Smashing Highlights 2008

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Sven is the co-founder and former CEO of Smashing Magazine. He writes at his Conterest Blog where he focuses on blogs, content strategy, writing and publishing … More about Sven ↬

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2008 was a successful year for us and for Smashing Magazine. Reviewing what has happened on Smashing Magazine over the last year, we could have told a couple of impressive stories that happened here and there, but we won’t do that. Instead, we would like to take a rather critical look back and discuss what we’ve done and what has changed in 2008.

2008 was a successful year for us and for Smashing Magazine. Reviewing what has happened on Smashing Magazine over the last year, we could have told a couple of impressive stories that happened here and there, but we won’t do that. Instead, we would like to take a rather critical look back and discuss what we’ve done and what has changed in 2008.

And in fact, many things have changed. The magazine has grown with the tremendous help of articles written by Steven Snell, Jacob Gube, Vailancio Rodrgiues, Dmitry Fadeyev, Andrew Lindstrom and other truly smashing contributors. We express sincere gratitude to our authors for all the ideas and hard work they’ve put into their articles. We also express sincere gratitude to Andrew Lobo, who has been catching errors, typos and grammatical mistakes in our articles before they get published (since summer 2008).

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We also genuinely thank our readers for your attention, criticism, ideas, suggestions and numerous emails and links over the last year. We have tried our best to improve the quality of our articles and increase its value for designers and developers. In this post, we review what has happened on Smashing Magazine over the last year: smashing highlights, setbacks and small sensations of 2008, in a brief overview, month by month.


If you need backlinks, try compiling a list of beautiful Wordpress themes. Our post 100 Excellent Free WordPress Themes has gotten over 850 backlinks since January 2008. Not bad for one post.

In January, we kept busy discussing the hand-drawing style and grunge trend in modern Web design. Some of our readers got excited, some were disappointed, but the trend indeed developed and is still apparent today. Our readers found our article 10 Principles Of Effective Web Design useful and the review of innovative designs and devices quite inspirational. And so did we!


We start thinking about developing the Smashing community and offering new services and new ways to make the magazine even more useful. For instance, we consider releasing freebies and inviting professional authors to post articles. Result: in February, we launch our first “Smashing project”: Smashing Jobs, and since then several hundred companies with vacancies have been searching for the right talent among our readership.

Smashing Jobs Logo

We continue to pay attention to essential design elements, such as navigation menus, but also start to pay closer attention to small design details – for example, reviewing best practices for the design of date stamps and shopping carts. The best posts of the month are eye-catching and useful: one showcases (really) stunning desktop wallpapers, another presents powerful CSS techniques for effective coding.

Probably the most inspirational article of the month takes a look at award-winning newspaper designs. Unexpectedly, we gain a lot of backlinks and references from small and huge blogs. And our commenters are happy! Now, that doesn’t happen too often!


In the beginning of March, we’re concerned with useful guidelines for creating a successful online portfolio and developing a grid-based design. We discover that many readers find the post about Adobe Fireworks Tutorials and Downloads extremely useful and find Adobe Fireworks itself really underestimated. Maybe we should prepare another article on Fireworks in 2009.

We find out that our readers just love to see beautiful photos. The best article of the month is, without a doubt, the showcase of HDR pictures. Some readers love it, some readers hate it, but traffic never lies.

In March, we launch our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. Everybody can participate and feature his or her work in our magazine by submitting a desktop wallpaper for the upcoming month. Our first is the one for April 2008.

All wallpapers are designed by our readers. We have published over 350 wallpapers from over 100 designers so far. Because we offer them in various resolutions and formats, the result is over 2200 files, with a total size of 770 MB. The series will continue until February 2009, so don’t miss your chance to join in for the next 2 months. By the way, the January 2009 edition is coming soon!


