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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.
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).
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.
You can also compare the highlights of 2008 with those of 20071 (which, by the way, include links to some really useful articles).
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 Jobs7, and since then several hundred companies with vacancies have been searching for the right talent among our readership.
We continue to pay attention to essential design elements, such as navigation menus10, but also start to pay closer attention to small design details — for example, reviewing best practices for the design of date stamps11 and shopping carts12. The best posts of the month are eye-catching and useful: one showcases (really) stunning desktop wallpapers, another presents powerful CSS techniques13 for effective coding.
Probably the most inspirational article of the month takes a look at award-winning newspaper designs15. 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 portfolio16 and developing a grid-based design17. 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 pictures19. 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 200820.
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 in22 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 Photos23 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 designs25. Yes, we love retro, and we love vintage, and we certainly love Web designs that combine these styles!
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 Mad31, 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 editors33, CSS editors34 and other source-code editors35. 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 Contest36, 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 Blogs38 and A Small Study Of Big Blogs: Further Findings39. 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 Contest41, 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 Future43 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 art44. 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?45 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 Contest47 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.