Tag: People

People Problems

Just the other day, Jeremy Keith wrote that problems with performance work isn’t only a matter of optimization and fixing code, but also tackling people problems:

It struck me that there’s a continuum of performance challenges. On one end of the continuum, you’ve got technical issues. These can be solved with technical solutions. On the other end of the continuum, you’ve got human issues. These can be solved with discussions, agreement, empathy, and conversations (often dreaded or awkward).

I think that, as developers, we tend to gravitate towards the technical issues. That’s our safe space. But I suspect that bigger gains can be reaped by tackling the uncomfortable human issues.

This was definitely shocking to learn when I joined a company a few years ago and found that there was a mountain of performance work that I couldn’t do alone. I started trying to teach folks about performance, as well as holding office hours and hopping onto projects and teams that needed help. But I realized that all this work didn’t help. The website I was working on in my spare time was getting slower, despite my best efforts.

Frustrated and exhausted, one day I sat back in my chair and realized that I couldn’t do all this work alone. The real problem was this: there’s no incentive for folks to care. If performance magically improved by ten thousand percent, no one in the company would have noticed. Customers would have noticed, but we all probably wouldn’t have. Except me, because I’m a nerd.

In Ethan Marcotte’s latest talk, he describes this people problem when it comes to design systems:

Creating modular components isn’t the primary goal or even the primary benefit of creating a design system. And what’s more, a focus on process and people always leads to more sustainable systems.

Design systems are about good, quality front-end code just like performance is, too. But if people within an organization are not incentivized to use the components within a library or talk to the design systems team, then that’s where things quickly get bonkers.

I’d maybe simplify this people problem a bit: the codebase is easy to change, but the incentives within a company are not. And yet it’s the incentives that drive what kind of code gets written — what is acceptable, what needs to get fixed, how people work together. In short, we cannot be expected to fix the code without fixing the organization, too.

The most obvious incentives are money and performance ratings, or even hiring a person or team dedicated to this particular line of work. Improving visibility into performance problems and celebrating big wins is another thing that can be done to shift the balance and make folks care more about this whole new area of expertise. But these things really have to come from the top down; not from the the bottom up. At least that’s been true in my experience.

My point here is that there’s no single solution to fix the incentive problem in large organizations. It sounds silly, but in order to make that website, the biggest hurdles to overcome are those incentives. If no one cares about performance work today, then shouting and screaming and being a jerk about it won’t help at all.

Trust me, I have been that jerk.

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People Digging into Grid Sizing and Layout Possibilities

Jen Simmons has been coining the term intrinsic design, referring to a new era in web layout where the sizing of content has gone beyond fluid columns and media query breakpoints and into, I dunno, something a bit more exotic. For example, columns that are sized more by content and guidelines than percentages. And not always columns, but more like appropriate placement, however that needs to be done.

One thing is for sure, people are playing with the possibilities a lot right now. In the span of 10 days I’ve gathered these links:

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People Talkin’ Shapes

Codrops has a very nice article on CSS Shapes from Tania Rascia. You might know shape-outside is for redefining the area by which text is floated around that element, allowing for some interesting design opportunities. But there are a couple of genuine CSS tricks in here:

  1. Float shape-outside elements both right and left to get text to flow between them.
  2. You can set shape-outside to take an image and use shape-image-threshold to adjust where the text flows, meaning you could even use a gradient!

Shapes are in the water recently, as Heydon Pickering recently published a short video on using them. He also covers things like clip-path and canvas and such:

We recently moved our long-time page on (basically faking) CSS shapes over to a blog post so it’s easier to maintain.

Robin also wrote Working with Shapes in Web Design that digs into all this. So many tricks!

See the Pen 10c03204463e92a72a6756678e6348d1 by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

When we talk about CSS shapes, it’s almost like we’re talking about values moreso than properties. What I mean is that the value functions like polygon(), circle(), ellipse(), offset(), path(), etc. are more representative of “CSS shapes” than the properties they are applied to. Multiple properties take them, like shape-outside, clip-path, and offset-path.

I once did a whole talk on this:

The only thing that’s changed since then is that Firefox started allowing clip-path: path() behind the flag layout.css.clip-path-path.enabled (demo).

And don’t forget Jen Simmons was talking about the possibilities of CSS Shapes (in her lab demos) years earlier!

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