An Interview With Chris Coyier – Founder of CSS-Tricks

Posted in 1WD Features, Interviews, Web Design2 years ago • Written by 17 Comments

Chris Coyier is a web designer and developer who not only builds websites, but also helps other people make their websites better. He’s the founder of CSS-Tricks and co-author of the famous book “Digging Into WordPress”. Chris is also involved in a few other projects, such as CodePen and ShopTalk Show.

 

1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hey Agota and 1stwebdesigner folks! Thanks for having me. I’m Chris. I work on websites and help people get better at working on websites. I do things like CodePen, CSS-Tricks, and ShopTalk Show.

2. How did you get into design in the first place?

Essentially, I was a nerd in middle school and high school. Amongst other nerdy things I liked computers. As I got older, I got more into art. I think of design as the perfect compromise between art and computer nerdery.

3. What is your professional experience in the field of web-design?

I worked at a small design agency in Madison, Wisconsin called Chatman Design for a few years. Then I worked for Wufoo, a web app for building web forms for a year. Then Wufoo got bought by SurveyMonkey so I worked there (on both apps) for another year. Now I’m off on my own trying to make that work. For example, I’m doing a Kickstarter for some fun stuff on CSS-Tricks.

4. Why did you start building things (CSS-tricks, ShopTalk, Digging Into WordPress, Quotes on Design) on top of your web design work? I mean, really, where do you get the motivation to get all this done?

It’s fun. I also get a lot of encouragement from the community on all the things I do. That gets addictive. I’m sure you know. Being addicted to (fairly) healthy things are good addictions to have.

5. How do you juggle your web design work + a bunch of web projects + speaking engagements? What is your secret to successfully managing all these projects at the same time?

Enjoying the work is the first part. It doesn’t seem like work when you love doing it. I’m sitting here right now at 6pm on a Monday night doing this interview while many people are driving home from work, exhausted from their day of work. I feel great, happy to be doing it, looking forward to the rest of the things I’m going to tinker with tonight.

That said, when you start adding in travel and life situations, it gets to be a bit much. I was getting to the point where something had to break. Thus, leaving the job and the Kickstarter and all that. I’m having a great time being off on my own. I just need to make sure I can stay financially secure while doing it.

6. What does your daily routine and work process look like? Maybe you can share some productivity tips and tricks with our readers?

No secrets. I just wake up in the morning and do stuff all day. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: It’s amazing how much you can get done in a day if you just sit and you do it.

Again with a caveat: I’m single. No kids. I don’t have a sick aunt to take care of. I’m in a place in life right now I can stay heads down in work for long periods and it’s OK.

7. What effect did the success of your web projects have on your web design career (did it make it easier for you get clients, etc.)? Would you say that doing web projects on the side is a good way to accelerate your web design career?

It did open some doors for me. After I had worked on CSS-Tricks for a few years, it was big enough that it had somewhat of an audience, beyond my friends and social circle. One of those readers was Dan Denney who runs the Front End Design Conference. He invited me to speak at it. Also speaking was Kevin Hale from Wufoo, and the other founders were there too. We met. Less then a year later I was working for Wufoo.

Back when I worked for an agency though, I can’t say we got any new clients directly from anything I did. That kind of work I think is 90% referrals. Even the “famous” web designers I know say that.

8. There are quite a few web designers who would like to start something on their own, but they either don’t know what that could be or think that they don’t have anything valuable to offer to people. How can they come up with an idea of what they can create that would be valuable to others?

I don’t think anyone is totally lacking for ideas. It’s more likely that you doubt your own ideas. Stop doing that and build something. Even if it doesn’t take off, what you learn from it will inform the next thing. If you are really straining for an idea, stop thinking specifically about the web. Do you like something? Really like it, like more than any of your friends? What can you build around that? Maybe a blog about it? Maybe something to help other people who like it too?

9 . What would be your advice for all the young web designers out there who are only starting out, but have big dreams?

Keep them dreams big and just build websites.

Questions from 1WD readers

Tobias Dokken (@tebie_ ) asks:

“What are your thoughts about http://csstricks.com? Do you wish that you had chosen another domain name because of them?”

Nah. I like my dash. It’s proof to me that there is little value in them. People try and sell me domains like css3tricks.com or js-tricks.com and I’m like, sorry, not interested. If I was, I’d register css3tricks.net or jstricks.com or something else not taken and it would be fine.

