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Exploring Modern Web Development and UI with Una Kravets

In this podcast episode, UI expert Una Kravets discusses the importance of embracing modern web development standards, the role of community feedback, and the value of in-person interactions.

In a conversation with Kent, Una, an expert in UI and a presenter at the upcoming EpicWebConf, delves into the dynamic world of modern web development. She underscores the importance of keeping up with the advances in UI capabilities and CSS, the shift towards more declarative techniques, and the necessity of adapting to new web standards. Una champions the vital role of community input in shaping web development and looks forward to the invaluable exchanges that come from in-person interactions, especially as the industry anticipates returning to face-to-face events post-pandemic. Her discussion calls on developers to remain adaptive, engage actively with their peers, and embrace the continual evolution of the web.

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Meet Una at Epic Web Conf.


Una Kravets
Una Kravets


Kent: Hello Hello everybody, I am joined by my friend Una. How are you doing, Una?

Una: I'm so good, very excited for this event coming up.

Kent: Thank you, I am also really excited. This is gonna be a lot of fun. I feel it's been a while, I think the last time we were together was at Infobip in Croatia, like a year and a half ago. So I'm looking forward to seeing you in person again.

Una: Yeah, it should be good. That was a good time too.

Kent: Yeah, and Park City is a wonderful place to meet up with people and it's just a beautiful location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, going to be really awesome.

Una: You know, I have never been to Utah and it's been on my list. Especially

Kent: Oh!

Una: Salt Lake City, because I've seen a lot of photos, I've seen your photos too, like

Kent: Uh

Una: when

Kent: -huh.

Una: you go skiing, or snowboarding, sorry.

Kent: Yes, yeah.

Una: So that's made me very jealous and I cannot wait to see the scenery. It's definitely been on my list.

Kent: Yeah, awesome, yeah. In April, it's pretty likely that there will still be snow in the mountains, but it'll be really comfortable at the foot of the mountains. You'll want a jacket probably. But if you're interested in going skiing or snowboarding, then you probably could manage that. And I think there'll be a group of folks who do that. So there's also other really fun things that you can do, like hiking and stuff like that too.

Una: Yeah,

Kent: So.

Una: I think I'm more for the hiking. I'm there for the vibes and the views.

Kent: Yeah, yeah, well then you're gonna get vibes in Park City. That is a beautiful place and where the hotel that we're staying at and the venue, which are really close to each other, but there's a stop for public transportation that's free and it'll get you through the city and everything so you can go, there's a really good shopping vibe there too, just fun little shops and stuff.

Una: Nice.

Kent: It's gonna be great. Anyway, I would like folks to get to know you, Una. Can you give us an intro to yourself? What are you into?

Una: Sure. So hi, I'm Una. I work on the web platform in the UI space, which is like usually CSHTML JavaScript where it relates to user interaction and user interface things. I live on the East Coast. I'm outside of DC right now. I love crafts. I'm big into crafts. This is my craft room. So I've got my sewing machine set up behind me. I recently got into that. I like

Kent: Cool.

Una: to calligraphy. That's kind of like my thing outside of tech is I try to get crafty with my hands. Yeah, I have a dog.

Kent: That's

Una: I don't know. I've recently gotten

Kent: cool.

Una: really into bird watching. There's this really cool app called Merlin where you could just play like this. You can record the sounds of the birds around you and it'll pick up what birds are actually speaking and kind of like show on the screen what birds are making noises at what time. It's really cool. You could like see a bird conversation. Anyway.

Kent: That is cool. My son is super into birds. For Christmas, we got him binoculars and he just barely bought himself a bird house that he hung up in a tree and stuff. And he'll like run around with the phone or camera taking pictures of birds and stuff. He's just really into that stuff. That sounds like an

Una: Yeah,

Kent: interesting

Una: you gotta get

Kent: app.

Una: this app. It's a free app. I think Cornell University made it.

Kent: Huh, that is very cool. Yeah, I'll have to look into that. And you also made me think with your craftiness of Shirley Wu, you know Shirley, right?

Una: Yes,

Kent: Yeah, she's

Una: I'm

Kent: lovely.

Una: so inspired by her.

Kent: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. She's really done a good job of taking the digital data viz stuff that she's doing and applying it to a real world art installations and stuff. Very cool

Una: Yeah,

Kent: stuff.

Una: she's been doing like physical installations with Arduino and getting sensor data and that's really cool, I think.

Kent: Yeah, yeah, it's fascinating stuff. Well, yeah, very good. I really appreciate the work that you do to push the web forward to the web platform and your participation on committees and then also in the education side of things. And yeah, you're gonna educate us at Epic Web Comp, actually. Can you tell us a little bit about what you're planning on for your talk?

