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Dear Web Design Community, Where Have You Gone?

As Web craftsmen, we are living in exciting times today. The frenetic pace of evolution in our industry has created remarkable opportunities for our work. Our established set of design and coding practices is more comprehensive than it has ever been before. Our designs are becoming more usable, our code more scalable, our layouts more responsive. In fact, just by comparing our design processes to those from a decade ago, it’s remarkable to observe how quickly we’ve developed and honed our craft over all these years.

However, the maturity of our industry is far from being complete. While producing a myriad of technological advancements, we have outpaced other developments along the way. These developments aren’t related to the lack of cross-browser standards support or technical downsides of the tools we are using. No, they have a different nature. They have emerged within our design community — a community which is now so fertile and diverse that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure its professional maturity.

In fact, there are many issues that require a thorough, profound discussion within our industry, yet they are not properly discussed for one reason or the other. This article is based on my recent, often unrelated, observations of our community. It features my personal opinion on the problems we need to tackle and conversations we need to start to ensure its healthy evolution.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Where Did The Community Spirit Go? Link

I was very lucky to have experienced the development of the Web design community from its early days on. As a passionate newcomer to the industry, I was captivated by the sense of enthusiasm that seemed to be flourishing everywhere and spurring everyone. It was a strong and genuine feeling that was sparkled among dozens of sites and magazines and fueled by the motivation of experienced and non-experienced designers. The community was reasonably small and therefore very welcoming and supportive, so everybody was perfectly fine with asking lengthy questions and providing detailed answers.

I clearly remember in-depth discussions with hundreds of meaningful, engaged comments, in which designers would thoroughly analyze the techniques presented and suggest improvements or alternatives. I remember having experienced print and digital designers writing articles and teaching inexperienced designers the obscure details of and practical tips about the new craft. I remember vivid debates spreading from one site to another, connecting designers and building professional relationships in the community.

These discussions still take place today. There are many more designers and developers out there encouraging these discussions. The remarkable work of people like Paul Boag, Dan Mall, Jeffrey Zeldman, Francisco Inchauste, Chris Coyier, Simon Collison, Andy Clarke, Paul Irish, Chris Heilmann, Jeffrey Way, Trent Walton and many others is a vivid manifestation of the tremendous care and dedication of designers and developers to our industry. There are literally thousands of talented folks out there who are writing articles and releasing wonderful new tools and resources for all of us to use. That’s great. That’s great because all of these contributions bring our community much further.

However, every now and again I can’t help but realize that the number of active contributors with knowledge and experience hasn’t increased proportionally to the overall magnitude of our growing community. Way too often I find it extremely difficult to find meaningful debates spanning over the whole community — debates that would create a strong echo and prompt us all to revise, extend or adjust our practices and hence become better professionals.

The recent6 hashbang7 debate8 is an excellent example of community-wide discussions that our community could use.

Way too often do I come to the conclusion that this remarkable, inspiring enthusiasm we once had is now gone. What remained are stranded cliques of passionate designers who lead design discussions privately and separately, often unnoticed by the vast majority of the community.

The tragic irony is that although we are probably one of the most connected professional communities out there, it seems that we are increasingly not connecting. It’s not that we’ve become just a bit too comfortable with the processes we’ve developed over the years nor that we don’t care about improving our design and coding skills. In dialogue with our readers and colleagues at conferences or even online, I’ve become confident that this development has entirely different roots.

Finding Time to Contribute Link

Since there is so much going on the Web these days, it seems only reasonable that many of us might experience difficulties finding time to actively engage in professional discussions. Personally, I am just as guilty as the next guy, as I find it extremely difficult to read more than 5–7 design pieces a day — not to mention commenting on any of them. I’m trying to challenge myself to be more responsive and engaging. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I have firmly committed to this change and maybe — just maybe — so could you.

I believe that the lack of time is one of the reasons for our changed behavior online. Our emails have become shorter, and so are our blog posts and comments. Our interest has become much more difficult to enrapture, and so we’ve become more passive and less critical. We way too easily consume and accept ideas, designs, concepts out there, sometimes without even questioning their validity and correctness. Instead of debating, we agree; instead of criticizing, we accept — or simply click away and ignore the discussion altogether. And this is the reason why many conversations in the community do not get a critical mass of interest.

Web design discussions on Quora10 and StackExchange sites11 are wonderful examples of websites that we have already started using to exchange ideas, ask questions and conduct valuable design discussions.

The worrying part is that the number of the less experienced active contributors has increased exponentially. Due to that, I am afraid that the community is not led in the right direction. The true leaders — professional, knowledgeable designers and coders — are busy. Busy with their work or perhaps they feel that it’s no longer worthwhile for them to spend much time contributing. I hope this attitude can change. We need more professionals to find time to contribute and help to teach others. After all, so many of us are self-taught. And where would we be today without the contributions of others?

We need more meaningful and helpful discussions within our community. Finding time is difficult, but we don’t have to jump into writing or commenting with both feet. An occasional comment, tweet, reply or short blog post about whatever it is we’ve learned or thought would already help; it might just as well invoke thought-provoking discussions by other members of the community. As artisans of the Web, we love to discuss things that are important to us — be it design, coding, writing or anything else. We might have no time for profound writing, but we certainly have enough time to suggest an idea and encourage our friends to join in the discussions. Taking just a couple of minutes every day to think about the craft we love will bring us further and accumulate the wisdom within our community.

Francisco Inchauste summarized this point nicely in one of our recent conversations: “Everyone has a perspective and experience to share. Without more perspectives, we’ll become limited in our growth. The community is only as strong as our weakest people. To improve, we need to lift others up by helping to educate and guide.”

We Need to Curate Valuable, Meaningful Resources Link

Probably the easiest way to jump into design discussions would be by observing and replying to the tweets marked with the hashtag #design. Well, that’s what I thought before adding the #design column on my Tweetdeck a couple of weeks ago. After a couple of days of occasional scanning of tweets in that stream, I did find a couple of interesting discussions; however, more often than not I stumbled upon loud, inaccurate and promotional tweets which led to tutorials, freebies or inspirational websites.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against these resources per se, but I don’t quite understand why we, multi-talented, versatile craftsmen of the Web, are restricting the use of such a powerful medium as Twitter primarily to these resources. Why don’t we use it for meaningful discussions as well? Have we somehow become blindfolded by pure eye-candy or tremendous technological opportunities we have now with jQuery, CSS3 and HTML5? We are experimenting with visual and interactive enhancements in our tutorials and our designs, yet we tend to forget about the fundamentals of our work — our design principles, the quality of our processes and the integrity of our creations. We could all benefit from writing and talking about the ways we work, the decisions we make and the solutions we come up with.

Just compare finding a jQuery slideshow plugin against finding a practical resource on UX design patterns. Or finding a social media icon set against finding detailed case-studies written by experienced designers. Valuable, useful resources are becoming rarities and unfortunately many of them just do not get the attention they well deserve.

We need to support and curate the creators of thought-provoking and valuable resources and help them maintain and support these resources. We need to support them because they are the ones that raise questions and seek for answers; they are the ones that support the maturity of our profession; they are the ones that are not afraid to question status quo and encourage experimentation, sharing and innovation — the so needed attributes of our exploding industry.

HTML5 Boilerplate13 is a remarkable example of a cooperation of dozens of Web designers who share their thoughts and insights to create something useful for all of us to use. Unfortunately, many useful projects on Github do not manage to get such strong community-wide support.

We can use our communication channels wisely and invite our colleagues and friends to join in the discussions, sharing opinions and spreading the word about those of us who truly dedicate their time and effort to produce useful, valuable resources. I am certain that by doing so, we’ll be able to unleash the remarkable potential for a strong and supportive exchange of ideas and expertise.

The emerging conferences like Fronteers14, Brooklyn Beta15 and New Adventures in Web Design16 show very well which benefits a strong community has: it is inspiring, helpful, forward-thinking, challenging. I will never forget the moment when I was sitting among the attendees during one of the conference’s talks and my neighbor turned to her colleague and whispered, almost mindlessly: “I feel that these talks are going to change my views of design forever”. I’d love to experience this feeling in our online discussions, too.

