Refresh Pittsburgh

A community of web designers & developers working to refresh the web design industry in Pittsburgh.

Next Meetup:

Left Field Meeting Space

Creating Something Timeless

Ben Callahan, Sparkbox

Keep Calm and Carry On: Coping with the Uncontrollable

Katy Watkins, Forever & The Pastry Box Project


November 2014 Meetup!

Please register to join us at 6:30pm on Tuesday, November 18th at Left Field Meeting Space for our next meet-up.

Thanks to this month’s sponsors Bearded and our own Web Design Day for providing funding for a great November lineup.

Left Field Meeting Space is located on the 4th floor of 116 Federal St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. There is plenty of street & garage parking in the area. You can also check this page for detailed directions.

We’ll be starting promptly at 6:30pm. As usual, all Refresh Pittsburgh Meet-Ups are free but all attendees need to register to attend.

We will start the night with a presentation by Katy Watkins.

“Keep Calm and Carry On: Coping with the Uncontrollable”

Very little in life is truly under your control, and the more people you deal with the more complicated things get. How you choose to approach problems drastically changes your chances of success. Whether you’re dealing with complications at work or just trying to keep a project going on the side, it helps to know what you’re dealing with as much as possible. This talk will look at how you can set yourself and your projects up for success by looking inward just as much as you look out.

Katy currently works at Forever as an Assistant Digital Marketer, where she writes, designs, and occasionally dabbles in code. In her no-longer-copious spare time she keeps The Pastry Box Project on schedule, editing submissions and wrangling content from 30+ regular contributors to ensure there’s a new post every day, 365 days a year. You can find her rambling about nothing in particular at @_katywatkins.

Next, we will be joined by our friend Ben Callahan:

“Creating Something Timeless.”

In this presentation, Ben will share his thinking on group improvisation, collaboration, fluency, humility, and empathy as it relates to structuring a team to do timeless work. He will also share an idea he is working on, which involves the path teams need to take in order to increase quality and allow for innovative thinking.

President of Sparkbox and founder of the Build Right workshop series, Ben shares his ideas about the web on the Sparkbox Foundry and other leading industry blogs. He’s incredibly grateful for the team at Sparkbox as they pioneer new responsive web design techniques, and he continues to push for great user experiences outside the context of specific devices. You can find him speaking around the worldrambling on Twittertinkering with his personal site, or splitting wood in his backyard for next winter.

October, 2014 Meetup!

Please join us at 6:30pm on Thursday, October 23rd at AlphaLab for our next meet-up.

AlphaLab is located at 2325 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. There is plenty of street parking around the Southside area.

We’ll be starting promptly at 6:30pm. As usual, all Refresh Pittsburgh Meet-Ups are free but all attendees need to register to attend.

We have two great speakers lined up for the evening focusing on topics relating managing your work and goals under unique work settings:

Digital Duct Tape for Non-Profits: Enabling Innovation and Creative Outcomes on a Shoestring

Jeffrey Inscho, Manager of Digital Engagement for The Andy Warhol Museum

It’s no secret that, for many non-profits, operational budgets are tight and resources are limited. Institutions aspire to harness the promise of digital and emerging technologies, but financial roadblocks and organizational obstacles often keep these aspirations from being realized. In some non-profits, such limitations are inspiring innovation. By using no-tech tactics, scrappy solutions, creative partnerships, and a little bit of digital duct tape, they are able to activate innovative and creative digital outcomes.

Jeffrey Inscho built his first website in the late-90s and has been working on the web ever since. Currently serving as Manager of Digital Engagement for The Andy Warhol Museum, Jeffrey oversees all aspects of web and mobile application development, multimedia production and in-gallery technology initiatives. He also co-produces the popular Museopunks podcast, which investigates creativity, innovation and progressivism in the museum sector. You can follow Jeffrey on twitter at: @StaticMade.

Web Development In an Uncontrolled Environment

Breck Fresen, CTO & Co-Founder, Shoefitr, Inc.

