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Behind the Scenes at CodePen & CSS Tricks with Chris Coyier

In this episode of Just Ship It, Tracy Lee chats with Chris Coyier, known for CSS Tricks and CodePen. CSS Tricks, a staple in the development community, was founded in 2007 as a blog. Chris reflects on how it all began and how this project has evolved over the years.

One of the significant milestones in CSS Tricks' history was its acquisition by Digital Ocean about a year ago. Chris expresses his satisfaction with the fact that the team and content have been preserved, ensuring that the valuable knowledge and community of CSS Tricks continue to thrive.

Chris and Tracy touch on Chris's early work and how he got started with CSS Tricks. He worked at SurveyMonkey while concurrently managing CSS Tricks. Chris outlines the birth of CodePen, a platform that revolutionized the way developers embed code demos directly into their blog posts. He sheds light on how CodePen secured $1 million in funding and how that investment played a pivotal role in expanding the team and facilitating growth. The discussion covers the intricacies of fundraising for startups and the advantages and challenges that come with it.

CodePen has been in operation for over a decade with over 10 million page views per month, peaking at a staggering 12 million. It has become an integral part of documentation sites for popular technologies like React, Vue, Smashing Magazine, and MDN. Social media, especially Twitter, played a crucial role in driving CodePen's growth.

Tracy mentions platforms like Seesmic and Omegle, highlighting how trends from the past can resurface and gain popularity once again. The conversation then shifts towards personal branding in the tech industry and how it has evolved over time. They explore the challenges faced by developers who strive to maintain a strong personal brand in the modern era.

Chris and Tracy emphasize the importance of starting a blog without overthinking it, pointing back to their early days of blogging about topics they were passionate about. They reflect on the freedom and creativity that comes with not knowing too much, allowing individuals to share their genuine excitement and discoveries.

Chris shares some decisions he would have made differently, such as creating separate editors for CodePen. They discuss the complex nature of adding features that initially seem promising but eventually become maintenance nightmares.

The conversation touches on the pressures of blogging, from the desire to always be right to the potential for making accessibility mistakes. They highlight the importance of embracing the journey, learning from mistakes, and continually evolving.

Chris mentions that his success with CSS Tricks undoubtedly contributed to the marketing and growth of CodePen. As CodePen continues to evolve, the team is hard at work developing the next version of the platform to take it to the next level.