Community-Wide Discussions and Polls Link

There is so much content out there so that our focus is distributed among dozens of resources and discussions every day; it’s not easy to see how exactly we could lead large community-wide discussions. A blog’s audience is usually limited by its RSS-subscribers, random visitors and social reach of the blog owner. Spreading the word in social circles outside this audience might work to some extent, but it usually won’t help reach the vast majority of the community, especially if the blog is relatively small or obscure.

We need to have some sort of a mechanism that would connect like-minded designers and developers which are not already connected via other media. Twitter’s hashtags are a good example of ways how we are already trying to solidify exchange of ideas and thoughts. But we can make it better.

So what if we had a consistent standard in place? We could strengthen these exchanges through hashtags by developing and having the community adapt some common tags to use en mass. For instance, #design_type, #design_layout, #design_js and others. We could even conduct community-wide polls (#design_poll) that could be easily recognized and retweeted by users with smaller as well as larger followship, thus spreading the word and strengthening the active participation within the community. We could have a website tracking these hashtags, presenting the most popular discussions and filtering spam and other malicious activities.

The same mechanism could be used for supporting valuable design resources and their creators as well as passionate designers who write insightful articles or produce useful resources. When elaborated properly, this approach will make it easier for us to connect and participate in large, community-wide discussions. These discussions might even spread beyond the limits of our community, providing a different perspective on our conversations by professionals from other industries.

So What Exactly Should We Be Discussing? Link

As Web designers, we’ve come a long way. We’ve shaped a new, strong industry and developed professional design processes. We also have learned a lot on our journey — be it some bits of psychology, copywriting, marketing or other related disciplines. If you think about it, that’s already a massive achievement, and so we have a damn good reason to be proud of what we have contributed to all these years altogether.

However, like in any other industry, we need to permanently revise our practices, innovate and improve our design processes. In fact, there are a number of things that might need to be extended and reconsidered. Let’s cover the not-so-obvious ones.

Our Professional Vocabulary Link

As mentioned above, when it comes to Web design, there are always so many different disciplines and professions involved, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make sure that everybody involved is on the same page in terms of vocabulary used in our discussions.

Misunderstandings between designers, developers and stakeholders are the running joke in our community. And there is a reason behind it: the vocabulary we are using has dramatically evolved over years — it was primarily expanded, sometimes with abbreviations and concept titles which are counter-intuitive or misleading. We have applied terms from print design to Web design; we have coined new terms for new concepts and methodologies; we have introduced terms that might have become outdated today (think of the outdated floppy disk17 symbol for the “Save” icon). The result is a quite sloppy and inconsistent vocabulary — we often have various terms describing one concept, or one term describing various concepts.

Unsuck It19 explains terrible business jargon in plain words. Hopefully, we won’t need something like this for the design community as well.

For instance, there are design attributes that we call ‘responsive’, ‘adaptive’ or ‘flexible’, but what exactly do we mean when we apply them? Different designers might even have a different idea on what they mean with the word “design”; is it visual design, design as a concept or maybe UX design? And what is UX exactly anyway? The same problem occurs when we discuss terms such as “HTML5”, “page”, “fold”, “navigation” and others. Just imagine how devastating the results would be if any other professional industry, e.g. medicine, wouldn’t have a common vocabulary for its technical terms?

At the New Adventures in Web Design Conference last month, Dan Rubin talked about this very issue, saying that the industry as a whole needs a common grammar and vocabulary. He asserts that the ones we have now, were perhaps somewhat hastily chosen. And that with some careful thought and planning, we can design a much more accurate vocabulary to help avoid the confusion which can stem from the existing one.

We could use more precise and intuitive terms which would be based on certain concepts that are familiar to us and other professionals. As Dan noticed, “responsive design”, coined by Ethan Marcotte, is an excellent example of such a term. It derived from the concept of “responsive architecture” which explores how physical spaces can respond to the presence of people passing through them. So instead of creating unchanging spaces that define a particular experience, they create spaces in which inhabitants and structure can — and should — mutually influence each other.

Applied to Web design, it means that we could treat our designs (very much like these spaces) as facets of the same experience. The concept can be easily explained and understood. It’s not too technical, it’s not too abstract and it’s not chosen randomly. It is rational, visual and memorable which are all excellent qualities for a term describing a new design approach.

Perhaps we could create a standardized design language which would accumulate our vocabulary and provide us and our stakeholders with a consistent and unambiguous terminology for our discussions. Finding a common vocabulary is a challenging task and it’s an ongoing process that would need permanent revisions and updates.

Our Design and Coding Practices Link

Actually, we need to refine more than our design vocabulary: our design and coding practices require regular revisions as well. Faced with new design requirements in our regular work, we keep conquering design problems and exploring appropriate solutions for them. These activities are the driving force behind learning; they heavily influence the decisions we make once we approach similar design problems in the future. This is what makes us experienced professionals.

Method and Craft21 is an excellent website where professional designers and developers are sharing tips about their workflow and design processes. This is a goldmine for newcomers to the industry.

We learn something new every single day. We discover a new CSS trick or a new UX tweak. An obscure Photoshop technique or a beautiful font pairing. Our convenient coding techniques are gradually dating as browsers become more capable and so we discover that certain browser hacks are no longer necessary. We find new ways of how certain common conventions could or should be adjusted. All these small things we discover in our daily routine help us improve our skills and workflow. Actively exchanging thoughts and methodologies with your colleagues will mutually benefit and improve the overall design and coding practices.

We shouldn’t be afraid of asking challenging questions or posing bold statements. If you feel that we should all stop using CAPTCHAs, then say so22 and explain your rationale behind the argument. If you think that there is a way to reinvent scrollbar, say so23 and explain how exactly you imagine this technique to work and why it’s better. And if you are struggling with a personal problem and would like to hear how the community members managed to solve it, say it24, too — it’s very likely that other members of the community have had similar problems and will be glad to join the discussion and help out.

Our Professional Ethics Link

Saying “no” can be extremely difficult sometimes, especially when personal or financial incentives are at play. However, as professionals, we owe it to ourselves and to our projects to not get enticed by offers and suggestions that do not wholeheartedly coincide with our intentions and objectives. The former can bring temporary benefits, but if applied consistently, the latter will bring long-term benefits.

We need to become more aware of the ethics that we should be following while designing, coding, writing, editing and publishing on the Web. The times when soulless copy-pasted press releases were used “as-is” across online publications are long gone, so let’s stop doing that. Cheap generic stock photos neither visualize nor support the article, so let’s stop using them, too. Professional publications often use “nofollow” attribute to block link-droppers from gaining Google’s link juice; and most users will not click on links titled “Milestone Professional Web Design Agency”, so let’s stop doing it as well. There are many similar examples which we can use to adapt, and optimize our online behavior accordingly.

The website Ethics and Web Design26 is a valuable resource which covers the fundamentals of professional ethics in our industry.

As content creators, we often depend on advertising, and that’s sometimes the necessary evil that we need to accept to be able to monetize our dedicated writing efforts. And there is nothing wrong about it. However, we need to set clear limits to how the advertising can and how it cannot be presented on our websites. For example, text link advertising and sponsored posts should always be clearly marked as such. We should have a strict separation between content and advertising. Each of us could design a set of personal principles for his or her websites (publishing policy), publish these rules online and stick to them no matter what. This way the readers will respect you and appreciate the simple fact that you are strongly committed to quality work.

We could benefit from being more critical about our content and the way we present it online. It means paying more attention to copy, consistency of our writing style, quality of images and image captions, design of code snippets etc. These details give our writing a different tone; they empower our thoughts and make the content more trustworthy and reliable. Why don’t we make our work more challenging by trying to make every article we publish at least a tiny bit better than the previous one? We could try not to just “put stuff out there”, but curate our delicate ramblings, making sure that every published article has the highest level of quality that we can afford for it. A style guide can be helpful in this case, especially for larger websites.