I do think the name “CSS-Tricks” is a bit hokey, but hey, its way too late to change it. And for someone arriving for the first time, I think it does what it needs to do as a brand.

Here’s one more question from Tobias:

“How important is site speed vs. great design (detailed, colorful graphics)? What’s the recipe of a perfect CSS-trick?”

Speed is more important.

The perfect CSS trick is one that solves the issue you are having right that second.

Lena (@photosheep_me) asks:

“.. teaching young people to become web designers?! methods, strategies, approaches, do’s and don’ts, myths and reality?”

Starting with fundamentals is key, but you’ll have to mix it with building real things. It’s like practicing an instrument. You know you need to learn scales but it’s no fun unless you also learn to play a song you like. So I’d cover things like color, shape, texture, balance, hierarchy, etc, but show them power of creation as well. At it’s most basic, HTML and CSS is super easy.

Here’s one more question from Lena:

“What does it take to become a good teacher, lecturer, conference speaker, workshop leader?”

1) You have to be reasonably intelligent and likable. I’m neither of those things so I have to work extra hard.

2) Practice. Tons of it.

3) Confidence, which comes from knowing your material and #1.

4) Read this.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us, Chris!

- – -

What did you guys learn from this interview?

Let us know in the comments!

P.S. Want your questions answered by top web designers and developers in the world?

We announce upcoming interviews and ask for reader questions on Twitter, so keep in touch!

16 Written Articles

Agota is a digital nomad who makes a living writing. She has a hard time staying in one place and loves slow travel. As a result, over the last five years, she has lived in United Kingdom, Spain, and Greece, where she's currently staying for the summer. Agota believes that travel is a great way to learn more about yourself and about the world, and that pretty much anyone can afford it if they set their mind to it.

17 Comments Best Comments First
  • Caleb M

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012 10:17

    5

    Thanks for all your valuable work in the web dev field Chris. I really appreciate your CSS-Tricks website, it has helped me solve a problem many a time.

    Keep up the great work, and keep learning and applying new skills and technologies!

    +2
  • justwordpress

    Sunday, July 8th, 2012 08:07

    8

    i don’t think there’s anyone as talented and as great at teaching others about css and jquery… it’s guys like Chris Coyer than change things in webdesign forever

    +2
  • Harry

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 10:15

    1

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for sharing with us on this great interview. I agree with you that one has to love what he/she does and is passionate about to enjoy the work. And live life without regrets! Out of curiosity, when and how did you discover your flair in arts and design? :)

    +1
  • Nimsrules

    Sunday, July 8th, 2012 03:05

    7

    Chris is the person because of whom I learnt jQuery with the help of his screencasts. My Idol :)

    0
  • Chris

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012 09:50

    4

    Nice interview. I like Chris’ secret: “I just wake up in the morning and do stuff all day”. There is no success wthout hard work. Some people forget about it ;)
    Thanks for sharing, Chris

    0
    • Chris Coyier

      Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 08:16

      10

      It’s from this, really fantastic movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0275408/

      0
    • Agota

      Saturday, July 7th, 2012 19:06

      6

      “I just get up and do stuff all day” was actually my favorite sentence in this interview. It really makes one think, doesn’t it?

      0
  • Tarciso Lemos

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 16:03

    2

    Nice interview with Chris. I love CSS Tricks, congratz.

    0
  • Aakash

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012 03:07

    3

    I love this guy! CSS-TRICKS rocks! :)

    0
  • Tams Laborte

    Sunday, July 8th, 2012 08:53

    9

    Web design has been a very generous and encouraging community for starters. Chris Coyier is one of those guys who helped make it that nice. Reading more about him and his work secrets really rocks! :D

    0
  • Guy Routledge

    Sunday, August 26th, 2012 04:47

    16

    Great interview.

    I certainly owe a large amount of thanks to Chris for CSS-Tricks (as well as Shoptalk and Codepen) for all the things I have learned since going pro in the web business. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has got to where they are today with the help form Chris’s knowledge and commitment to the community.

    Cheers!

    0
  • A fan

    Thursday, August 30th, 2012 17:52

    17

    Honestly, I wouldn’t survive without CSS-Tricks. Many a nights were spent on the site. Moving from Java to web programming was the best decision I’ve ever made career wise (not financially, yet, but it made me a happier, more productive person)

    Thank you so much Chris. I’ll pay it forward.

    0
  • Utsav

    Saturday, August 18th, 2012 13:09

    15

    Awesome interview with Chris, I love CSS tricks

    0
  • Raj

    Friday, August 10th, 2012 22:04

    14

    Hi Chris, I have learnt a lot from your work and continue to get inspired from it. Thanks Buddy! Cheers.