April at Smashing Magazine is full of beautiful photos. (Really) Stunning Pictures and Photos is one of the posts with the most comments in 2008. The photos for the post were collected over two and a half weeks, yet some readers complain that we “push” articles that don’t meet our quality guidelines and that we collect them “in a rush.” We keep it in mind in preparing posts for subsequent months.

In April, we observe a large increase in retro and vintage websites on the Web, which is why we prepare a post on retro and vintage designs. Yes, we love retro, and we love vintage, and we certainly love Web designs that combine these styles!

Apart from that, we discuss Web form design and PNG transparency. And we also pay tribute to beautiful lettering and book covers.


An outrageous scandal in May! We decide to discontinue our “Best Of” series. Reason? The posts always take way too much work and don’t get enough traffic (compared to other articles). Still, we continue to collect useful references and bookmark them; they’ll all be presented in one-off posts.

At the beginning of May, it’s all about pixels, baby! Pixels Go Mad, and we get a huge amount of backlinks and positive feedback in the comments.

We look for new ideas and new concepts for our articles. We decide to conduct a thorough review of WYSIWYG editors, CSS editors and other source-code editors. We select the most advanced tools in each category, install them all, test them, compare them and present the results over a few posts. A great amount of time went into preparing these three articles. Our readers appreciate it and comment on the articles with new suggestions and some really useful alternative editors.

We also announce a contest that ends up receiving the most entries so far: the Smashing Texture Contest, a collection of various textures that can be downloaded and used for free. We receive over 740 emails from over 600 participants, resulting in way more than 2000 photos.


We invest three weeks in preparing and conducting a thorough study of the most influential blog designs in the blogosphere. We identify 30 design problems and analyze how 50 popular blogs solve them. The results are presented in two parts: A Small Design Study Of Big Blogs and A Small Study Of Big Blogs: Further Findings. Our readers appreciate our efforts, and we know exactly what articles they want.

We set a new personal (and maybe even world) record: our books giveaway post has 3,875 comments, is 2.5 MB in size and takes 35 seconds to load. Because we don’t want any extra server load, the article isn’t linked. Be prepared: new giveaways are already on the way. We also announce the Style Switchers Contest, with the modest prize of an Apple Cinema 20” flat-panel display.

For the first time in a long time, professional, profound discussions take place in the comments. The article Flexible Layouts: Challenge For The Future sparked an interesting discussion – in our magazine and in the design community. We are proud of our small but strong and knowledgeable community. And we take pointers and new guidelines for us and our authors.


In July, we believe in the beauty of pop art. We don’t gain much traffic with the post, but we get a lot of new and interesting ideas and suggestions for further posts. We spark new discussions by publishing the controversial article Should Links Open In New Windows? Some readers think we have no idea, others support us, and readers gain new insight from practice and from professionals. We are harshly criticized, but we are happy: professional discussion is taking place in the magazine, and that’s what we’ve been after for a long time!

Probably the most important contest for Smashing Magazine this year is the Smashing Author Contest in August. Its main goal: find good professional authors for the magazine. We receive 252 submissions. The choice is tough and time-consuming, because we want a nice mix of various articles represented in the contest.

In the end, we select 15 articles and publish them. The winner is the author of a post about the top 10 CSS-based table designs and is awarded an Apple MacBook Air. It turns out the winner lives in Indonesia. You can imagine then that delivery of the prize is quite adventurous… and expensive. But we don’t care.

We also conduct an extensive study of Web Form Design Patterns (part 2) and suggest some guidelines for the design of beautiful and effective Web forms. Our readers are partly overwhelmed, and we are completely off our schedule – and tired, too!


In August, our magazine is full of posts from the participants in our Smashing Author Contest. Unfortunately, some readers don’t understand why Smashing Magazine suddenly changed its format and publishes briefer articles more frequently.

We try to offer “traditional Smashing” posts as well, and we succeed with appealing posts about 10 Futuristic User Interfaces and 5 Useful Coding Solutions For Designers.

One of the most popular articles is our showcase of 45 Motion Blur Photos. This is among the very few posts that don’t get the “Worst post ever” comment that starts to wander through our posts in August.