Photoshop Etiquette Manifesto28 is a website listing helpful and subtle suggestions to organize your Photoshop documents — making the transfer of them less painful.

In Web design it means to stop using anti-patterns29 — design patterns which are created specifically to trick our users. Instead, we should respect and advocate for our audience and protect their interests. Think about building loyal, honest, authentic user base for your own project or your client’s brand and think about the quality of relationships you create with each user.

Not only should our designs be usable for our visitors, but also our code should be maintainable for developers. Just like with content, you could come up with your set of standards which you’d like to follow in your work, make it public and stick to it. Make it your final checklist item before you hit that “Publish” or “Commit” button. That’s what will make people look up to you and respect your work.

Bottom line: we should strive for responsible Web design that not only embraces best design and coding practices, but also respects our publishing policies, protects the interests of our users and supports the professional work of our colleagues.

As professionals who care about producing beautiful, top-notch products for the Web, we love to explore innovative design and coding techniques. We love to take them apart and put them together again, learning about their potential during the process. We love to discuss them with our colleagues and keep them in mind for upcoming projects. The more other designers use these techniques, the more important they become to us. Among ourselves, we start to respectfully call them trends.

Nevertheless, trends can be dangerous and misleading beasts. They give us an exciting feeling of having a valuable insight that most of our colleagues don’t have yet. We feel fortunate to have discovered one early enough to use it effectively before it becomes common practice. Trends are precursors of the “next big thing,” and so we pay attention to them.

I can’t help but think that trends seem to be spectacularly overrated in our industry. Often they are regarded as bulletproof solutions, respected and universally accepted for the simple reason that they are innovative and widely used (think of drop shadows or text shadows, for example). I believe that we tend to adopt trends too quickly, often getting carried away by their originality rather than understanding their purpose. This should not be the case. Trends are not a panacea for all of the problems we encounter, and often they don’t even provide an optimal solution for the situation in which they were used in the first place.

Not to say that trends are unimportant, though. They are important, especially when they foster innovation and make us reconsider our design decisions. They can challenge us to be more effective and more thoughtful in our designs. Yet they inevitably fail in one particular regard.

Russian Web Design30
We can learn a lot simply by examining obscure websites out there, such as Mospromstroy31, the website of an industrial construction company in Moscow. The code is far from optimal, but the website itself reveals some interesting design decisions.

One thing I’ve learned to love over the last year is thoroughly examining unfamiliar foreign websites; Russian and Korean websites, to be specific. I feel inspired and empowered just going through them, creating wireframes from them, exploring their interaction patterns and analyzing the source code. I love wondering about the decisions that the designers must have made and the rationales behind those decisions. However, I can only speculate about them; ultimately, I cannot know the context in which these decisions were made.

This lack of context is the main reason why design trends should be approached cautiously. If we don’t know why a certain technique was used, then we need to properly test and validate it before applying it into our own designs. This is the part of the process that I find is often missing in discussions about trends.

We should observe and analyze trends but not consider them as finished “off the shelf” solutions. Instead of following them, we should be confronting them, improving on them and replacing them with our own32. Adding elements to our designs merely for the sake of visual or functional interest is counter-productive. We should rather aim for designs that serve their purpose independent of volatile trends. Why not focus on approaching trends responsibly; building on them when they add meaning to a design and ignoring them when they do not fit the contextual scope of the design problem. This would make our websites original, well-formed and timeless.

Learning From The Past Link

While trends tell us what designers are doing now, we could expand our skills by drawing on our heritage, too. As designers, we are essentially problem-solvers. We analyze existing problems, learn the given objectives and requirements and then start searching for meaningful solutions. However, initially, it is not a clever visual nor technical approach that we are looking for. We are looking for an idea.

At this stage, what helps us most is our experience and creative thinking. And this is exactly where our rich history of visual communication is particularly useful. By studying lessons from the past, we can better understand how ideas and techniques have emerged and evolved over time. We can learn what approaches other professionals have taken to solve the problems facing them — problems that we still might be struggling with today or will in the near future.

Websites like Design Is History34, Smart History and Graphics Atlas35 are all excellent resources on the history of graphic design, visual communication and the evolution of design processes. We can learn a lot about our craft by exploring them thoroughly.

Andy Clarke’s talk at the New Adventures in Web Design conference was intriguing and pointed out the need for designers to learn about the importance of storytelling in Web design. Andy shared a unique perspective in his presentation, saying that we can shape how users not only interact with content, but consume it in general. He drew a comparison to comic books and Western movies from the 1960s, which used various techniques to dictate the pace of how their information was consumed — be it through a stretch of silence in a movie or the shapes of panels in comic strips.

We could use this technique in our designs to keep readers in the grip of our content just a little longer. Instead of letting users not have to think, we could do the opposite and engage as well as intrigue them (a good example would be of the Ben the Bodyguard36 website).

Ben The Bodyguard38 keeps you on the site longer than you expect.

We shouldn’t hesitate to apply concepts from other time periods or other media into our designs. The concepts actually don’t even have to be design-related. Instead of thinking in terms of shadows, gradients and rounded corners, maybe we should be thinking in terms of tension, timing and narrative.

Next time you’re looking for an idea, pick up that book you’ve always enjoyed reading and read it with a different perspective. Then, search for any unusual points of view that might be worth bringing to the forefront in your next project. Once you’ve found one, grasp this moment, as this is the very second when a unique, innovative design is born.

In Conclusion Link

As our industry matures, so will our practices and the quality of our work. We may have successfully solved many important problems in our short history, yet there is still much to be done. Writing and talking about the ways we work, the decisions we make and the solutions we come up with will benefit each of us. We could explore the connections between our discipline and other established industries as well as revise and reinforce our professional vocabulary and our ethics.

Perhaps we could all dedicate 10 to 15 minutes of our time to the community every day. We could (and should) make this a firm personal commitment and encourage each other to take part. Find some time to leave a meaningful comment, support a valuable resource, write a short article about what you’ve learned. All of these contributions matter and will prompt meaningful and inspiring discussions. For starters, we could start raising awareness of our commitments by using the hash tag #wdcommunity.

I strongly believe that if we keep doing this every single day, we’ll wake up one day marvelling at how remarkable our community has become. I, for one, am eagerly looking forward to this day.

Huge thanks to Francisco Inchauste, Chris Shiflett, Nishant Kothary, Paul Scrivens, Andy Clarke, Dan Rubin and others for their valuable contributions and suggestions for this article.

Footnotes Link

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs front-end/UX workshops, webinars and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    I completely agree. This business has grown so much, thanks to many talented people who were willing to share and had time to dedicate. Why isn’t it happening anymore?

    • 2

      I’m inclined to agree with James here. More and more we see the same set of people speak at conferences. They give their opinions, and everyone is taking it as the written truth. Too easy is it to jump on the bandwagon (the flash hate is perpetuated probably by the people who were extolling the virtues of flash sites 15 years ago, “user experience” is the new “art director”, job titles we gave ourselves to boost salaries in a flourishing industry), and it seems there’s a new band wagon every 3 or 4 weeks in these inner circles.

      The communities died off because they’re no longer open communities. Dribble is a prime example of this. An industry led invite only community that promotes congratulation over critical discussion. And the message boards or communities that are still publicly open often have the same “who the f are you?” attitude for voicing an opinion or not being an original member.

      I don’t often comment on blog posts because I too find it easier to close the window on something I disagree with than engage the author. I don’t get too much time outside of commuting, work. and raising a family to contribute a great deal. But what incentive are we seeing to contribute? To be shouted down by the mass followers of the loudest voices? To be told “you’re doing it wrong” without follow up or suggestion of which direction to take? I’d rather not waste my time when I could be using that to make something or learn something new.

      If the communities were made more open, friendlier places to contribute, maybe more would participate.

      Above all else, people need to stop taking everything they read for granted and retweeting it. Think for yourself. Study. Form a valid, informed opinion. Question or challenge the industry leaders. Comment thoughtfully. In doing so we can somewhat attempt to revive the community.

  2. 3

    Great read! We definitely should take words like this to heart. No one is saying we all need to work the same way, but to realize we don’t work in a bubble.