Una: Yeah, so I'm really excited to talk about specifically this area with the folks that are coming to this event. I will be talking all about modern and new UI capabilities that have landed recently in the platform. And there's so much that has landed that really gives developers a lot of power and control and it lets you do things a lot more declaratively. So instead of having to write a bunch of additional scripts or have additional dependencies for things like anchor positioning will be coming down the line. or there's even a lot of ways to improve performance by reducing file size now with some of these new success capabilities. There's a lot of different features that make your life easier as a developer if you love or empower the platform, and especially some of these modern UI capabilities today. And I think that this is an area that a lot of folks who are in the JavaScript world and heavily in the JavaScript space don't tend to follow because

Kent: Hmm.

Una: it's not really in their circle. So I... love to bring this topic to folks who are more in the JS ecosystem and open their eyes on all these new UI features.

Kent: Yeah, you know, I think that for the JavaScript folks, we are so focused on solving problems using JavaScript because the platform originally, when we discovered the problem, the platform didn't solve it. And so we get into this situation where we're just solving that problem. We've found a solution that we like, we're gonna stick with it. And then the platform comes around and changes in a way that the problem no longer exists and we don't like check back in and see, oh, like there's actually a better way to do this now. And so I appreciate people like you who kind of say, hey everybody, like, you know, lift your eyes up from the computer for a second. I want to show you a better way to do this. Kind of like that meme of the caveman, like pulling a cart with square wheels. And like the other one is like, here's a circular wheel. And they're like, no, we're too busy.

Una: The web is evolving. And it makes sense too, because, okay, take scroll -driven animations, for example. Like we didn't previously, three years ago, have the capability to animate based on a scroller, only on a timer in

Kent: Hmm.

Una: CSS. So you have to use JavaScript to do, you know, observing of the page and of your positioning on the page to create these effects. And that was pretty heavy, because you would have to clutter up the main thread and you'd have to have usually dependencies. because you didn't want to write all that from scratch. You're just loading a library that you're then utilizing in your code base. But now we have declarative scroll driven animations in CSS, no additional dependencies. The browser does the work for you. It's off the main threads. It's more performant. And you get all of these benefits. But we wouldn't have gotten there if we didn't have people writing it in JavaScript, making these effects on the platform, creating these libraries. So it's kind of like paving the cow paths, if

Kent: Mm

Una: you will,

Kent: -hmm.

Una: where we've identified things that developers need. And then they keep rebuilding, like scroll -driven animations or even styling drop -downs. Why

Kent: Mm

Una: is that

Kent: -hmm.

Una: still so hard to do on the platform? And identify the things like these are the top developer needs that people keep redoing, especially with Select. The more we rebuild Selects from scratch, the more accessibility errors we can introduce. The

Kent: Oh

Una: more

Kent: yeah.

Una: cruft we have to manage, all the different states we have to manage, opening, closing, focus, all of that. So as a browser team, it's our job to make it easier and to keep the web evolving. So it's great to see people building libraries and polyfills and seeing what they're doing on the platform so that we could then take that as data and make the web itself better.

Kent: So, Una, while we're at the conference, there are gonna be people who wanna come and talk with you, and you're just such a friendly person that absolutely people don't be nervous. Go talk to Una, she's awesome. What are the sorts of things that you are hoping to talk with other people about? What are the sorts of things you hope people will come and talk to you about?

Una: So honestly, I'm really hoping to hear about the things that you wish you could do in the web platform. So complain to me about the things that you're getting stuck with or that are too hard or that are should, any ideas that you have too for things that could be better on the web. I love to hear it because that's how we can actually make the web better is when I hear from you all that there are these areas that you're stuck with. Like Kent, I remember last time we got together, you were talking about how you wanted to style. error messages better, where you wish that could be an option. So here in the kind of feedback is how we actually can help prioritize it, figure out a solution, spec it, and then maybe ship it. So that's super, super helpful, but you don't have to just complain to me. You can also come and talk to me about UI, CSS, HTML, things that you're trying to build. I'm happy to point you in directions or give you feedback for that. So anything is open three game. Again, I would love to chat and just here we go at two.

Kent: That's awesome. I would add maybe crafty things as well.

Una: Oh,

Kent: If

Una: yes.

Kent: you're a sewer, maybe that could be a fun thing to chat about too.

Una: That'd be awesome. I don't

Kent: Yeah.

Una: talk about that much at conferences, so let's change the narrative.

Kent: Yeah, like we're people. This is actually, this is why we go to events in person, right? It's just because like it's, otherwise we could just watch the recordings online later or the live stream. But

Una: That's true.

Kent: being there in person, it just feels like you can connect better. And what I love about it is when there's somebody that I know online and then I meet them in person the first time, my online interactions with that person just improve a lot because now like we have this connection. this real life connection.

Una: Yeah, yeah,

Kent: So, yeah.

Una: that's why I really think in -person conferences are so important. I'm super bummed the past few years with COVID. It just really affected the community and I was pretty sad for

Kent: Yeah,

Una: a little while.

Kent: well, it literally infected the community, but yes, I'm hoping that we can come back because I do think that it's important. And I think there are a lot of people who really want that too. So I'm excited that you're helping make that dream a reality by coming and excited for people to come and meet you. So thanks, Una, for giving us some of your time today and we'll see you in April.

Una: Yeah, I can't wait.

Kent: Bye, everyone.

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