In August, we start Twittering behind the scenes. We have been aware of various lifestreaming applications for a couple of months now, and we decide to try one out and see how it works. To be honest, we are quite skeptical at the very beginning, but we get used to it. And we use Twitter almost every day now.



In September, Smashing Magazine celebrates its 2nd anniversary. We contact the talented artist James White and ask him to create a beautiful, exclusive poster for our anniversary. We print 10 posters and give them away to our readers. The giveaway post gets over 1700 comments. Please don’t try to load the page now: your browser may crash, and our server may encounter some serious problems.


September is also “toolbox” month at Smashing Magazine. We come up with the idea of collecting the most useful resources and tutorials for the most popular content management systems. We start with WordPress and Drupal, and in the next months ExpressionEngine, Textpattern and Movable Type are covered as well. Thanks to the hard work of our brilliant author Steven Snell (applause, please).

The award for the most inspirational post of the month goes to 40 Creative Design Layouts, with few comments, few backlinks and little traffic, but many truly creative ideas.

We also take a closer look at the programming side of Web development. We review version control systems, present useful JavaScript techniques and suggest best practices for jQuery.


October sees the most articles published on Smashing Magazine in any month. We offer our readers various types of content, a good mixture of different things, we risk new ideas and release a couple of freebies. And it works!

Well, partly. Some articles don’t get the attention they deserve: Showcase of Pricing Tables gets only 59 comments, and Vintage and Retro Typography only 78 comments.

Our readers complain about too few Web design-related posts. We respond with showcases of retro and vintage websites and beautiful blog designs.

The most successful posts of the month are Jacob Gube’s Ultimate Collection Of Useful Photoshop Actions (applause, please) and Steve Snell’s collection of Best Adobe Illustrator Tutorials. We appreciate it and increase the payment to our authors.


In November, Jacob Gube strikes again with 15 Helpful In-Browser Web Development Tools. The article spreads like a virus in social media. Steven Snell explores Newspaper Website Design and comes up with interesting trends and examples.

We also declare war on cluttered, unreadable code and present Principles For Keeping Your Code Clean. And in the post about Billboard Top 40 Design Showcase, our community agrees that music industry websites are in trouble: the websites just look bad, both from aesthetic and usability points of view.


In December, we once more show our love for small design details. We explore various ideas and techniques for designing the search box. Jean-Baptiste Jung shares useful RSS and SQL hacks for WordPress, and Dmitry Fadeyev discusses 10 useful techniques for improving your user interface design.

We also return to our roots and provide our readers with well-researched posts on CSS and graphics: one showcase on dual-screen wallpapers and another on CSS tools. Neither article gets as much traffic as we expect, and we are a little bit disappointed, but we know we did the right thing and that these articles are the kind our readers expect.

Meanwhile, Steven Snell collects custom shapes for Photoshop, Dirk Metzmacher takes care of Christmas Photoshop tutorials, and Jacob Gube looks around for Digital Photography Photoshop tutorials. This has been a trend throughout 2009; in fact, we have never delivered as many tutorials and resources on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks as we did in 2008. And we’ll definitely continue this in 2009.

Freebies, freebies, freebies

Since the very beginning of the year, we’ve been releasing freebies in our magazine. In the end, we released so many freebies that we had to create a new category for them. So far, we have released over 60 free icon packs, brush sets, WordPress themes and vector graphics. In fact, many readers complained about “way too many freebies” in our magazine, another reason we ask our readers for their opinion.

The poll results were quite clear, and now we know exactly what our readers expect and what we have to do to meet those expectations. In the next year we’ll release fewer freebies, we’ll revise our quality guidelines and we’ll release only the best ones.

Exemplary results of our cooperation with various designers worldwide are the WordPress theme Notepad Chaos, designed by Evan Eckard, and the Dellipack No. 2 icon set designed by Wendell Fernandes.