1 in 3 shoes bought online is returned. Shoefitr, an Oakland-based start up, solves this problem with an app that helps online shoe shoppers buy the right size. The app is available on more than 50 sites (including Nordstrom, New Balance, and and is served in 9 languages to an audience of 15 million unique shoppers every month.

Here’s the thing: web development gets tricky when your code has to run inside of a webpage you the developer don’t control. From style conflicts, to not even being able to make AJAX requests, everything gets harder. Breck Fresen, one of Shoefitr’s co-founders, will discuss how to overcome these challenges.

Breck co-founded Shoefitr during his senior year at CMU’s School of Computer Science and now serves as the company’s CTO. He met his co-founders as a member of CMU’s cross country and track and field teams. He grew up in Chicago, moved to Pittsburgh for school in 2005, and has been in love with the city ever since.

Please register online to attend this meet-up on Thursday, October 23rd!

Pittsburgh Accessibility Group Joint Meetup

Please join us at 5:30pm on Wednesday, September 24th at Google Pittsburgh for a joint meet-up with the Pittsburgh Accessibility Group.

We are limited to the number of attendees that we can have at this meetup and will need to provide a list of names to Google in advance so please be sure to register for this event to ensure that you can attend.

Who really needs the internet anyway?

Online accessibility affects almost every aspect of life, from managing a company to just finding out when the next bus is coming. Come learn about web accessibility at our next accessibility meetup from 5:30 pm – 7:30 on Wednesday, September 24th, at the Pittsburgh Google  offices in Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Ave, 15206. We’ll have presentations from both software developers and people who use assistive technology to access the internet.

Eve Andersson
A Google Hangout with Google Senior Manager, Accessibility Engineering

Gabe McMorland
Screen reader demo by Pittsburgh Accessibility Meetup Co-organizer. Gabe lost much of his vision at age 19, and is still waiting for an accessible version of Catan.

Mark Steidl
Local college student Mark Steidl demonstrates how uses a Dynavox system to navigate online without using his hands.

Heather Migliorisi
“Web Accessibility: Overlooked & Unaccounted For”
Can you imagine not using the Internet for a day? For most of us, we spend so much of our time online that we can’t stand to be unplugged for an hour. At the same time, there are so many people that are excluded from having an optimal experience because the web isn’t designed for them to use.

How many times have you been in a meeting where the topic of web accessibility was brought up? Unless you work for a company that is specifically tailored for web accessibility, I’m guessing the topic doesn’t come up very often.

It’s time to level the playing field on the web. Just like the mobile-first mentality, we need to embrace an “accessibility-first” approach to web development. We should be incorporating accessibility design into all of the stages of the development process to ensure we are offering the best experience for people with accessibility needs.

As a UI Developer for, Heather is responsible for maintaining a custom-built pattern library and ensuring the UI utilizes the most current trends in usability.

Also, we’ll have pizza!

This event is co-hosted by Refresh Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Accessibility Meetup.

An ASL interpreter will be available, and we can also meet people outside or at the bus stop to help you find the building.

Pittsburgh Accessibility Group free events are made possible by donations from participants like you. Please consider making a donation at the event.

We’re grateful to the Urban Affairs Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh for their support With their help we are able to provide ASL interpreters and food at all of our events.

Register Online to attend.


March 2014 Meetup!

Please join us on Tuesday, March 25 for the next Refresh Pittsburgh at Left Field Meeting Space, 116 Federal Street, on the North Shore. We’ll be starting at 6:30 pm. When you get to the building, walk through the large, glass doors that say “Smith Brothers Agency” and take the elevator to the 4th floor. The front doors will automatically lock at 7:15!

We have two great presentations lined up for the evening including Kate Holloway from Think Through Learning, and Dave Olsen from West Virginia University!

To make sure we have enough space for everyone, please reserve your seat by grabbing a FREE ticket from our Eventbrite page:

Your Eyes Can Deceive You; Don’t Trust Them!

Kate Holloway, UX Designer, Think Through Learning

One of the most popular ways to denote importance in a design is to use a drastic color change, but sometimes color can be deceiving, especially when you’re dealing with cultural connotations of color, as well as limitations brought upon by sight disabilities (color blindness, blindness). This talk will highlight some of the pitfalls of relying on color (with real-life examples), as well as giving you strategies and tools to strengthen your designs.

