Clearleft co-founder Jeremy Keith gives us a sneak peek of what he will cover in his Pixel Pioneers Bristol keynote on declarative design and reveals what's been bugging him about web development for a decade – and how that can be motivating
Welcome back to Pixel Pioneers! You return with another keynote – how do you manage to stay so ever-enthusiastic about designing for the web?
Well, I’d say my enthusiasm is mixed with frustration. And that’s always been the case. Just as I’ve always found new things that excite me about the World Wide Web, there are just as many things that upset me.
But that’s okay. Both forces can be motivating. When I find myself writing a blog post or preparing a talk, the impetus might be “This is so cool! Check this out!” or it might be “This is so maddening! What’s happening!?” …or perhaps a mix of both.
But to answer your question, the World Wide Web never stays still so there’s always something to get excited about. Equally, the longer the web exists, the more sense it makes to examine the fundamental bedrock — HTML, accessibility, progressive enhancement — and see how they’re just as important as ever. And that’s also something to get excited about!
Without too many spoilers, what can we expect to take away from your talk?
I’m hoping to provide people with a lens that they can use to examine their tools, processes, and approaches to designing for the web. It’s a fairly crude lens — it divides the world into a binary split that I’ve borrowed from the world of programming; imperative and declarative languages. But it’s a surprisingly thought-provoking angle.
Along the way I’ll also be pointing out some of the incredible things that we can do with CSS now. In the past few years there’s been an explosion in capabilities.
But this won’t be a code-heavy presentation. It’s mostly about the ideas. I’ll be referencing some projects by other people that I’m very excited by.
What other web design and development tools, techniques and technologies are you currently most excited about?
Outside of the world of CSS — which is definitely where a lot of the most exciting developments are happening — I’m really interested in the View Transitions API. If it delivers on its promise, it could be a very useful nail in the coffin of unneccessary single page apps. But I’m a little nervous. Right now the implementation only works for single page apps, which makes it an incentive to use that model. I really, really hope that the multipage version ships soon.
But honestly, I probably get most excited about discovering some aspect of HTML that I wasn’t aware of. Even after all these years the language can still surprise me.
And on the flipside, what bugs you most about the web at the moment?
How much time have you got?
Honestly, the mindset became so ubiquitous that I felt like I must be missing something. But no, the situation really has spiralled out of control, much to the detriment of end users.
Luckily we’re starting to see the pendulum swing back. The proponents of trickle-down developer convenience are having to finally admit that it’s bollocks.
I don’t care if the move back to making websites is re-labelled as “isomorphic server-rendered multi-page apps.” As long as we make sensible architectural decisions, that’s all that matters.
What's next, Jeremy?
Right now I’m curating the line-up for this year’s UX London conference which is the week after Pixel Pioneers. As you know, conference curation is a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. I’m really proud of the line-up.
It’s been a while since the last season of the Clearleft podcast. I hope to remedy that soon. It takes a lot of effort to make even one episode, but again, it’s very rewarding.