  3. 4

    Adam Beizsley-Pycroft

    March 21, 2011 4:23 am

    Could it be that over the last few years the Web Design / Development / UX Community (call it what you will) has moved into a more professional space and due to the perception of the economy etc people believe that there are less jobs available (not necessarily the case in an ever expanding field) and don’t want to help “the competition”? I’d also suggest that due to budget constraints and the demand for our services many people have much less time on their hands. For example, I work as a self employed consultant during the day and over the last week and a half I’ve also clocked up 42 hours of work for other clients out of hours.

    I’m self taught but probably couldn’t have got here if it wasn’t for the great community resources available over the years. I’d argue that Stack Exchange is a great place to have these discussions although people usually start them to respond to a specific problem rather than with the intention of generating debate and advancing the wider philosophy.

    • 5

      Vitaly Friedman

      March 22, 2011 2:37 am

      I am not sure that this is the case, Adam. Indeed, the community has matured a lot, but I don’t think that most of us see each other as competitors. The Web is growing and flourishing and I think that there is place for each of us; the more experienced we become, the better. But to become more experienced, it’s not enough to do our regular work — this is where the exchange of ideas could help a lot.

      Thank you for your comment. I’d love to hear the opinion of other readers to your comment, too!

      • 6

        I agree that most of us are not competing. Anyone who works as a web designer with that spirit is destined for failure no matter how smart they are.

        Something I haven’t heard said that I think deserves saying is this.
        I come from the country that invented the white line in the middle of the road, so I’m going to draw a line, take it or leave it.

        Where we are helping someone to obtain the knowledge needed to accomplish a goal, we should not hold back, and create incentive for others to share opinions as well. When we have developed a product (fully fledged), we should be selling it.
        We are not a bunch of volunteers, we are professionals. To be a professional is to make a living from what we do. We should always share knowledge, but never products (unless it functions as a marketing initiative). As an example, anyone who designs Firefox is not a professional. They are volunteers. They make good code for Firefox and bad money from Firefox.

        And one other thing which needs to be said from a financial perspective: IE is a highly technical hurdle riddled with bad programming that forces designers to spend hours on workarounds rather kicking ass. Microsoft is hugely responsible for a great deal of despondency among us. Our time is worth less as a by-product of their “launch it now and fix it later” attitude. So, fix it now and launch it later.

        Thank you…:)

  4. 7

    Interesting thoughts Vitaly. I agree that in some respects the community isn’t necessarily what it was a few years back but that’s not to say it’s gone altogether.

    Having been much more active on Twitter in the last 12 months or so than I’ve ever been, one thing I’ve noticed is that the same names keep cropping up time and again and their word is being taken more as gospel than ever because they speak at the same conferences.

    The web industry is in danger of turning into a self perpetuating circle-jerk than ever because of the size and fervour attached to the “following” of many of the designers mentioned.

    The Method & Craft site you listed above is a great example. It’s got only 9 articles at this time and while they’re interesting and well written, it’s hard to believe it would get the exposure if the people involved were lesser names in the industry.

  5. 8

    David Bushell

    March 21, 2011 4:37 am

    Very thoughtful post Vitaly, you’ve really done well in discussing the issues from all view points. Overall the web design & dev community is a very progressive and healthy one.

    With all the growth in recent years it’s easy to feel lost as an individual. I think your idea of dedicating time to the community is the perfect attitude. Put our community into context with others, we’re a remarkably positive and collective bunch :)

    I don’t mind the ambiguity and lack of vocabulary. I think this is more a result of pioneering ideas that get everyone into a buzz of excitement and learning. I’d take this any day, even if it comes with confusion over terminology.

    • 9

      Vitaly Friedman

      March 22, 2011 2:46 am

      David, I often have this feeling of being lost, too. There are so many things we could do, and there is often so little time to actually do it properly. The truth is that it’s not really a matter of having time, but rather a matter of finding time to contribute. We can always set some specific time frame for doing things that we want to do, and subtract time from other activities that are actually not that important to us.

      And yes, we are a remarkably positive and collective bunch, yet we are also a busy bunch. For a long time, I have experienced problems with finding a proper balance between my personal life and my professional life. In the end, it was just a matter of personal discipline and filtering activities that set me in the “idle mode”. I think that everybody can find time to do anything. It’s just you really need to want to do it.

  6. 10

    Rodney Echols

    March 21, 2011 5:14 am

    Very strong contribution here, Vitaly. I agree we need more voices that are adding valuable content to the social media conversations. Very commonly Social Media users are concentrating on their own personal takeaways (ROI, Traffic and such), but in the end the value of this media is the offering that your content gives the reader. I find a lot of valuable resources packed in this post. I am definitely going to RT, Share on Facebook & do whatever spreading I can. I encourage other readers to do so too. Its important to be an active listener when you read something like this.

    Active listening = comment, share with friends, build on the ideas learned
    Typcial listeners = read but stay silent, don’t want to stand out

  7. 11

    I’m inclined to agree with James here. More and more we see the same set of people speak at conferences. They give their opinions, and everyone is taking it as the written truth. Too easy is it to jump on the bandwagon (the flash hate is perpetuated probably by the people who were extolling the virtues of flash sites 15 years ago, “user experience” is the new “art director”, job titles we gave ourselves to boost salaries in a flourishing industry), and it seems there’s a new band wagon every 3 or 4 weeks in these inner circles.

    The communities died off because they’re no longer open communities. Dribble is a prime example of this. An industry led invite only community that promotes congratulation over critical discussion. And the message boards or communities that are still publicly open often have the same “who the f are you?” attitude for voicing an opinion or not being an original member.

    I don’t often comment on blog posts because I too find it easier to close the window on something I disagree with than engage the author. I don’t get too much time outside of commuting, work. and raising a family to contribute a great deal. But what incentive are we seeing to contribute? To be shouted down by the mass followers of the loudest voices? To be told “you’re doing it wrong” without follow up or suggestion of which direction to take? I’d rather not waste my time when I could be using that to make something or learn something new.

    If the communities were made more open, friendlier places to contribute, maybe more would participate.

    Above all else, people need to stop taking everything they read for granted and retweeting it. Think for yourself. Study. Form a valid, informed opinion. Question or challenge the industry leaders. Comment thoughtfully. In doing so we can somewhat attempt to revive the community.

    • 12

      i think i want to form a community with ben…..and for the record, eff dribbbbbbble.

  8. 13

    You’re right that there’s not much room for debate these days. A recent example has been the community’s blind adherence to web typography guidelines. Not sure why margin-bottom = line-height has become a “rule,” but very few people seem to be questioning it.

    But that’s just one example.

    It often pays to use ideas by people who have done some legwork, and who may be smarter or more experienced than you (that whole “why reinvent the wheel” thing). But you should never sacrifice your willingness to be creative or to question a design or development “prescription.” When a task is not about inventing the wheel, you can’t ride on the coattails of the community leaders. You have your own contributions to make, and a leader without that very community is nothing. So join it!

  9. 14

    Christopher Murphy

    March 21, 2011 5:47 am

    It’s hard to disagree with your sentiment that you often, “find it extremely difficult to find meaningful debates.” Yes, there are debates taking place, but at times they appear to be the same old voices… There’s also – undeniably – a lack of depth across the range of discussions that are taking place.

    Perhaps one reason for this lies with the manner in which a great deal of discussion appears to have moved from the in depth medium of carefully crafted and well thought through articles (published both on personal sites and, equally importantly, on well-established channels like A List Apart, Smashing Magazine and elsewhere) to the more ephemeral world of Twitter.

    Chris Shiflett highlighted this issue just last week with a call to arms, titled ‘Ideas of March’, encouraging everyone to write more and to think things through in a deeper and more rigorous manner. It was a call to arms that, encouragingly, was taken up by many, many writers including Drew McLellan, Jon Tan, ourselves and a whole host of other individuals. A quick search of the #ideasofmarch hashtag will turn up a wealth of discussion.

