Front-end web developer and educator Umar Hansa talks about the power of side projects, learning new skills and exploring new tools and technologies, and gives us a sneak peek into his upcoming Pixel Pioneers talk
How did you get into creating educational web development content?
While I was at uni, I kept trying to do side projects, which eventually turned into writing tutorials. I first started writing for Envato Tuts+, and it felt great that I could learn new skills, while also helping people. Living in London made it practical to network, so I was able to attend hackathons, conferences and meetups, and eventually I got invited to speak at conferences. During this time, I was blogging and making videos infrequently. Learning something new because you have to teach it is a great motivator!
What excites you most about development at the moment?
I'm seeing some shifting sentiment in favour of server-side rendering, with a goal on performant and semantic web apps. I'm also seeing that native web technologies are starting to meet the needs of some developers, so folks don't need to rush for lots of third-party code which affects performance and accessibility. I think this will be good for the web and also encourages browser vendors to keep aligned with developer needs.
What's your favourite developer trick?
It depends what type of project I'm on, but right now, it's probably Copilot Chat to assist with code completion. It'll probably lose its novelty soon though, and then I'll go back to my primitive tools!
What can we expect to take away from your talk at Pixel Pioneers?
You'll learn about some tools and workflows that can assist you during development, and the theme here is lesser-known tools. We'll span across devtools, AI, visual testing and performance testing. I hope each one of you will leave with at least one new idea or technique that you start applying to your own projects!
You recently built chatbling.net, a chatbot for WhatsApp. How has that project gone down, and what have you learned from it?
It was a side project to help me keep up to date with stuff. I got to learn about handling subscriptions, webhooks, rate limiting, language models, generative AI, performance, prompt engineering, and a bunch more! Really glad I did it. It has seen thousands of free users, but not many paid - which is understandable. The hardest part of it all was working with the WhatsApp developer platform!
In your opinion, how will AI impact web development?
My guess is that we'll see much more rapid workflows being used from inception to launch, as well as a whole new generation of people who can create websites and services for themselves, without needing to know how to code. But how this affects the web development industry is anyone's guess!