Front-End Back Story: Telling Tales With Una Kravets

Una Kravets is a UI Engineer at DigitalOcean and a technical writer for publications including A List Apart, Smashing Magazine, and Sitepoint. Una also co-hosts the Toolsday podcast, and started both the Washington DC and Austin Sass Meetups. We asked Una how she got her start in all things web, and discovered her passion for front-end development.

How’d you get your start in design, and on the web (if the two are different)?

I got my start in design through fashion illustration, and eventually it led to front-end development, somehow. When I was in high school, I took a digital media design class, which introduced me to the Wacom tablet. While I was okay at art, for some reason I really took to the tablet and never looked back.

I was interested in fashion illustration and design, and eventually that led me to learning Flash and making Flash drag-and-drop paper doll games. I fell in love with the interactivity that Flash allowed, and the ability to write code (ActionScript) to create commands on the screen. By the time I went to college, I knew I wanted to do digital design, and went to school for both computer science and graphic design.

The community in Washington DC—where I went to college—took care of the rest. At a meetup group called Refresh DC, I discovered this field of “front-end development,” which was a brand-new term at the time. It was the perfect blend of design and logic I was looking for! I’d found a name for the mix of things I enjoyed.

You just moved to New York City, we hear.  Congratulations!  What brought you to NYC?

I moved to NYC to be around my awesome coworkers at DigitalOcean. I started at the company a few months ago, but was working remotely, doing a lot of travel, and working from different time zones every other week. It was fun, but exhausting. Now I’m “settling down” somewhere to focus on work and getting to know the awesome tech communities in NYC.

What’s it like working at DigitalOcean, and what are you working on there?

DigitalOcean is uniquely positioned to create a product for developers, by developers. I love that about the place. Ideas around here are validated quickly because we are the audience. Personally, I’m excited for what’s to come in 2017.

I was previously working on rebuilding, and some of the client-facing pages, and now I’m on a new team focusing on front-end infrastructure. This means ensuring that the product is accessible, performant, and makes it easier for our engineers to produce quality code with less effort. It’s been an interesting challenge.

You’re giving a talk called “The Joy of Optimizing” at AEA.  What’s it about, and what will people take away from it?

The Joy of Optimizing is all about image optimization—since images take up most of the space of the web, and their size is increasingly growing, we need to cut the cruft! The talk discusses the impact of images on performance, goes through a few new, and more performant, media formats and how to use them, and a few pro tips and fun facts about smaller optimizations someone can make. Like, did you know there are two different types of dithering in a gif, and one is more performant than the other? There are many small bits of knowledge that I’m packing into this talk, so both designer and developers can get a lot out of it.

What are some tools, tricks, and/or techniques you can’t work without?

I love iTerm2 — the updates to it in terms of moving and organizing panes are so nice. As a developer, I basically live in this terminal; it’s my home. I also recently tried Visual Studio Code and am very impressed with it. Nice job on that one, Microsoft. Lastly, to mix it up a bit, I’m obsessed with my new mouse, the Logitech MX Master. It has this horizontal scroll wheel that I never thought I needed until I had it.

What has you most excited these days?

I’m excited about the prospect of augmented reality (AR) and WebVR (Web-based virtual reality). There are so many possibilities and it entirely changes the idea of thinking of responsive web design just based on screen sizes. Web APIs, plus emerging hardware that supports these things, has so many possibilities!

Una Kravets will present “The Joy of Optimizing” as part of An Event Apart Seattle, April 5-7, 2017. Don’t miss a chance to learn from Una and eleven other top-notch talks—register today!