    0
  • Subeesh Kottay

    Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 13:52

    11

    i like the way you made it……..by the way next option is mine..Do or Don’t…let i do it….am much confident….Cheers Chris!!!

    0
  • Faisal Islam

    Sunday, July 15th, 2012 22:54

    12

    I have learned a lot from Chris.
    He is a great teacher. I learn to create WordPress theme from Chris’s Lynda.com tutorial.

    0
  • Aftab Khalid

    Friday, July 20th, 2012 05:26

    13

    awesome interview, i have a question to Chris: “Would you like to tell us that how you starts your new assignment, do you get some inspirations or you starts with your imaginations? ”

    I like your way of teaching… good luck!

    0
  • A fan

    Thursday, August 30th, 2012 17:52

    17

    Honestly, I wouldn’t survive without CSS-Tricks. Many a nights were spent on the site. Moving from Java to web programming was the best decision I’ve ever made career wise (not financially, yet, but it made me a happier, more productive person)

    Thank you so much Chris. I’ll pay it forward.

    0
  • Guy Routledge

    Sunday, August 26th, 2012 04:47

    16

    Great interview.

    I certainly owe a large amount of thanks to Chris for CSS-Tricks (as well as Shoptalk and Codepen) for all the things I have learned since going pro in the web business. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has got to where they are today with the help form Chris’s knowledge and commitment to the community.

    Cheers!

    0
  • Utsav

    Saturday, August 18th, 2012 13:09

    15

    Awesome interview with Chris, I love CSS tricks

    0
  • Raj

    Friday, August 10th, 2012 22:04

    14

    Hi Chris, I have learnt a lot from your work and continue to get inspired from it. Thanks Buddy! Cheers.

    0
  • Aftab Khalid

    Friday, July 20th, 2012 05:26

    13

    awesome interview, i have a question to Chris: “Would you like to tell us that how you starts your new assignment, do you get some inspirations or you starts with your imaginations? ”

    I like your way of teaching… good luck!

    0
  • Faisal Islam

    Sunday, July 15th, 2012 22:54

    12

    I have learned a lot from Chris.
    He is a great teacher. I learn to create WordPress theme from Chris’s Lynda.com tutorial.

    0
  • Subeesh Kottay

    Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 13:52

    11

    i like the way you made it……..by the way next option is mine..Do or Don’t…let i do it….am much confident….Cheers Chris!!!

    0
  • Tams Laborte

    Sunday, July 8th, 2012 08:53

    9

    Web design has been a very generous and encouraging community for starters. Chris Coyier is one of those guys who helped make it that nice. Reading more about him and his work secrets really rocks! :D

    0
  • justwordpress

    Sunday, July 8th, 2012 08:07

    8

    i don’t think there’s anyone as talented and as great at teaching others about css and jquery… it’s guys like Chris Coyer than change things in webdesign forever

    +2
  • Nimsrules

    Sunday, July 8th, 2012 03:05

    7

    Chris is the person because of whom I learnt jQuery with the help of his screencasts. My Idol :)

    0
  • Caleb M

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012 10:17

    5

    Thanks for all your valuable work in the web dev field Chris. I really appreciate your CSS-Tricks website, it has helped me solve a problem many a time.

    Keep up the great work, and keep learning and applying new skills and technologies!

    +2
  • Chris

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012 09:50

    4

    Nice interview. I like Chris’ secret: “I just wake up in the morning and do stuff all day”. There is no success wthout hard work. Some people forget about it ;)
    Thanks for sharing, Chris

    0
    • Agota

      Saturday, July 7th, 2012 19:06

      6

      “I just get up and do stuff all day” was actually my favorite sentence in this interview. It really makes one think, doesn’t it?

      0
    • Chris Coyier

      Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 08:16

      10

      It’s from this, really fantastic movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0275408/

      0
  • Aakash

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012 03:07

    3

    I love this guy! CSS-TRICKS rocks! :)

    0
  • Tarciso Lemos

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 16:03

    2

    Nice interview with Chris. I love CSS Tricks, congratz.

    0
  • Harry

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 10:15

    1

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for sharing with us on this great interview. I agree with you that one has to love what he/she does and is passionate about to enjoy the work. And live life without regrets! Out of curiosity, when and how did you discover your flair in arts and design? :)

    +1

Comments are closed.

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