2016: a year in review

I leave 2016 feeling a bit downhearted about many things, and not just the fact that the last few months have left us inhabiting a version of reality as might be written by The Onion. However I’m going to review the positive things that have happened in my year, and then in a different post I’m going to write about the less positive in the light of what I want to improve in 2017. This isn’t to gloss over anything remotely negative but to remind myself that good stuff happened, that I did stuff, and that some of it worked or helped people. If reading the things that another person is proud of upsets you, stop right here. I don’t mind, this is mostly for me.

A year of data

My life is tracked by a number of SaaS applications, they informed me of the following statistics.

  • Conferences I have spoken at: 34
  • Presentations delivered: 38
  • Workshops delivered: 4
  • On the road for 142 days
  • Kilometres traveled: 171,125
  • Countries visited: 13
  • Cities visited: 35
  • Miles run: 1,095
  • Steps logged: 5,009,177
  • Blog posts on this site: 28
  • Articles published elsewhere: 6
  • No hot air balloons this year but I did have a trial flying lesson and also went on a seaplane!

Perch and Perch Runway

Drew and I recorded a 2016 Review of the Year podcast, talking about our year working on Perch and Perch Runway. Some edited highlights:

We launched Perch Shop – a massive, fully featured and included with a Perch or Runway license e-commerce system. If you need e-commerce that gives you total control of the look and feel of your store, and don’t want to be paying monthly fees, check it out.

We got Perch and Perch Runway 3 to very, very close to launch. Our Registered Developers should be getting an email very soon to be the first to try out the new products, with a full launch not too long afterwards.

We rebuilt and relaunched our documentation, which is an epic effort itself. There is a lot of Perch and Runway, which means a whole lot of docs.


A lot of 2016 was spent in airports, planes, hotels and conference venues. You can take a look at all of the events plus links to slides and code examples on my speaking page. If I were to review each event I’ve been part of this would be a very long post, instead I’m going to focus on two very different things I’ve been part of this year.

I was thrilled to be asked back to speak at An Event Apart, being part of that conference reminds me of being in the theatre. A little cast that assembles to do a thing, and in the course of that friendships form. There are many folk among that group I hope I will be able to call my friends for many years to come.

The last AEA of 2016 in San Francisco really summed up that feeling for me. I was doing a brand new talk, and so was pretty nervous. What gave me confidence however was being able to feel the support from the other speakers – most of who were there in the room, and the AEA team. On the final day of the show most of us were again back in the room supporting Jen Simmons who was doing her all day workshop for the first time. That support, along with the calm and consistent organisation is why I think AEA is such a fantastic event to speak at and attend. Everyone brings their A game. It’s like a conference of top quality keynotes. Terrifying in one way, but has also done a lot to make me improve as a speaker as I try and raise myself to the standard.

Rachel speaking at An Event Apart

Speaking about CSS Grid Layout at An Event Apart Boston 2016, photo by Chris Casciano

A very different type of event to An Event Apart are the CSSConf family of events. I can’t do a huge number of unpaid events each year as an independent – I need to pay the bills – however I see speaking at and attending a CSSConf as pretty much a fair swap! This year I was part of CSSConf in Budapest, and also in Singapore. I love the ethos of CSSConf, they have a strong focus on diversity and on getting new as well as established voices to speak at their events.

It was my first time in Singapore, and I managed to fit in a quick and very jet lagged visit to a local CSS meet up in addition to speaking at CSSConf. What stuck me however was how different the online world seems when in that timezone. I also really enjoyed hearing talks from people from that part of the world, it opened my eyes to things I am still pondering.


The speaking means a lot of travel, which is something I enjoy. I’ve also been able to bring my family along on some of the trips. My daughter is away at college, and most conference trips happen during term time, making it hard for her to come with me. However this year An Event Apart Chicago was during her summer break, and for some reason the flights to Chicago were inexpensive. She came along and enjoyed being part of the pre-conference trip to a improv club, plus joining a bunch of us for dinner and discovering exactly what web professionals talk about when not at work. We ate good food, went to outlet stores and while I was in the conference she hired a bicycle and cycled miles and miles along the lake.

