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Q&A with Gavyn McKenzie

Front end developer at Etch Apps | Prototyping of mobile interfaces

My name is Gavyn McKenzie and I'm a Front End Web Developer at Etch Apps. I can end up making anything from small plugins/components to full stack web site/app builds. My favourite thing is prototyping and hacks.


I use a Windows 7 touchscreen desktop computer for the convenience of fast cross browser testing. Having the touchscreen is great for prototyping touch based interfaces that translate to mobile as well. While I'd prefer to be working on something unix based, such as Ubuntu, the frustration of slow IE testing makes using Windows worth it for my job role. There is a second monitor plugged into my computer so I can see code and the live site at the same time. I find this speeds up front end dev a lot.

I also have a stack of phones/tablets for testing on, running each of the major OS variations: iOS, Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile.

Occaisionally I will run a Mac and Windows side by side with Synergy to link the two computers. Some of our web apps in development run on a virtual Linux box in Vagrant and the shared folders work much better on a Mac.


I don't need much to get by... Most of the day is spent in Sublime Text 2, with a few browsers open.

Recently I've been getting deeper and deeper into the world of preprocessors for fast front end prototyping. I've just stopped using PrePros and switched to Grunt.js for extra power when compiling preprocessor languages. My current pure front end language stack is usually Jade, Less and Coffeescript, but I'm looking to switch to Sass this year.

My favourite browser for development is Firefox as something about Firebug dev tools just feels right. My more recent work has been using Chrome to track memory usage, and browser repaints to remove the 'jank' in web page rendering.

Dream setup

My dream set up would be to have an enormous bank of monitors and operating systems all running with Synergy with multiple browsers connected to a live reload server such as GhostLab or Grunt. This would also need a bank of different devices of varying specs/software so I can check everything is working in multiple situations at once. Something like 30 screens should do it! Obviously this is a bit over the top... Apart from that I'm working on a dream setup right now! Oh, if I could have unix bash terminal in Windows that would be great.


My work inspiration comes from all over. Mostly I find Twitter is great for a steady stream of interesting articles, prototypes and experiments. I try and keep my following list fairly small so that everything is quality. We also use HipChat in house at Etch and have several rooms dedicated to reading lists, useful tools and other subjects for keeping up to date with the latest and greatest on the web.