Hangin’ Ten with Scott Jehl

Originally from New Hampshire, though these days he’s encamped on the sunny Gulf coast of Florida where he likes to spend his time outside surfing, skateboarding, and playing at the beach with his wife and kids, Scott Jehl has been a part of the Filament Group for the past 12 years as a web design and developer.

Hey, Scott! Tell us a little about Filament Group. A lot of us use the tools and resources that have spun out of Filament, but most of us don’t know anything about where they all come from.

Filament is an agency that does work for a variety of clients across industries from news media, to big retail, to financial tools, to workforce management. We’ve been based in Boston since the start, but our entire team is distributed around the US. We truly value and prioritize Research & Development and Open Source time, which I think is awesome – not only because it allows us keep aware of new and appropriate practices for our clients, but also because it keeps my daily work interesting, and gives me an opportunity to share what I learn at conferences like An Event Apart.

To help with coding, we use and maintain a number of snippets that help me organize and optimize page delivery. For example, tools like loadCSS for loading non-critical CSS files asynchronously, loadJS for conditionally loading asynchronous scripts, and criticalCSS for identifying and isolating the CSS most critical to initial page rendering. These are just some of Filament's projects that help us deliver page assets in a prioritized manner, so the important parts arrive and render as instantly as possible. We also maintain UI components for carousels and menus and such that aim to give us design flexibility while remaining accessible for folks with using assistive technologies.

Besides the great stuff Filament has created, what are some tools you can’t live without?

As far as tools go, I think my preferences are pretty standard among web folks today.

  • A text editor — most any will do, but lately, I have been enjoying Atom, particularly for all of the great extensions available for it.
  • Sketch — We use Photoshop and Illustrator frequently as well, but more and more I’ve found myself in Sketch these days as it seems to lower the barriers in bringing designs into code.
  • Firefox devtools — Browser devtools are quite comparable these days but I prefer Firefox for browsing and have grown most accustomed to its devtools as a result.
  • Webpagetest.org — This tool is just incredible for testing a site’s performance and reliability. You an choose to test any URL from a range of worldwide locations, devices, browsers, and connection speeds and receive great detailed information on how a page loads in those conditions.
  • Browserstack.com — For testing a site in real-time on a range of devices and browsers, browserstack is amazing. It really helps us refine our interaction design across different contexts, and it has nearly replaced our need for physical testing devices.
  • Github — All of our code and discussion around it lives on Github.
  • Our in-house Continuous Integration system — we have tools that deploy live, linkable versions of every branch of our projects every time we commit changes. It really helps us collaborate and test ideas quickly.
  • Slack — Filament’s team of six is 100% remote, so real-time communication is a must.

What’s been keeping you interested of late, and what’s next?

In the past several years, I’ve been focused on the intersection of web page performance, responsive design, and accessibility, which I find are all quite complimentary to one another. This means I’ve spent a great deal of time finding tools and practices that make our sites sustainable and resilient to various browsing conditions and rapidly changing times.

Recently, I’ve been examining the common conflicts that teams face when trying to prioritize performance and access, and looking for ways that they can satisfy other priorities without compromising on their service's potential. In fact, I plan to talk at An Event Apart about a mix of performance-minded techniques we should prioritize, and common challenges that teams face when trying to implement those techniques. The session will definitely feature code examples, but it will also speak to the “why” of those code examples, so non-developers will gain an understanding of the benefits these practices bring to the business and user alike.

See Scott present “Move Fast and Don't Break Things” at An Event Apart Chicago (August 26-28, 2019). Don’t miss your chance to see Scott and sixteen other world-class speakers!