2022 in Review

As is tradition, it’s time to do a little round-up of the past year!

Work

At the end of 2021 I started a new job as Senior Front End Developer at Ada Mode, a data science and AI company working in the renewable energy sector. It’s been a great year for the company, as we’ve taken on a bunch of exciting projects and continued to make a name for ourselves. The year has been full of interesting challenges and learning opportunities for me personally, working with Vue and D3.js in particular, (and AWS, which has been less fun 😅) and it’s been a pleasure to work with the friendly and knowledgeable team. I’m looking forward to the company continuing to grow in 2023 as we hire new developers and begin projects spanning sustainable agriculture, wind energy, nuclear decommissioning, solar power and more.

Writing

I’ve continued to dedicate one day a week to writing, speaking and personal projects in 2022. This includes writing a total of seven articles for other publications (Smashing Magazine, Codrops and Google’s Web.dev), as well as averaging two articles per month on this blog. One of my most popular articles this year was Aspect Ratio is Great, all about the CSS aspect-ratio property. It always surprises me that what I consider the simplest articles often end up being the most popular! aspect-ratio already feels like old news now, an indication of how far CSS layout has come in 2022 (more on that later).

I don’t feel I’m writing quite enough for clients compared to what I aimed for when I reduced my working hours at my “main” job in 2021. Back then I optimistically thought I might write a paid article per week. It definitely hasn’t worked out that way, as in reality the writing process takes longer when I’m writing for someone else. Also a lot of that writing time has been taken up with other important things, such as conference talk prep, unpaid work (like this blog) and childcare. On balance, I’m okay with that for now.

This year I’ve begun to write more about climate action in tech. The climate crisis is something we cannot afford to ignore, whatever industry we work in, and the way I see it, those of us working in the tech industry have more power than most to do something about it and be an influence for good. While some might see it as a departure from the original focus of this blog, I believe it is intrinsically linked, and there is plenty that front end developers can do to minimise our environmental impact and be a force for good. So don’t expect me to dial down on it in 2023.

This blog

While I don’t have any major plans to change the direction of writing on this blog, my fingers have been itching for a redesign for a little while. I’d like to implement an improved system of categorisation, to help with publishing quick notes as well as longer articles. This is partly spurred on by the collapse of Twitter, where I would normally share quick thoughts and tips. Like many others, I’m realising the benefit of owning your own content, on your own corner of the web.

I’m also considering using Astro to build the next iteration of this site. I’ve managed to find time to play around with it a little bit in 2022, and I’m seriously impressed. As much as I enjoy using Eleventy, Astro lets you build a blog with absolutely minimal configuration, integrates well with a whole host of different tools, and the docs are great too.

Speaking

I spoke at three in-person events and one online event in 2022, which is pretty much the most I’d want to do in any given year. The highlight was speaking at CSS Day in Amsterdam, where I got to meet and speak alongside some incredibly talented people (and personal heroes). It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever felt speaking at a conference, but the organisers, speakers and attendees were all wonderful and supportive, and it was an incredible experience.

Later in the year I had the privilege of travelling to Freiburg to speak at my first in-person Smashing Conference. Despite a fairly stressful journey (my train got stuck for 8 hours!), it was a pleasure to visit the city and be part of the conference, run by a lovely team. I would love to spend more time in Freiburg on another occasion.

I mostly spoke about CSS layout this year, but in early 2022 I was invited to speak at Toronto Web Performance Meetup (online) for their special edition focusing on low-carbon web development. This was my first time speaking about something other than CSS, and I got to speak alongside Fershad Irani and Jon Arne S, who are both active members of the climate action tech community. Although I felt like a novice in comparison, I had to remind myself that speaking about a topic as someone relatively new to the subject is just as valid, and can bring a different perspective compared to those with more experience. (If you ever feel like you’re not qualified to talk about something, remind yourself of this!).

I already have a couple of speaking gigs lined up for 2023, including Beyond Tellerand, which I’m super excited about.

CSS

2022 was a bumper year for CSS! I’ve been mostly focused on CSS layout, where we’ve seen long-awaited features like container queries and container units, both game-changers for CSS. The :has() pseudo-class is another exciting feature with huge potential to change how we write CSS. Cascade layers are something I started 2022 without giving much thought to, but have ended up feeling very enthusiastic about.

It surprised me that Chrome has finished the year way behind on its subgrid implementation compared to other browsers, but hopefully we’ll see more widespread support in 2023.

It’s great to see browsers working together to implement CSS features interoperably, with the launch of Interop 2022. Although 2022 has been an exceptional year for CSS features, hopefully we’ll see this kind of collaboration continue.

Personal goals and achievements

I ended last year with the goal of finding time to be more playful and creative with CSS again. This hasn’t exactly worked out consistently, but there have been opportunities here and there to play around with new CSS features and make demos while working on talks and articles. In December I also built a little tool for making CSS pixel art, which is one of my more creative projects this year. It’s nice to end the year on a high with that.

One reason for having less time for creative CSS projects was due to pivoting my focus somewhat. Through the ClimateAction.Tech community I’ve become involved with voluntary work around climate action and web sustainability. I’m part of the W3C Sustainable Web Design Community Group, where we are aiming to produce a collection of guidelines and resources to aid developers in building sustainable websites. I also started doing some voluntary web development work for a climate activist organisation. It’s been a nice way to keep my hand in building traditional websites, as an alternative to the web apps I mainly build for work.

I’m pleased that I was successful in my goal of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and saying “no” to the things I don’t have the energy for, even when it meant making some tough choices. After working hard for years (including spending a lot of my free time honing my skills), this year I felt like I could finally take my foot off the gas, look around and appreciate where my hard work has got me. It’s the first time I haven’t had a clear idea of what the next career goal is, and I think that’s okay. The most important thing for me is continue to do work that is meaningful and has a positive impact, spend time with my family, and have time for my hobbies away from the screen. I plan to do more drumming, reading and exercise in 2023!

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, wherever you are.