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An Interview With Harry Roberts – Front-end Architect and Speaker

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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A senior UI developer at British broadcasting giant BSkyB and based in Leeds, Harry Roberts first got into development aged 16. Specialising in CSS architecture and frontend performance, he’s recently been working on “a pretty huge mobile build” for Sky. Outside of work he’s been working on his open source OOCSS framework inuit.css, and also on csswizardry-grids, a Sass-based responsive grid system.


 Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m Harry, I’m a 22 year old web designer and front-end developer from the UK. I specialise in writing CSS on big projects with a lot of developers and a lot of code. I speak at conferences, write at csswizardry.com and tweet at @csswizardry.

Why be a web developer and what led you down this career path?

A few years ago, when I was abotu 16, I really wanted to become a graphic designer. My best friend Sam and I started working on small design projects for local businesses and I decided that we needed a website. I started reading up on HTML and CSS and stuff and soon realised that I was much better at front-end development than I was at design (I’m a terrible designer) and that I also much preferred it.

From there I just kept building stuff, kept tinkering, and now I’m here.


What was the first website you made and how was that experience?

The first site I made was the aforementioned portfolio site (long dead). It was a lot of fun but equally frustrating. When you’re just starting out the simpler things are far more complicated so the effort:reward ratio means that it takes a lot of work to achieve very little. However, once you make a few breakthroughs, it all seems pretty worth it. I got hooked!

If you can tell us, what are the projects you are currently working on?

I work at Sky, at the moment; it’s a pretty huge British organisation where I head up the front-end development and architecture in our area. I recently built the front-ends to skybet.com and m.skybet.com, two of our most profitable websites.

What are the best projects you’ve worked on? Tell us about them.

I worked on an app called faavorite with a really great friend, Nick Payne. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, faavorite had to be wound down. It’s a shame, but that was a very fun project that we built entirely in our spare time; it was huge! We’re thinking about open sourcing it soon, though.

Could you tell us what’s in your personal “toolbox”? Software, apps, hardware, books?

portrait-bwMy toolbox is pretty light; all I really need is Chrome and Terminal… I code in Vim, I use Git and Sass, all of which happens from the command line. My personal hardware is simple a MacBook Air, and at work I have a dual-screen Ubuntu desktop machine and a MacBook Pro (again, on both I just use Terminal and Chrome). I use Photoshop when necessary, and I can’t live without Spotify!

I have used Mixture a little but it just doesn’t fit my workflow too much, which is a shame. It’s a great tool though, and I’d recommend everyone give it a shot!

Tell us about your best experience as a developer.

Probably speaking, speaking is terrifying for me, but the feeling afterwards is nothing short of elation and adrenaline. My time in Poland for Front-Trends 2012 was probably the most fun I’ve ever had because of my work.

Tell us about your worst experience as a developer.

Any time I feel boredom, or a lack of motivation. It’s happened a few times to me in my career and it just takes it out of me; it makes me not enjoy my work, and I coulndn’t ever do work that I don’t enjoy. Life’s too short to work a job you don’t enjoy.

In your opinion, what is the difference between a good web designer and a great web designer?

Caring. A lot of people will show up and do ‘just enough’. People who do more than enough are, by and large, the people who get places.


What advice would you give to our Web Courses Bangkok students?

Make sure you enjoy what you do. No one will make that happen for you, so you need to keep yourself happy all the time. This is such a cool job, make sure you keep it that way. Things change, techniques come and go, jobs are fun, then boring, but you need to just keep yourself happy. Keep that constant and things will follow.

Want to know more about Harry?

You can also find him here: speaker deckgithub and twitter.

We would like to thank Harry for taking out the time to talk to us and answering our questions. Best of luck to him on his future endeavors.

Would you like to learn how to make great websites? Have a look at our web design courses at WebCoursesBangkok !


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