The Right Layout Tool for the Job – CSS with Rachel Andrew

This was originally posted on medium.com.

Have you ever started a side job, which ended up taking over your entire professional life in a few years? This is exactly how Rachel Andrew become a great developer.


When she had to leave her job at a theater due to her maternal duties, she started earning extra money on the side writing HTML pages for her friends and acquaintances. The web was then in its early days, and Rachel mastered the basics in one afternoon: “I can remember seeing my first image rollover, thinking ‘Wow, what magic is this?‘”

Rachel still recommends fundamentals to today’s newcomers: “Learn HTML and CSS, because it doesn’t matter where you are, or if you’re a designer or a developer, that’s the output, that’s what goes to the browser, so you need to know HTML and CSS to be able to work on either side of that.”

Gradually, she taught herself the newest innovations at the time (such as Perl and Javascript). She worked in several large dotcoms and founded the small studio Edgeofmyseat in 2001. In addition to work for clients, they started developing a simple content management system, Perch. The original plan was to sell a few licenses per week. As it turned out, Perch became an extremely successful product. Along with a more powerful version, Perch Runway, it has become a staple in most studios today.

Rachel has also been on the conference scene for a long time, both as a speaker and author of a series of expert texts. Since 2002, she has contributed to a total of 21 professional publications and books on HTML, CSS, and Dreamweaver. Her two most recent, the second edition of HTML5 for Web Designers and her latest book, Get Ready For CSS Grid Layout, were published this year by A Book Apart. And let’s not forget, the fourth edition of her bestseller, The CSS3 Anthology.

“The worst thing to do is to hop around from one thing to another and get this surface level of everything, because you never then learn how to do anything seriously and you get into that copy-and-paste code trap.”

Her current focus is layout elements in CSS. It is no coincident that Rachel was mentioned by one of our other speakers, Harry Roberts. The variability and responsiveness of today’s browsers and devices require a unified approach to content hierarchy and display options. Apart from the books we mentioned, we also recommend subscribing to the newsletter CSS Layout News or checking out some of the articles Rachel writes for sites like Smashing Mag, A List Apart, and many more. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also working on a guide for authors of technical books.

Rachel likes getting to know new people and new places, so it’s no wonder her calendar is already backed: two editions of An Event Apart in Chicago and San Francisco, as well as Web Directions Code in Sydney. We’re glad she had space to make it to WebExpo!

Besides traveling, Rachel also runs marathons and half marathons. Since conferences keep her really busy, she tries to persuade others to go running with her. Maybe she’ll want to jog while she’s here in Prague, so make sure to get some practice in beforehand! You can even listen to Rachel on one of many podcasts while you run.

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