    As far as finding the time to contribute goes, you hit the nail on the head. Perhaps we’re a victim of our own success. Our community has grown substantially and there’s now so much to read that it can feel at times like we’re swimming against a tide of opinions. When faced with the diversity of content on offer, adding to it through carefully considered comments can prove a challenge.

    Perhaps the answer to the question lies in the fact that contributing in a thoughtful and engaging manner is difficult. Dashing off a tweet significantly increases the volume of discussion, however, it doesn’t necessarily increase the quality of discussion. To contribute in depth, to add value, takes time and – sadly – that time isn’t always forthcoming.

    Writing is difficult, it takes practice and – sadly, in my experience as an educator – isn’t something that’s held in high regard. All too often younger designers (whether in education or self taught) are focused on quick hits, seeking the shortest possible route to fame and celebrity. It’s a shame, as these very same young designers have a huge amount of enthusiasm and potential that they could offer in a meaningful way to our wider community.

    Perhaps it’s this hurry that goes to the heart of the problem: the hurry to acquire celebrity; the hurry to rush off a comment; the hurry to consume everything and, in so doing, give very little back to the community.

    Let’s be optimistic though. We work in a very connected industry and there’s all to play for. Perhaps we should encourage everyone to slow down just a little, put a little more thought and effort into the community, write in a little more depth and, above all, share their experiences for the benefit of all. If everyone were to dedicate ten to fifteen minutes a day, as you suggest, to give something back to the community, just think what we might achieve.

    • 15

      Vitaly Friedman

      March 22, 2011 2:57 am

      I think that you raise very valid points, Christopher. But maybe even because many designers are focused on quick hits, seeking the shortest possible route to fame and celebrity, other designers could benefit from doing the opposite: writing, discussing, participating, creating, engaging. They could establish themselves as professionals, gain reputation, leave a remarkable mark in the community. Right now, right here there is an opportunity to become an expert in your field, but it’s impossible to become well-known or well-respected if you don’t actively do something.

      Besides, it’s not always about writing; I do agree that some of us might be not so thrilled about writing and might experiencing difficulties with leaving a meaningful reply. But one could contribute in a number of ways: valuable tools and useful services could be just as helpful.

      And yes, I agree that we could all benefit for slowing down just a bit. Leaving things, removing the unnecessary, being more disciplined or just aware of the things that we do and the time that we spare. I strongly believe that we, as a fertile, creative community, can achieve many things by doing just that.

  10. 16

    Janice Schwarz

    March 21, 2011 5:57 am

    Funny, I’ve been having thoughts in a similar vein since last Friday.

    I saw a blog post last week, at a high traffic design/dev site, where someone was reminiscing IE7’s release and commenting how shocked he was at the time that he’d have to test in 2 versions of IE.

    But I remember making sites that needed to be viewed in IE3, IE4, IE5 and IE5.5 and Netscape, plus there were users still on Windows 3 and 3.5 and just about everyone was on dialup.

    And at that moment, it dawned on me: I’ve been doing this professionally for 11 years. Why haven’t I been contributing to the community more? Why aren’t I even writing in a blog of my own about web design and development? Why haven’t I been commenting more often?

    After 11 years, I still think of myself as that wide-eyed newbie of a decade ago. I think in part because I’ve reached that place in my career where I know enough to know what I don’t know, and what I likely won’t ever know. Add to that juggling a family, a job, and freelance work and like many, it’s tough to find the time. I don’t even get to use Twitter much anymore now that I’m back in a 9 to 5 job (scheduling tweets just isn’t the same as having a conversation).

    I joined StackOverflow just last Friday. (I know, “only just now?”) And tried to participate in more blog discussions. But maybe more posts like this reminding everyone, “hey, we know you’re out there…why aren’t you talking to us?” may draw out more like me.

    • 17

      I totally agree with you. I think very often that i´m not good enough to share my experience in some fields and that someone should write an article, comment or an answer who is better skilled than me. But i do this also professionally over 10 years now and i should have enough experience to start some discussions or help somebody with a problem, but maybe i´m afraid to say something wrong :-)

  11. 18

    We, as web designers and developers, exceedingly need to fight back the isolationst feelings associated with comp-comp interaction. Us, of all people, should certainly take note when news outlets like NPR and CNN are regularly discussing how people seem to be losing their ability in communicating with other human beings.

    This article is a great read and hits so many good points. It’s incredibly vindicating to know there are others out there who feel the same as we do. Let’s get excited and social people!!

  12. 19

    In depth discussions are hard to come across and that is a great shame. I, like you seemed to, very much enjoyed the recent discussion in the community surrounding the hashbang URL design pattern. It was great to see a whole raft of people discussing their views on the matter and link to various other views even if they were opposing views. I have only been fully immersed in the community for a year and this was the first time I’d seen a debate with this level of detail. It was great to see and it was extremely beneficial. I want to see more of it.

    You raise another issue about the amount of time people have to participate. I thing this is a key issue. Everybody is so busy with their work and trying to keep on top of all the advancements and new techniques that they are all suffering from information fatigue. When they do find time to read and do research there is just so much stuff out there that it is hard to know where to go each time and where the quality, must reads are. It’s difficult.

    Excellent and easy to use tools and mechanisms for curation are what are needed to help with this. Some are or might be available now, if that is the case we need to share these with everyone. A social tool is only as useful as the number of people that use it.

  13. 20

    It’s great to see a post on the state of the web design community, issues that you see, and constructive ways to make it better. It’s a healthy approach to issues in the community around us. There was a post on another large design publication last week maligning a particular facet of the community that didn’t offer much in the way of proposed solutions or ways to improve the issue.

    As someone who hasn’t been in the design industry professionally for very long, but has been working with it for quite some time (academically), the web community has lots of resources that have provided helpful to get a foot in the door, but once you reach that intermediate level, you’re right: there’s a lot of “on your own” work that has to be done.

    Two things I took from getting my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing is the importance of peer feedback and the revision process: any piece of work isn’t going to be perfect the first time out, and no one is going to be more valuable in guiding your work in a strong direction than experienced people who have solved similar issues in the past. It would be great to see a site like dribbble institute a rookie-to-pro feedback program.

  14. 21

    Adam Jenkins

    March 21, 2011 6:55 am

    I’m not going to lie about what I read, only about the first quarter of your article (and none of the above comments) before I got peeved….has commenting been down year-over-year on smashing magazine or something? I could not DISAGREE more with your sentiment (at least in your first few paragraphs; except for the part about less experienced individuals getting more involved in mentoring)…..take a quick look over at to find out what a real community looks like (instead of an “I post, you read and comment and boost my ad revenue” situation).

    Smashing Magazine, I enjoy(ed) most of your posts and I check your blog daily to see what goodies you have in store for me today…..but wtf with the bellyaching here? I don’t get it at all.

    I haven’t been in this game very long, maybe only the past 6 or 7 years, but I’ve never seen more people involved in the web community with countless conferences on this or that, our strifes being spoken in the mainstream media (from CNN over the past year I’ve ready about browser wars with IE9, MS and HTML5/standards support, etc).

    And with the countless of opensource person projects coming out on (and off) of github like Modernizr, LESS, SASS, etc how can you dare say we’ve lost the community feel???

    Perhaps I am jumping through the hoop you held up for me to jump through by commenting on this blog entry, but I can tell you after this article, without any word from the author, I will most likely not be commenting on any more smashing articles because I will not be visiting this site to read them.

    • 22

      @Adam Jenkins

      I’m with you for the most part…

      I’m a cynic, especially when it comes to how special designers and artists think they are. We are a dime a dozen, just like any accountant is. We just use a different side of the brain. That being said, we do have unique skill sets, but we should be humble about those sets because we are unique just like everyone other designer.

      I think the web is just becoming more mature, where we don’t need all the yap about stuff; it’s already out there! Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for innovations, but web is starting to stabilize, become standard…not a new found technology, but an evolving one.

