We’re very pleased to have Rachel Andrew as our spotlight guest this week.
For those who don’t know her, Rachel Andrew is a web developer, author and speaker. She is also the co-founder of Perch CMS. Rachel is also an Invited Expert to the CSS Working Group and a Google Developer Expert.
Before we get into today’s episode, here are some quick picks we got from Rachel.
Rachel’s Favorite Motivation and Business Books
- Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting to the Top by Karren Brady
- A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey by Chrissie Wellington
Rachel’s Life Success and Leadership Principles
- Work hard
- Be kind
- Give more than you take
- Take care of your fitness
The Best Way That Listener Can Contact Rachel
Perch can be found at https://grabaperch.com
Thanks to This Week’s Sponsor: Liquid Web
Our Interview with Rachel Andrew
Rachel told us the story of how she first got into web development. At first, she studied to be a dancer, and she ended up leaving the theater because of her daughter. She had a computer, and because this was in the very early days of the web, she built websites to share things like photos. This led to people asking her to build sites for them. Today, she is recognized as one of the pioneers of front end development and web standards.
We talked about the early days of the web, and how fascinating it was when CSS was first introduced. John mentions the CSS Zen Garden. Right now, we are about to enter the promise of what CSS was supposed to be with things like Flexbox and CSS Grid. Rachel hopes that web developers don’t just swap out Bootstrap for CSS Grid without experimenting with creativity. She points out that many people are doing great things on sites like Codepen.
Rachel tells us that CSS Grid allows for a two-dimensional layout, while Flexbox is only a one-dimensional layout. Both of them are a vast improvement over float layout. She says layouts are currently really hard. CSS Grid will make that easier. You can see more at GridByExample.com, which contains many use cases for CSS Grid.
CSS Grid has actually been getting implemented into Blink (IE Edge) and Webkit (Safari, Chrome) for the last five years, but full browser support is not quite there, though it is close! A private open source group has been doing this, and much of it has been funded by Bloomberg, interestingly enough. This has been happening in coordination with the CSS Working Group, of which Rachel is an Invited Expert.
We ask why it takes so long to implement features into browsers. Rachel says there is a lot of discussion that goes on between the various W3C members (many browser, ISP, and internet companies have representatives there). She points out you can follow everything that is going into the working drafts on the CSS Working Group Github.
In the second half of the show, we talk about her CMS, Perch, and how it differs from other CMS like WordPress or Drupal. Perch is more streamlined. Rachel says speed is very important in today’s web, and she and Drew McLellan wanted to make a CMS that was easy for both developers and clients.
Perch also supports e-commerce, and that is taking off quite a bit. Perch Runway 3 is set to be a true headless CMS, meaning there will be a true separation of content and presentation. This is an area where many CMS are currently blurring the lines.
Jonathan asks if hosted solutions like Wix and Squarespace are competition for Perch. In the WordPress ecosystem, we sometimes perceive those as competing for client dollars. Rachel says the lower end of the market has become commoditized. The people you may meet at your local Chamber of Commerce may not care about having a great site. They may only need an online business card. For these sorts of prospects, hosted solutions are the best choice. Fully developed, self-hosted CMS sites are for businesses with more mature needs in today’s market.
On Open Source and Miscellaneous Subjects
John asks if there is a balance to be struck with open source, referencing an article that Rachel wrote about a year ago, called The High Price of Free. She said that open source is what has made a lot of the advancements of the web possible. she advised though, that it is healthy to charge money for services you are providing. Sustainability is important.
Perch is a sustainable product, as each site requires a license, but the investment is not too large. Agencies that become proficient with Perch will want to keep using it, as they need less training as time goes on.
We ask if she has ever been tempted to take VC money to fuel growth. She says she has no interest in VC money, as that leads to exits or pivots. She says Perch will be there for a long time.
This was an insightful interview with one of the pioneers of web standards, and someone who has seen and done it all in web development. If you build websites for a living, this is one episode you will want to catch.