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Pro Talks: Interview with Manoela Ilic, Co-owner and Writer at Codrops

Many of us here at GetDevDone are big fans of Manoela Ilic, and her work at Codrops. Manoela has published many tutorials, blueprints, and demos to help designers and developers improve their sites and UIs with fancy effects. Today, we will sit down with the mysterious girl behind all this awesome stuff, and chat with […]

GetDevDone Team

Many of us here at GetDevDone are big fans of Manoela Ilic, and her work at Codrops. Manoela has published many tutorials, blueprints, and demos to help designers and developers improve their sites and UIs with fancy effects. Today, we will sit down with the mysterious girl behind all this awesome stuff, and chat with her about CSS, design, and herself!


For those who might not know you well, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m Manoela Ilic (a.k.a Mary Lou), a 33 year old web designer and front-end developer. I grew up in Germany where I studied Cognitive Science and later I moved to Portugal where I got a master’s degree in Computational Logic. My main pastime is creating web experiments for Codrops, a blog that I started back in 2009 together with my partner Pedro.

How did you get started in web design and development? I mean, really, what was your major motivator that got you interested in this area?

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have a geek brother who owned a C64.:) He was the reason I got into computers. When our first modem arrived, I was instantly hooked on the Web and wanted to understand how it all works. I started experimenting with HTML and found it amazing that I could create something that would be part of a global thing like the Web. During high school, I started to program and my studies included computer science courses, but front-end development was only a hobby. I’m glad that my first job gave me the chance to dive deeper into front-end coding and designing, which ultimately lead to the idea of Codrops, a place to share everything that Pedro and I were learning.

I guess everybody who has ever come across your blog is craving to know this: where do you go for inspiration for your projects?

Aside from the obvious places in the web like Dribbble or Behance, inspiration comes from all kinds of things, a lot of times even from some that have nothing to do with the Web. I believe that design solves problems, also problems that we might not even know exist. So, wanting to make something “better” and more usable in a way that it’s pleasant to interact with, leads to all kind of ideas. Pushing boundaries and trying out new things by thinking out of the box can end up in something interesting, too. But there’s no better inspiration than to immerse yourself in the world and see things you’ve never seen before. For me, exploring new things, beautiful or ugly, is a true source for any kind of inspiration.


What has been one of the biggest challenges for you lately?

It’s been the same big challenge for years already: how to make an effect super-smooth in every (or at least most of the) browser(s) on every OS, including mobile? How to keep things performative? Browsers and web technologies are changing so rapidly that an effect that has been super-smooth a month ago turns suddenly into a staggering mess after an update. Sometimes it’s a tough task to find the culprit, and sometimes demos don’t get published because they just don’t feel smooth enough. That’s definitely one of the biggest challenges at Codrops: keeping up with the browsers.

What does your daily routine look like? Could you share some productivity tips with our readers?

When I started out as a freelancer, my days would be very long and unproductive simply because I didn’t plan things correctly. For me, becoming productive was a difficult lesson to learn but fortunately my better half helped me out. What it came down to is an early start, a manageable daily task list and a reasonable schedule. I try to do a bit of everything every day so that no project gets left behind. That’s the routine normally, which can get interrupted by days or weeks of completely different things, like traveling. Because, you know, routine kills.

When you’re not on the computer, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy?

I really enjoy traveling and discovering new places, even if it’s just a tiny street in my village that I haven’t yet walked. I love to do and learn manual things from cooking and painting to sewing and gardening. I’m a DIY girl. But nothing beats a great day at the beach .:)

What is your favorite code editor? Are there any design/coding tools you couldn’t live without?

I use Atom and it’s a great editor but any text editor would do I guess. When developing, Chrome Dev Tools is my best friend. But the only thing I couldn’t live without is a pen and a paper.

If CSS frameworks were movie stars, which one would get more Oscars?

I didn’t try all of them but Bootstrap is definitely the most popular kid on the block. And those usually get the Oscars.:) But I don’t know if it’s the best in the role of a CSS framework.

What do you find to be the most exciting CSS3 feature? And in contrast, what do you think is the most frustrating CSS constriction or bug?

For me, animations and transitions are the best thing that happened to CSS, of course.:) What can be frustrating is actually not CSS itself, but the way layout engines support it in their own ways. Although the differences are mostly subtle thanks to the recommendations, sometimes combining certain properties in complex scenarios can cause quite challenging problems, especially when trying out something completely new.


Mac or Windows? Why?

After years of working on a Windows machine, I switched to Mac and it would need some kind of miracle to make me go back (you never know). The thoughtful design choices that make up a Mac are simplifying my daily work and making it more efficient. I think machines should do exactly that. I do get a nostalgic Windows moment now and then, though.

Do you have a favorite coding or geeky joke? What is it?

I like all the CSS related jokes but this one always makes me smile:

A programmer goes to the shop to buy some milk.
His wife calls and says, “While you’re out, get some eggs.”
He never returns.

There’s been much buzz about web design trends for 2015. What is on your list of predictions? Are there any design trends that should be long gone?

Predictions are hard because there can always be a game-changer and trend-setter that starts a new web fashion at any time. From what I’m seeing now, I’d say that there’s a balancing happening between detail-rich design and the so-called “flat” design approach. This kind of harmony allows for much more individual expression and topic-related design without losing minimalism. I hope that there will be a balance between innovative effects and user-friendly design, i.e. scroll effects that enhance the experience instead of impairing it, together with a sensible employment of animations and organic movements altogether.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Manoela! Looking forward to more amazing articles on Codrops!