      Bottom line: There ain’t much to say other than blah blah blah…

  15. 23

    I disagree somewhat. I think that the community you have described is too large and too cumbersome to manage and communicate in a single place. Thus the things you are looking for a now more spread across different places and mediums (e.g. forums, mailing lists). Without spending the time looking for them, usually through a vested interest, one doesn’t tend to find them. Especially if there is a sign-up process.

    These silo-esque hives are all each of comparative size to the good old days, carry out the same level of debate and discussion as you describe, and then spill their results out into the wider community. Where they are more readily accepted.

    “…Smashing Magazine delivers useful and innovative information to Web designers and developers. Our aim is to inform our readers about the latest trends and techniques in Web development… ” It is your job to find these silos, participate and bring the interesting bits here.

  16. 24

    There are many in-depth conversations, but since there are many more individuals starting conversations you have to filter through them and find the good ones.

    While there is a decline at times there are also times where I have trouble finding the time to read all of them. You have obviously listed some in your post and following the right people helps as well.

  17. 25

    Vitaly – thank you for this post. You have clearly done a ton of reasearch which further backs the points made in this post. I have, on many many occassions felt the same sentiments.

    I have learned just about everything I know about web design and development from the internet, and of late that pool seems to be stagnating somewhat. I am eternally grateful there are people like Jeff Way out there.

    I think one of the big problems at the moment are sites that simply respost methods and tutorials (sometimes the author is credited, other times not). These sites, regretfully, appear to be growing in number. When I search for how to do something in WordPress (for examples sake) a multitude of sites come up all with the identical content! I have NO problem with someone reposting something that helped them solve that problem they have been dealing with, my issue comes in with people just reposting articles and tuts to get their own site rankings up.

    As many people here have already pointed out discussion is now moving to Twitter, which is great in its own rights don’t get me wrong, but Twitter’s 140 character limit is in itself limiting these dicussions. I have noticed a trend emerging which also worries me, and that is certain (they shall remain nameless for fairness sake) VERY well known tutorial and dicussion sites using Twitter more to promote their own commerical products and forgetting they started using the service to ask for feedback and ideas from followers. I would be naive to think this was not for a good reason, as they have every right to advertise their products, but the balance is definitely shifting away getting constructive feedback or suggestions from their followers – and this worries me.

    Anyway – enough of my ramble. Thanks again for the article, it is definitely something I will need to re-read a few times to absord everything.

  18. 26

    There are just so many more people. It was an interesting read, but at the end of the day you hit the nail on the head when you say “the number of the less experienced active contributors has increased”.

    In the early days, EVERYONE would have been a “less experienced contributor”. Everything was new, and the number of languages used online was fewer (think pre-CSS). The sheer number of people involved was less, and mailing lists were a common way for people with similar interests to come together in discussion.

    This is no longer the case. You complain that people aren’t using twitter for discussion, but I quickly realised that’s just not going to happen when people routinely follow thousands of people. I only follow about 100, but gave up on the idea of having meaningful discussions well before I followed even half as many. Just one robot in the stream can send out so many tweets the real people get overshadowed – yes I have blocked some before, but often they tweet useful stuff that I want to read. And sometimes a “real person” comes on the same user account and tweets something more personal. I know robots are a bad topic, but they aren’t going to go away any time soon … even following NO robots, you can’t expect to follow 7000 people and have discussions that aren’t constantly interrupted by hundreds of tweets.

    I expect the solution is to either create a small list for yourself or to use the hash tags you describe, something like that. Specific hash tags could be a good idea. BUT on the other hand I am (ironically) short of sympathy since I discovered the hash-tag that would be the name of my town is being squatted by some online interview thing. No wonder nobody tweets about what’s going on here! :(

  19. 27

    Good post, Vitaly. I agree with a lot of this. I actually like the trend in which design blogs are having commentary/discussions on twitter, and showing that, instead of having real comments. It seems like a lot of that discussion is going that way anyway. That said, it definitely leaves a hole of real debate. I like Dribbble for it’s design feedback, but it’s not the place for theoretical debate. There are so many tutorials out there, but yes, not a lot on the big picture, how to really set up a project, or how to approach it with a good plan in mind. I’m hoping to start writing some of that myself, and to see more of it from other design/devs as well :)

  20. 28

    Michel Bozgounov

    March 21, 2011 8:10 am

    Everyone has a perspective and experience to share. Without more perspectives, we’ll become limited in our growth.

    We shouldn’t hesitate to apply concepts from other time periods or other media into our designs. The concepts actually don’t even have to be design-related. Instead of thinking in terms of shadows, gradients and rounded corners, maybe we should be thinking in terms of tension, timing and narrative.

    Perhaps we could all dedicate 10 to 15 minutes of our time to the community every day. We could (and should) make this a firm personal commitment and encourage each other to take part. […] For starters, we could start raising awareness of our commitments by using the hash tag #wdcommunity.

    Excellent, thought-provoking article! (And these are the citations that I was most impressed with, see the three quotes.)

    Thank you for taking the time to write it — I really enjoyed it! :-)

    PS But, my coffee became cold while I was reading it — I should re-heat the kettle next time I read an article like this one! ;-)

  21. 29

    I gotta say, I’ve grown-up professionally learning alot from the contributions of the web design community. Frankly, I think the web design community is a lot more open, fluid and transparent discussion-wise and alot less elitest than the graphic design community.

    The school of graphic design thought and the community as a whole has developed in a very linear way, influenced by different associations over the years.

    The web design community’s youth and fluidity can work in its favor. That said it takes willing participants to build a community.

  22. 30

    Personally I would love to contribute more but I have been working so much it’s hard to find the time.

  23. 31

    Helen Jane Hearn

    March 21, 2011 8:54 am

    In my experience, everyone I know at the level you’re discussing is *way* too busy to contribute to a community like this.

    With many of us having families, with higher client expectations, with more pressure to stay current as more have attempted freelancing, I’m finding that I have zero time to contribute to forums.

    • 32

      A little bit of a contradiction that your comment “I’m finding that I have zero time to contribute to forums.” was made in a comment contributing in this same way!

  24. 33

    John Flickinger

    March 21, 2011 9:03 am

    I completely agree about this in regards to the community as a whole. The Smashing Magazine readers could greatly benefit from some kind of collaborative forum to open these dialogs about debates, and share ideas. Something like Stackoverflow, but more conversation based would be amazing.

  25. 34

    Alex Denning

    March 21, 2011 9:15 am

    An extremely well written and thoughtful post.

    As someone who’s tried to build up a blog from scratch, I couldn’t agree more that often the best content goes unnoticed and it’s a horrible experience trying to break into anything near the mainstream. Sites like Smashing Magazine are very generous in providing opportunities for lesser known authors, though.

    I think the fundamental problem is information saturation. As you say, it’s so easy to just close a tab instead of commenting, regardless of how good a site is and it’s that lack of appreciation for the time and effort the author has put into the post simply because there is so much information around is the fundamental problem. SM regularly produces amazing content but rarely do I show my appreciation for this content — and that’s where we’re going wrong.

  26. 35

    Unlike so many other industries, I’m glad web design/development relies on each professional sharing their knowledge base and contributing to “a better web.” Ultimately, that’s the end product. Poor design and development are the real enemies of our industry.

    Everyone has their own way of doing their job, but I applaud those who create resources that promote efficiency and collaboration. That’s how we’ll grow as a community. It comes down to our own initiative to put these things out there for each other.

  27. 36

    thanks for opening up this topic and i am glad to post my contribution.

    sometimes “popularity” is very stressful, on this field, once you are popular, it sticks on your forehead. unfortunately, these popular-professional-busy people doesn’t even visit their commenters website… and in most cases, they only look forward to meeting other popular-professional-busy people like “them” and alike designers, isn’t it? you see? some people are feared if there is someone on a big project who has lesser names up there.

    i am not professional and i am not popular, so who cares? yet still, i don’t believe that the web design community has lessen its voice, its just that the big guys of this niche don’t even bother to reach out on small / less popular ones and i am not ashamed to express my feelings being one of them.

    where did the community spirit go? i think it was hidden/ignored publicly by those classified people – “the popular-professional-busy big guys”. i also think you should be asking “where did the professional web designers’ community go?” because the article is all about professional web designers so it would be very specific and fair.