This year I also got my first invite to a conference in Australia – two conferences in fact as I spoke at Web Directions Code in both Melbourne and Sydney. I was so pleased to be asked, as I’ve known John Allsopp for years and in fact my first main speaking engagement was when he was running @media in London. I was also pleased to be asked because Drew has always wanted to go to Australia, so we made a bit of a trip of it. I did the two conferences, and a workshop, which went well despite the worst jet lag I have ever experienced. We then drove from Melbourne to Sydney, staying in the middle of nowhere, before flying home.

I also made BA Gold Status, an achievement which I saw someone note on Twitter as the “gameification of poor life choices”, however it does mean I can pursue my poor life choices in the First Class Lounge, which is something.


I write to think. Having ended up with all these words I may as well do something with them.

My Get Ready for CSS Grid Layout, A Book Apart “brief” was published in January, and I co-authored the second edition of Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 for Web Designers, which was published in February. Other writing that I am particularly proud of includes:

CSS Grid, Flexbox and Box Alignment: our new system for web layout, a huge article I wrote for Smashing Magazine.
The High Price of Free for A List Apart
What Next for CSS Grid Layout for 24 Ways

CSS Grid and friends

In addition to the articles mentioned above and those added to my blog, I have continued to add to my site Grid by Example. Over the course of the year have added 20 small video tutorials to help people learn Grid Layout.

I also launched my CSS Layout Workshop this year as an online course. I’ve been really happy with the uptake of that course and am looking forward to adding additional sections as I develop my ‘in person’ material next year. The site is also built using Perch Shop, it was essentially the first shop to launch!

I managed to keep up my posting schedule with CSS Layout News all year. There are now 5765 subscribers, which is a lot of people keen to learn about CSS for layout.

I am excited about the fact that Grid Layout will be landing in browsers early next year. It really has been quite a journey from the first experiments I put together using the IE10 implementation, to what we will see landing in browsers next year.

Recognition and contribution

I’ve never been “award winning”, which is probably why I’m so keen on races that award me with a medal at the end! However, it is nice to be recognised for the work you do, especially when it is voluntary work. As regular readers will know, I go on a bit about CSS and in particular CSS for layout. This year I was invited to be an Invited Expert on the CSS Working Group. I feel as if I am just finding my feet as part of the CSS WG, which is full of very clever folk. However I enjoy learning from them, and I hope to be able to make meaningful contributions there, as well as being able to be a voice for the people who use CSS. I’m in a different situation to someone working for a browser vendor in that through supporting Perch I get to see exactly what the regular web designer or developer hits up against, not just those who spend their time at conferences or who would naturally engage with the working group or log bugs in browsers. If I can help to create dialogue between the working group and more developers I’d feel I had achieved something.

Early in 2016 I also became a Google Developer Expert, mostly due to all the writing, speaking and content creation I do around CSS. It’s another way to be in touch with a bunch of bright and interesting people, which I feel is always the best way to up your own game!

Fitness and running

Despite another injury plagued year I managed to have some fun running. Part of this was in managing to cunningly plan my travel around Parkruns. Parkrun is a free weekly 5K running event, which started in the UK. There are now Parkruns all over the world. What better way to combine my love of running and traveling, than to try and get to as many worldwide events as possible. This year I managed to get to 6 while at conferences:

I should probably add to my speaking page that my likelihood of saying yes to an invite is raised substantially if it means I can get to a new parkrun!

Three days before Christmas I was in hospital having another operation on the elbow I shattered almost four years ago. The fact I’m putting this in the positive blog post might be surprising, but there is the potential of good news there. While there are no guarantees with an injury like this, the surgeon did manage to extend the range of motion during the operation. Early days, and physio will follow, but it seems there is potential for improvement if I work on it.

So there we leave the good bits of my 2016, with potential for improvement, and the need to do some work.

One Comment

Paul Morriss January 4, 2017 Reply

It’s nice to read a positive post about 2016 after I’ve read several negative ones. I like that line “I can pursue my poor life choices in the First Class Lounge”.

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