CommunityAn Interview with Shay Howe


Joe Villanueva
writes on October 24, 2012

Shay Howe is a Designer & User Interface Engineer at @groupon, Front End Instructor at @starterleague, Co-Organizer of @refreshchi and @uxhappyhour, and a Cupcake Enthusiast. I sat down with him to discuss what influences him, what he does to stay creative and what he thinks about the future of the web.

What designers have most influenced your style?

Specifically, there aren’t too many designers that have really influenced my style. I tend to gravitate towards a really clean, minimalistic style and follow designers in that respect.

From day to day, I spend about half my time in design and the other half in development, and I look up to people on both ends. One person I tend to admire is Dan Cedarholm. Dan is a great designer and developer. His designs are clean and intuitive, his code is semantic and well structured. Dan has done a great job at becoming a well versed designer and developer, and I really respect that.

As of today, what is the piece of work that you’re most proud of?

Building a beginners guide to front end development is something I had wanted to do for a while. Seeing it come to life, and the success of The Starter League altogether, has been pretty rewarding.

Do you have any daily rituals or processes that help you stay creative?

Yes, I try to exercise a lot. I love to bike— mountain bike or road bike. For me, just getting outside and unplugging for a little bit is almost mandatory. It’s kind of crazy. The more time I spend away from the computer the better my ideas are when I sit down. So for me, it’s finding the right balance.

There are a lot of ways to make websites more dynamic and interactive. I just recently, as a couple days ago, read an article that was published 5 or 6 months back by Richard Bradshaw on CSS3 transitions vs. jQuery animations.  His conclusion was that animations could never be as quick as transitions because they don’t have access to enough of the browser to make the same optimizations.  Based on that, animations should only be used as a fallback in legacy browsers because browser support is so universal now. So he’s saying, there’s rarely a case where JavaScript Animations should be used.  Can you think of instances where you would use jQuery animations vs. CSS3 transitions?

Generally speaking, I’m going to lean towards doing as much animation in CSS3 as possible. With browser support getting better and better, we’re able to do that. However, I do use Modernizr to build in jQuery fallbacks.

I’m not sure I’ve ever ran across a case where I specifically wanted to use jQuery. I largely use jQuery to set up click events, adding a class to an element, of which can trigger CSS3 transitions.

I searched for HTML5 on a popular tech hiring platform, and it revealed 2300+ jobs.  I added mobile to that, and there were about half as many results.  The latter is clearly paramount moving forward.

Mobile is growing at a faster speed than desktop browsing did. I think people are catching wind of the fact that mobile—if it isn’t already, will be the future. That is something we have to pay attention to. Will computers be around in 10 or 15 years? I want to believe so, but maybe not. I do believe tablets and mobile devices will largely replace the desktop computer in time, I’m just not sure how soon.

What recommendations do you have for web professionals to include more UI /UX in their design or development processes?

I put a lot of effort into learning users behaviors. I think about interactions, and how users behave. Put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. Spend time building interfaces, really think about the usability behind what you’re doing. Focus on the use and their interactions and overall experience.

What’s the one app that you can’t live without?

When speaking about a native application I’d have to say Google Chrome. For a web app I would say Twitter.  I enjoy Chrome because it is fast and comes with a handful of built in tools, which I use everyday. Twitter is amazing as it helps me stay in touch with the community – speaking with and listening to all different types of people. Twitter has also largely replaced my RSS feeds as people are regularly posting things I’m interested in.

Where do you see the web in 2 years?

Definitely more mobile, that’s for sure. Mobile is, and will continue to, blow up. Those who haven’t caught up on mobile yet soon will.  With that also comes the needs for faster and higher definition websites. Speed and performance will continue to improve.  Apple, and the use of retina displays, are also driving the need for higher definition websites and better media.  Additionally, support for HTML5 and CSS3 will continue to grow as we are yet to really see some of the advantages these offer.

What advice do you have for aspiring web designers?

My advice is to be prepared to continue to learn, and then I try to help encourage and facilitate that learning. We’re in an industry where things continually change, and to a degree that’s what makes it so exciting. Everyday I wake up and I think there is so much I need to learn, which I enjoy.



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2 Responses to “An Interview with Shay Howe”

  1. What an inspiration. Great article! Thanks!

  2. Inspiring

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