Kate Holloway hails from Upstate NY and has made her home in Pittsburgh for the past three years. She likes cats, Star Wars, comic books, kids and fashion and currently works as a UX designer for Think Through Learning. You can find her making really dumb jokes on twitter @KatiePunkin.

The What & Why of Pattern Lab

Dave Olsen, Developer & Project Manager, West Virginia University

Responsive design is forcing us to reevaluate our design and development practices. It’s also forcing us to rethink how we communicate with our clients and what a project’s deliverables might be. Pattern Lab attempts to provide one tool that allows for both the creation of modular systems that can live beyond the development phase of a project as well as give clients a tool to review on-going work in the place that a site is going to be used: the browser. This talk will introduce you to the features of the Pattern Lab as well as show how it might fit into your overall workflow. Pattern Lab is Open Source and based on lessons learned during the latest TechCrunch and Entertainment Weekly redesigns. It is currently maintained by Dave Olsen and Brad Frost. Learn more about Pattern Lab at

Dave Olsen has been a developer and project manager with the University Relations – Web unit at West Virginia University (WVU) for the last twelve years. Over that time he has worked on and led projects that range from developing a university-wide CMS to creating award-winning marketing websites. Dave’s primary role is to help find the balance between tech, content, and design for many of the University’s biggest projects. For the last four years he has also been responsible for implementing mobile solutions for the University. These include SMS-based services, WVU’s central mobile web portal, as well as a number of responsive design-based websites.

In addition to his work at WVU, Dave actively participates in open source projects as well as writes. In 2012, Dave contributed a chapter to Smashing Magazine’s, “The Mobile Book,” and he shares what he’s learned about mobile, as well as his reactions to mobile trends, on his personal blog.

Check out the attendees list for this month’s meetup on Lanyrd!

January 2014 Meetup!

Please join us on Tuesday, January 21 for the next Refresh Pittsburgh at Left Field Meeting Space, 116 Federal Street, on the North Shore. We’ll be starting at 6:30 pm. When you get to the building, walk through the large, glass doors that say “Smith Brothers Agency” and take the elevator to the 4th floor. The front doors will automatically lock at 7:15!

We have two great presentations lined-up for the evening including Nik Mihalick from Elliance, and Robert Wierzbowski from Think Through Math.

To make sure we have enough space for everyone, please reserve your seat by grabbing a FREE ticket from our Eventbrite page:

Chrome DevTools Tips and Tricks

Nik Mihalick, Web Developer, Elliance

Chrome DevTools is an amazing tool that both web developers and designers can use to make their lives easier. Most people have probably used it to inspect elements, adjust CSS styles, and/or to see JavaScript errors. But there is a lot more than you can do with it. Nik uses these features everyday and hopes to give you some practical knowledge that you can start using in your job. He’s going to show the full power of the elements tab and give some tips on the using the console. Then he’s going to edit code, device test, optimize images, and a do whole lot more, all right in his browser using DevTools. He’ll finish up by covering some of the new things coming to DevTools and discuss how to keep up with these changes.

Nik Mihalick is a full-stack web developer working at Elliance. He loves the web and has been working with it since before it hit version 2.0. He gets to work with HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, C#/.Net, and multiple databases on a daily basis.

An Introduction to Yeoman, Grunt, and Bower

Robert Wierzbowski, Front End Developer, Think Through Math

Yeoman is a set of tools and conventions for developing client side web applications. It combines three of the most popular front-end workflow tools: Grunt (for automation), Bower (for package management), and Yo (for scaffolding boilerplate code). We’ll take a high level look at what these tools do and how they can improve your everyday development process — lots of concept, not too much code! We’ll also examine how Yeoman and the projects around it are becoming concentrations of best practices and developer knowledge.

Robert Wierzbowski works at Think Through Math, where he specializes in front-end development and build systems. He spends way too much time working on open source. Follow him on Twitter at @robwierzbowski

Check out the attendees list for this month’s meetup on Lanyrd!