the biggest trends over the next five years in terms of products, platforms and web applications?

HS: I hope that the biggest trend will be big ambitious world-changing ideas. I love what Elon Musk is doing with SpaceX and Tesla and I would love to see more companies attempting things that will take 10-20 years before they are actually realized. The big ideas and companies get to dictate the future, and I think that’s where a lot of the exciting stuff happens.

Collaborative consumption is a big idea that’s opening up a wide range of new experiences. It will be interesting to see what new opportunities show up as more people grow comfortable and trusting of a reputation based platform. Services like Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Vayable, Getaround, Lyft are all driving this new economy and there’s still a lot left to explore.

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