Stephanie Sullivan Rewis @ InControl Orlando

In February we had the privilege to attend the InControl Conference in Orlando, run by Environments for Humans. Stephanie Sullivan Rewis was there giving a workshop on CSS3 and I took the opportunity to go through it with her.

Interview Transcript

Gene: Hello, and welcome to another Unmatched Style podcast. I’m here with Stephanie Sullivan Rewis at In Control Conference in Orlando. Thanks for being with us.

Stephanie: Thanks.

Gene: Cool. So tell me, what do you do for a living?

Stephanie: I’m a front-end developer. I basically take other peoples comps, slice and dice, put them back together, hand them off, and they build websites. So I do that for agencies, more agencies lately than full-blown websites. But I still do some of that, where I hire a designer and hire a back-end person and pull it all together.

Gene: You do a lot of speaking, too, right?

Stephanie: I do a lot of speaking.

Gene: You do training.

Stephanie: And I do corporate training, which I do customized whatever that company needs, which, this year, has been a lot — or the end of last year — a lot of HTML5 and CSS3. So, yeah, I’ve developed full weeks of whatever they need. But I usually customize it and use their site or whatever they’re working on to demonstrate and have them do hands-on. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I like that a lot.

Gene: That’s good. Well, you’re here talking about CSS3 specifically.

Stephanie: Yes.

Gene: So I’m going to ask you a few questions about that. Why should I use CSS3 over something like Flash for some of my animations and things?

Stephanie: Well, or JavaScript, even, you know? I mean, we can animate every way now, right? It really depends on what you need. You shouldn’t always… You know, the right tool for the right job. So for simple animations that are more decorative, not functional CSS3 is awesome. You have to be aware, though, that animations specifically are only WebKit right now. So we’ve got various bits of support for transforms, transitions, animations, which is actually what Greg’s talking about tomorrow, so. [laughs]

Gene: OK, that’s cool.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: So what’s ready? If you’re talking about WebKit really only being for the [unintelligible 02:12] , what’s ready in CSS3 that we can use now?

Stephanie: The talk that I do at In Control, I’m talking about what we can use, and progressive enhancement, graceful degradation, kind of pulling it all together to figure out does it really matter if you have rounded corners in IE? Sometimes it does. Sometimes it really doesn’t, you know? And it doesn’t matter if there’s a drop-shadow.

In other words, CSS3, the things that we can use now, are just to enhance our page. Box-shadows, very usable text-shadow, rounded corners, multiple backgrounds. There’s lots of new background properties that I’m very excited about. And fairly usable, I mean, things are moving fast.

I’m still not clear on IE9′s final stance on all of the background stuff. I’m looking, I’ve got to look at that. That got announced while I was on vacation so I haven’t played with the new candidate, the release candidate. But there’s a lot of stuff we can do now. You just have to realize that everything doesn’t have to look the same, and that’s what I think a lot of designers especially have a very hard time accepting. I have had people before that handed me a design and then measured the pixels. OK, but, see, when you built it, they weren’t even even, so exactly… [laughs]

But what we really strive for in this business is, we’re serving content. You know, that’s what the web is, that’s what a website is. It is content. Yes, it should be beautiful and attractive and inviting, but it’s really the content that matters. And so whether one browser, a device — because, let’s face it, mobile’s a huge thing — whether they all see exactly the same thing, not really important. If we can make our pages lightweight, SEO-friendly, less HTTP requests, more performance, that’s what the beauty of CSS3 is to me.

And sometimes it’s proper to use an image. You know, I see people building icons out of… pure CSS3 icons. And that’s cool, it’s a cool experiment. But really, there are certain images that I want that alt attribute on, I want alternative browsing techniques to know what that is if they’re not visual. So there are a lot of good reasons to use CSS3, but we still have to use our head and not just say, “Well, now CSS3 is the bomb, we do everything.” And everything is HTML5, of course, you know. So, yeah. But there’s plenty we can use already, plenty.

Gene: So when is it taken too far though?

Stephanie: Well, in the case of icons or things that should be images, that’s definitely too far in my book. But I’m very, very supportive of the experiments. I think that’s what pushes us all. One of the cool things that’s coming out now — it’s not coming out now, but it’s getting used, it’s getting legs — is generated content.

There’s a lot of really cool stuff that people are doing with generated content experiments. Some of them I wouldn’t necessarily… You know, they’re making shapes and crazy things. Some of them I wouldn’t use, but some of them, why not? If it’s a little icon you need next to something, it’s decorative, why not?

Gene: Like the little thought bubble thing?

Stephanie: Yeah. And any time I cannot add non-semantic markup into my HMTL, then I’m all for it. If I can generate it through CSS that’s awesome. But, you know, the good thing about CSS is there’s so many different ways to do it, and the horrible thing about CSS is there’s so many ways to do it. And any developer that looks at somebody else’s code always goes, “They didn’t do that right.” Because that isn’t how you do it.

Gene: There’s no one right answer.

Stephanie: That’s right, the one right answer. And I think that’s why we have these big wars over how to do things, because everybody wants it to be black-and-white, you know? There’s a right and a wrong. Not really. There’s a right in this situation that might not be right in another situation. And I think that, where is it carried too far? When it’s not done right for that situation, really.

Gene: Right, that’s a good way to put it. Well, thank you so much.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Gene: And, everybody, Stephanie Sullivan Rewis.

Stephanie: Yes. Don’t forget the “Rewis.” [laughs]

Author

Gene Crawford

With over a decade of experience in the industry he has overseen the design and architecture of hundreds of web sites and applications. An active member in the design community, he's the editor & producer of unmatchedstyle.com, the ConvergeSE, ConvergeFL, ConvergeRVA and the Breaking Development conference series.