    The web design community is huge by nature and it is not limited to “professionals” alone. we have amateurs as well. *raises her hand in shyness*

    Amateurs or the less experienced ones… hmmn… are left behind or the professional field is shying them away or they are most often ignored because no one is interested commenting on a less-popular, amateur and less busy designers and artists or creative bloggers with less updates on their websites.. amateurs focus mainly on their improvement and find resources “alone” and taking a chance to build up themselves from the crowd yet capable to fill-in the professional’s short-comings…

    also, they are asking for more questions that was never answered by what they call themselves – “professionals” on their site. instead they will give more technicalities you can’t even reach. who cares? and what can you do? you are already professional, you can only speak for/to those who are on the professional level as well and because there have been more amateurs sprouting everywhere, they think they won’t fit the level so they will try to climb up so someone could possibly notice them – sometimes success but most of the time “fail”.

    well, yeah professionals are always updated and so they only do and update stuffs base on their mentally that “I am already professional, you should look up to me and do this and that and this and that” plus the big “I”, “ME” and “MY” shiny website statement. they didn’t know that the amateur people actually brings out more discussions and more activity to the community because they have dozens and gazillions of questions everyday that they encounter. well, those questions can only be answered now by google search. it’s like i heard it more often.. “go google it” reply from people who actually knows better when you ask on some professional web design community rather than give them tips and hints to lessen their burden searching over 100++ tutorial sites’ articles.

    and talking about twitter and its marketing techniques, popular designers and blog owners now use automatic stuffs that once they follow you today and you follow them tomorrow, the next thing you’ll know is that…. “they are no longer following you” lolz! you’ll be pretty much thankful to see your @yourname being mentioned by popular peeps that answer your question or even just a recognition on your opinion or your contribution, especially if you are “not well-known” that is a “YAY! expression” and guess what? they will instead spam your twitter with their every blog posts from years before which you received like 100xx from the last 30 days. errr! why? because that’s how the system goes?

    slap me if I’m wrong but I think some people on this niche aren’t really professionals, they are just popular because their tweets are visible to 10,000++ twitter followers. they post repeated round-ups by their websites and is claiming to be professional to hide their weaknesses. they are not professionals, they are just bloggers and/or random critiques and/or readers as well, who by any means are posting to make a living.

    professionals? you guys are growing old, i think it’s true and it is time to adopt some amateurs to be your apprentice so the web design field can live longer and will not be limited on your popularity.

    someone once told me, “being too professional and too technical is shying away new comers.”

    PS: the “You” on statements doesn’t actually pointing on SM. it is meant in general who would take time to read this. thanks again.

  28. 37

    Bevan Stephens

    March 21, 2011 9:38 am

    Really great article.

    I’m not sure Twitter is the right place for in depth design discussions though, neither is Dribbble. Stack exchange is great but a lot of people consider it too tech oriented.

    Maybe it’s because there isn’t a well known platform for these discussions, that they don’t take place very often anymore?

    • 38

      Bevan, I agree that Twitter is not a place to discuss, but it can be a great way to ask a question and “break the ice” into a place like StackExchange, Quora, Google Groups, JSFiddle, etc…

  29. 39

    James Yorke made a good point about Method & Craft. The reach of the three guys behind the site, dribbble, twitter, and SXSW all contributed to a huge response for a 9-article site. I signed up for the email and followed on Twitter before I knew what M&C was. I’m excited to see how the site evolves, but would ‘less famous’ people have gotten the same result?

    I agree with David Bushell and don’t mind the lack of vocabulary. The confusion you’ve detailed is true, but I think a simple explanation would clear things up years before a vocab is standardized.

    Vitaly, I really enjoyed this thought pieces and wouldn’t mind seeing more like it on Smashing. I also enjoy the shorter + focused posts as well as tuts / freebies / the occasional showcase, but I don’t read those three times and proofread my comment in textpad for those.

  30. 40


    I am an infrequent debater on most web design sites, and do not commonly venture to express my opinion. Why? Well, I am tired of flame wars and trolls—and as the web development community has aged, I feel like it has progressed toward the cynicism of Usenet. Just like a lot of Linux trolls don’t want to answer the question of a newbie, it seems like a lot of pointless fights are picking up.

    Discussion is only useful so long as it stays reasonable. And the reasonability of a discussion decreases in an exponential scale with the more people involved in it. Because much of our work involves subjective opinions and studies that could be flawed, due to the ever changing nature of the internet, it is easy for discussions to end in childish bandying of positions.

    What you propose will require hefty moderation. Your comment of “everyone can afford to spend 10 – 15 minutes a day discussing web design” omits the role of the moderator. How do you propose to reimburse the moderators that may have to spend several hours a day reading moderation queues, slapping wrists, and ensuring such a community stays friendly and helpful?

    This discussion role used to be fulfilled by forums, usenet, and email. What changed?

  31. 41

    Phi Barnhart

    March 21, 2011 9:58 am

    Step 1. If you design for a larger corporation — print this article out. Go up the food chain to your first non-designer management type. Tell her or him its important, and that your organization needs to encourage participation in the debate. Then give him or her a list of the last ten design discussions you participated in and suggest this take place on company time.

    Step 2. Upload your resume and portfolio to . . . .

  32. 43

    Jeremy Carlson

    March 21, 2011 10:04 am

    Where did the web design community go? The people that used to go to sites like this learned more, and started following other tech blogs instead of general article discussion blogs with beginner tutorials. Which isn’t to say that this type of blog is bad. It isn’t. I came here and to other similar blogs, and learned a lot. But once I got going, I wanted to learn other things that these blogs were not providing.

    So I started to follow less known blogs and people on twitter because they were giving more refined knowledge on topics I was really interested in. It is a growth thing. The more experienced you become, the more beginner articles and tuts become less interesting.

    Yes there is time constraints on the more experienced developers, but I think it is more of an ‘outgrowing’ the blogs you started with. I used to visit SM at least once daily. Now, its only when something catches my eye on twitter. Today I came here to see what could possibly be said that is new in yet another ‘dead community’ type article.

    I still contribute to what you call the ‘web design community’, I’m just doing it elsewhere now. Keep posting what you post, because there is a need for it.

    I just think we should see other people though….so let’s just be friends.

  33. 44

    I still see a lot of good content out there!

  34. 45

    I think one of the biggest problems is that, when you start getting good, you’re booked up for months in advance. That means that you have very little time to work on personal projects and even less time to go read blog posts and comment on them, because, as you say, there’s a lot more crap to trawl through that doesn’t contribute to your knowledge base.

    To be honest, I didn’t have time to read your article thoroughly and the comments, which I’m sure are quite interesting. That’s what happens when you get good– you’re too busy!!! I wish I could write more, contribute more, but to write a truly useful, well written article, takes a lot of time and mental space. But here you go, my 15 minutes for today! ;)

  35. 46

    Great post.

    Those of us at the ‘starting line’ need the knowledgably input of those you have come before us.


  36. 47

    I think we are all saturated with our daily tasks, which is quite understandable if we do web design for a living. Many commenters said that time is a killer: I 100% agree! But keep posting SM, the community isn’t dead: it simply listens through different channels…

  37. 48

    I totally agreed with you on coming up with a “standardized design language.” As the industry grows it just makes sense to have one.

  38. 49

    Eelco Deuling

    March 21, 2011 12:58 pm

    I am just starting to grasp a basic understanding of HTML and CSS: I am doing sites for the last 3 or 4 years and I don’t think I could contribute something worth reading. I did learn a lot visiting all sites mentioned above (I did find most of them myself), so maybe the state of the community is not that bad after all.

  39. 50

    I think this post is absolutely spot on. I try to dedicate time every day to reading as many design blogs as I can but like you said, you just sometimes run out of time. However, I’m going to make an effort (like now!) to comment and interact. The community would be a much better place for it and hopefully it can spark more of the discussion and debating that used to be around.

