Zoe Mickley Gillenwater on being fearless with CSS

Zoe Mickley Gillenwater on bold experimentation and why Dreamweaver isn't so bad.

Generate London is taking place on 26 September, and Zoe is one of our esteemed speakers. We've also got Jeremy Keith, Anna Debenham, Gavin Strange and Meagan Fisher, and a host of other world-class talk-givers. There's also a Dribbble meetup which will be attended by founder Dan Cederholm himself, and a bunch of other goodies.

In order to build excitement for this great event, we spoke to Zoe about her upcoming talk, what she's working on at the moment, and why using Dreamweaver may not be such a bad idea afterall.

What are you going to speak about at Generate?

The main point of my talk is that it's important to try new things in CSS, make mistakes, and not fear failure. So, to drive that point home, I'm going to share stories of real times that I made mistakes in my CSS, how I found those mistakes, and what I did to fix them. I'll talk a bit about flexbox, 3D transforms, and other CSS stuff that I've now gained a better understanding of.

What have you been working on recently?

I work as a UX designer for Booking.com, and a couple months ago I was switched to the maps and geo team. We work on the accommodation maps that you see across the site, as well as displaying textual location-related information that we think people would want to know to help them pick the right room for them.

It's been fun for me because I've never worked on anything related to maps before, so I'm learning a lot. Not just about the technical aspects, but also more about how people use and think about maps, how they make decisions, and other user psychology stuff.

What are the big ideas you're excited about at the moment?

I'm finally working for a company that actually tests its work to find out what works the best for users, so I've been gobbling up anything related to user psychology, like cognitive biases and cognitive load. It's so fascinating to me, and I get so many ideas for things to try in the web components and flows I create.

On the more technical, won't-this-be-cool side of things, I'm looking forward to Grid Layout (the actual CSS module, not the hacks we have now) and element queries, among other things.

What do you think makes a good conference?

I really like a mix of inspirational and practical talks. The practical ones give me lots of stuff to take back to the office and work on, while the inspirational ones keep me from feeling too overwhelmed at all the things I don't know yet! It keeps me excited about being in web design. I also can't help but judge a conference by its food. I love a conference with great food!

Are there any speakers you're particularly looking forward to seeing at Generate?

I'm really looking forward to seeing Jeremy Keith and Dan Cederholm, because I've looked up to both of those guys forever and have not yet gotten to see them speak.

I'm also excited to hear Alastair Campbell's talk on Designing for Accessibility because accessibility is something I care a lot about and always incorporate into my work. And although I've seen Denise Jacobs speak before, I'm excited to see her again, because she's just plain awesome.

In 2011 you told Chris Coyier that you used Dreamweaver. Are you still using it? What do you think of the bad rap that it gets?

Yep, still use it. Not as much recently; I now use Sublime during my day job and Dreamweaver for personal or side projects. I don't see anything wrong with it, and I get kind of annoyed when designers and developers look down on others for using it.

To me, it's just another code editor, with good code hinting, file management, and so on. I mostly stay in Dreamweaver's Code View, but I occasionally--gasp!--switch to Design View because it's easy there to quickly change unformatted text into headings, lists, links, and so on, rather than having to write it out manually.

The HTML it produces when you do this is perfectly clean and valid. I don't see how this is any different from using a text expander plugin or something so that you can write shortcuts for HTML that your code editor or some preprocessor turns into real HTML. No shame in Dreamweaver! Yes, people can use it to create crap, but that goes for any tool.

You can still snag a ticket to Generate London, taking place on 26 September. Sign up here.


Tanya Combrinck is digital editor on net magazine.