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I am Val Head. Ask me anything.

Val is a designer and web animation consultant with a talent for getting designers and developers alike excited about the power of animation. She is the author of The Pocket Guide to CSS Animations and Designing Interface Animation. She shares her passion for animation and UX by curating the UI Animation Newsletter, hosting the All The Right Moves screencast, and cohosting the Motion and Meaning podcast.

Ask Val Head about:

  • Web Animations
  • Web Designing
  • Frontend Development
  • Writing CSS
  • User Interface Design
  • User Experience
  • General Programming
  • Hosting Podcasts
  • Publishing
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32 discussions

5 things you would suggest to a beginner frontend developer today?

Hi Jonathan! That's a good one! I'll try to make it a proper list:

1) Learn the foundations of CSS & HTML without frameworks or pre-processors

2) Learn the foundations of vanilla JS (Both of these will help you debug your code more easily and learn new frameworks/libraries/tools more easily.)

3) Learn some basic visual design and typography principles. (Even if you never call yourself a designer these will come in handy.)

4) Practice writing and sharing what you learn. (Communicating your ideas well helps others learn and is key to getting promoted.)

5) Read up on the history of the web/web design (The web things that came before now are both interesting and informative.)

I could probably make a longer list, but I think that's a good set of 5 to have :)

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Hi Val,

Good to see you for an AMA. Have read your book Pocket Guide to CSS Animations. :)

Do you think modern internet browsers today, are well equipped to handle heavy weight web animations? We often hear people telling not to use effects like parallax on the website to have better optimization.

Hi Matthias!

Thanks for reading the pocket guide!

I think browsers are well equipped to handle heavyweight animations and even parallax. Browsers have gotten much more performant with pretty much every kind of animation in the last few years. It's still possible to push their limits of course, especially with webGL and such, of course.

In most cases I've seen, parallax preforms poorly more because it was implemented poorly. It's possible to make performant parallax animation but only if that's a priority, and it doesn't always seem to be, sadly. Paul Lewis has written a lot about how to make parallax performant, and his other articles on the topic are worth a read.

That's not to say that parallax should be everywhere on the web. It's a pretty heavy-handed effect and if it doesn't fit the context or the content even the most performant parallax isn't going to be a good experience for your audience.

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Are you a fan of Google's Material Design framework? Do you think it's a better design framework for any kind of applications (mobile apps, web apps, native TV apps, etc.)?

Since the community is too big, do you think small companies should stick to the material design framework rather than wasting time in creating better UX?

I both like and dislike Material Design :)

I really like that it's gotten more web folks thinking about motion as design element and how to do it well. Material Design's motion guidelines was the first time most devs had ever seen motion handled as something that applies to UX and good design. And that's great! I love the discussions around animation that get sparked from this. (And there are some very smart folks behind Material Design's motion guidelines.)

On the other hand, I don't think it makes sense to build 100% with Material Design's framework if you're not making something for Google or Google's ecosystem.

Material Design is Google's take on how design should be. There are some solid points and lots of good general rules in there. But Google's branding and point of view are also in there. It doesn't make sense to use Google's branding and point of view for something that's not related to them at all.

I think the better approach is to take what you like about Material Design but put your own spin on it. Add your brand or product's point of view to the general best practices that are in there instead. I don't think adding that point of view is ever a waste of time.

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Hi Val,

When you start a new project, what are the few things you take into account before deciding the layout and design of the project?

Hi Matthew!

Ah, yes. The before actually designing phase :)

I think it's important to take the brand or product's personality and point of view into account. That's something that should be reflected in the design of any new project. Establishing what the point of view is, and some general guidelines of how that should get across, helps you evaluate design decisions along the way.

Also the goals of the project from the audience's perspective. What is the main thing that a person needs or wants to accomplish on this site or in this app? Knowing that helps to keep the design focused and help you prioritize where the the design efforts should go.

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What fun projects would you include in programming book aimed at beginners ?

Oh, that's a fun one! I think projects that involved random numbers for colours or positioning elements can be super fun and easy for beginners. Animation is always a hit too. Getting something moving on screen with code is always a fun moment for folks that are new to programming. (And it's super fun to teach!)

If you haven't read it already, Learning Processing is my favourite intro to programming book. I love how it gets you making things, even if they're just small things, right from the early chapters.

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