Smashing Team in 2008

Smashing Magazine is not just Vitaly Friedman, Sven Lennartz and Michael Dobler. The magazine couldn’t exist without the tremendous support of our brilliant Smashing team. Here are some of the people who helped our magazine over the last year. Thanks, guys, we really appreciate it.

Andrew Lobo is happy to have had a little Smashing in his life in 2008. He edited a good chunk of the magazine’s posts this year. Based in Toronto, Canada, Andrew runs Edit Owl, an editing service for online news and blogs.

Jeff Gardner is a business nerd. He loves Excel, making graphs and helping companies figure out how to perform better. He also enjoys writing, building websites, photography and being outside. You can check him out at his blog or look at some of his photos on his photography site.

Dmitry Fadeyev is the co-founder of the Pixelshell web design studio. He enjoys creating functional websites and is especially interested in all the small details that add up to make great user interfaces. Dmitry also runs the Usability Post blog where you can read his thoughts on good design and usability.

Chris Coyier is a web designer, wannabe developer, and amateur banjo player currently living in Portland, Oregon.

Jean-Baptiste Jung is a 26 years old* blogger/web developper/web designer who lives in the French-Speaking part of Belgium. Jean-Baptiste maintains two blogs: Cats Who Code where he and other authors write about Web Development, Web design, Blogging tips and WordPress, and WpRecipes where Jean shares useful WordPress snippets on a daily basis. When he’s not blogging or having fun with codes, Jean loves to spend time with his wife and cat, and travelling everywhere he can (*until january 12 ;o)).

Jacob Gube is a web developer, designer, and founder of Six Revisions. He has 9 years of experience being a web professional, starting out as a freelance graphic designer building brand identities of small to medium-sized companies and now currently works as a web developer/web designer.

Steven Snell is a web designer from the U.S. who is active in the design blogging world with his own blogs and as a freelance writer.

Andrew Lindstrom is a freelance web designer based in Vancouver, Canada. When not geeking out over design, he’s likely geeking out over film, technology or pretending to play the guitar.

Andrew Gibson is a freelance UK based writer and photographer who writes articles for photography and travel magazines. He’s the owner of Magical Places Fine Art, a photography website for anyone interested in fine art and travel photography.

Torley Wong amplifies your awesome with the useful and fun. His passions include origin stories about art, audio engineering, and using the Web to inspire and enlighten.

György Fekete is a freelance web developer since 2004 also working for other companies. “Living in Romania my main goal is to deliver beautiful and more importantly accessible websites to people. In 2007 I started my own web design company called Primal Skill. I learned a lot on how to run company and deal with large projects. I’m still learning.”

Cameron Chapman is a web designer, graphic designer, and freelance writer based in Northern Vermont. She writes for a number of blogs and is currently working on a variety of fictional works, including three novels.

Sachin Dhall is a Software Engineer and an amateur blogger behind QTP Blog.

When Glen Stansberry isn’t writing about creativity or web development, he’s performing music or running marathons. You can follow him more closely at Twitter.

Vailancio Rodrigues, born and currently living in scenic beauty of Goa, spent most of his childhood in art and creativity. At present a College student doing his studies in Science and Computers, like to try and do different thing at every moment. Also an emerging webmaster – Tiny Goa and author of Technology Tips, which provides reviews, tips and tricks for various gadgets.

Robert Bowen is a freelance copywriter, activist, and celebrated podcaster who explores many facets of the written word. From poetry to prose, from novel to screenplay, Robert lets his pen know no bounds. He is currently writing for five blogs on a regular basis, as he fills his role as the second creative half of the Arbenting dynamic duo!

Ann Edwards is a web designer and developer from the Midwest. Her blog is comprised of the many various issues dealing with web development.

Daved, aka Danny Outlaw has an obsessive fetish with sharpie markers, toys, and all things design-related. He has been working hard at improving his skills and business and has big plans for 2009.

Smashing Editorial (al, sl)