  40. 51

    Daniel Florian

    March 21, 2011 2:03 pm

    Thanks for the inspiring read.
    I am only new to the ‘web’ industry though I have been involved in the print industry in one way or another for the past 18 years.
    Often when I have a design or code related problem, I will trawl through a few websites that have the answer, but don’t explain how or why they came to that point.
    For me personally, I think the “how I got here” type of post would be more beneficial than the quick fix style “copy and paste this code” type of tutorials that seem so prevalent today. It would be interesting to me to find out the type of problem they were trying to solve when they came up with that particular solution.
    I think that style of post could also foster new discussion from others as everyone has their own way of doing things.
    Maybe I should start a blog about the new stuff I learn each day when trying to find the solution to a particular problem… ;)

  41. 52

    The community in the past works the same way the community does in the present. There are some great discussions happening all over so the problem isn’t a lack of conversation. With so much going on in regards to content, innovation and activity, the problem is there is just so much and not a source to filter it.

    What the community needs is a source that goes through everything that happens around the community and filters it for people to see what is happening. This is an almost impossible task though and if people aren’t being noticed they will easily give up.

    Blogging itself is kind of down. Back in the days it wasn’t just that people were talking about design, they wanted to blog to be something. Now it’s Twitter, Tumblr and whatever else.

  42. 54

    Well said Vitaly! The ‘trinkets of truthiness’ that make up each trend and get so many column inches must definitely be countered with a genuine desire to engage in the why of web design and not just the how or the wow.

    We collectively have a responsibility to educate and encourage each other into best practice – the speed with which the web, and its design, has been democratised means it can be tempting to impress (newcomer or old hand) with bells and whistles (a good visual designer can still run rings round an ordinary user) to help justify one’s existence, but the real work is the design no-one notices – because it works.

    My wish would be that we make core useability, accessibilty and maintainability sexy, not just the sliders and this-year’s-animated-gifs. We should be thinking more in terms of great product design than visual design often, and I for one would love to hear more about the choices designers make at the planning stage, not about the ribbons or the shadows.

    I love thoughtful and generous content like 24ways, or the quiet usefulness of people like 456bereastreet – but I’m less keen on the deification of some ‘personalities’ and the copy-cat design that can engender. Most web design should be aiming to win ‘Best Supporting Actor’, not going for the above-the-title role.

    In terms of rekindling that sense of community – maybe there’s a project here for someone: instead of another MMORPG, can someone with a few $$ harness some etherpad/Wave collaborative goodies and start hosting regular online, real-time design jams (not layer tennis, fun though that stuff is). Use a GetSatisfaction style voting system to democratically choose a UX/UI challenge/issue to focus on, then once a week/month just go crazy on it and brainstorm/mosh. Any/all code snippets get filed/tagged, people do some show-and-tell, the gurus maybe do a Q&A, ideas get shared, some bad habits get explained and at least one globally useful asset gets created.

    SM’s tweets are some of the few I really follow, and it’s good to see this piece as well as the ‘goodies’ often linked to. Thanks.


  43. 55

    OK, when I said etherpad/wave, I implicitly meant “but better” – just in case any of you had this in mind :) :

  44. 56

    Sorry for multiple thoughts and lag, but if the web design community had their web 3.0 version of this – that would be cool :)

  45. 57

    There are some great replies here – hell, this comment section is a great example of design community right here! I don’t want to rehash what everyone has said above, so I’ll keep it short.

    People grow in both age and career, so time spent combing the internet for solutions needs to be focused. I tend to visit sites more specific to the projects that I am focused on at a given time, and that’s no accident. There are so many specific content and sub-category sites out there these days. No longer is there one or two design portals to rule them all. The need to browse or advanced search through tens-of-thousands of threads to find help on a particular subject is over.

    That said, as an old member of Newstoday/QBN who also used to visit Surfstation and K10K, I matured over the years. This meant more responsibility at work and in my personal life, which in turn lead to less time reading, commenting and trolling in forums. However, I have moved onto an invite-only forum with some other veteran members of the old-school, traditional design forum era. I find that forum so much more professional and to the point. Less boob pictures and ego-pumping, and more fantastic work and sense of community.

    • 58

      I think that is part of the problem though. I remember 10 years ago when YH was invite/points system, essentially what HH and BS are now, but it was publicly viewable. The community spirit was there. Sure, if you were an amateur, interested hobbyist, student or whatever, you couldn’t/wouldn’t get in, but you still had the opportunity to see what your peers/idols were doing. Putting things behind closed doors is what essentially killed part of the community. I’m not saying to open the floodgates (that happened with YH which I used to participate in, but it quickly became diluted), but perhaps the curtains could be opened a crack so those who aren’t part of the in-crowd can take a peek and better themselves/learn from the old schoolers? Maybe this way of thinking will once again ignite inspiration in those of us who feel left out/disdain for these communities. Maybe it will make us want to be part of them.

      As an aside, what was great about the old school design forums was the sense of collaboration that they nurtured. I remember some of the great projects YH churned out. I think there is certainly a deficit in collaborative channels now. Of course, we all have time restrictions, but maybe with an accessible means at interacting with interested parties we would once again make time to collaborate and make great things?

      I know I give lots of maybes and questions, but no answers. Perhaps that’s the talking point. It’s akin to what Brendan Dawes says: Talk – Action = Shit. If we want a community to be proud of, we all need to participate more.

  46. 59

    But, hey, Smashing keeps the community spirit alive, doesn’t it? :)

  47. 60

    Christian Krammer

    March 22, 2011 12:06 am

    Great post Vitaly. Just with this statement you saved my day:
    “Valuable, useful resources are becoming rarities and unfortunately many of them just do not get the attention they well deserve.”

    I am struggling myself with this problem at the moment. Recently I launched a website about CSS3 (I won`t advertise for it) and although there are some sites that support it by tweeting or posting about it the majority doesn’t care. Sure, the users love my resource and clearly state that wherever possible, but to get known it not only needs users (although they are really important) but also big sites that link to it.

    Finally some general words about the topic of your article. I think the biggest problem nowadays is the lack of time. Although there are times when we don’t have that much to do in general we have to work hard to earn some money. And under these circumstances there is often no time for “contributing” or “commenting”.

    Furthermore it is very difficult to stay up to date at everything that is important for webdesign so we have to carefully choose what covers their own interests. And as a conclusion we are only able to read a few articles and comment about them. Time is clearly the most valuable property we have nowadays.

  48. 61

    Forrst is one of the places where the community is gone.

  49. 62

    Maicon Sobczak

    March 22, 2011 3:00 am

    I too feel that we are running around the same topics. An important aspect that I have been observed is that how the community respond furiously when see an advertise were they don’t are accustomed. It’s like the money of advertisers don’t pay the content of hight value that they read.

    Your tips to organize the community using the hashtags is a great idea.

  50. 63

    100% agree… Great Post

  51. 64

    Robbie MacGillivray

    March 22, 2011 3:18 am

    Great post, very well expressed I think.

    More functional community can only be a happy-better-thing. I frequent business forums and mostly 3d-related designer ones, but choose not to participate in discussions after realizing life is too short and my pathological habit of procrastinating via forums had to stop.

    If I had my own selfish way there’d be no more list posts.

    Group hug,

  52. 65

    Taimur Asghar

    March 22, 2011 3:25 am

    It is sad to say that design community is dead; but it is true. Major example is the number of comments on this post. SM has 400,000+ subscribers (only on Twitter and Facebook) but there are only 54 comments ? Means 0.01% response. Thats sad. !

    Great read though, I want more articles like this; explaining the facts :)

  53. 66

    Kate England

    March 22, 2011 3:32 am

    I too deeply miss the early days of an enthusiastic and generally helpful community on the web.

    I think that what we are seeing is a result of the commercialised and increasingly crowded space that the internet has become. Social media has become a strong candidate for our time and attention.

    There’s a sameness on the internet, in terms of design trends and networking. People who spend long hours creating quality content or supporting others don’t get noticed by the established networks who continue to promote affiliate links to their already successful buddies.

    As social media is increasingly used for marketing, I think it leaves people more jaded. Becoming aware that brands/people communicate to get you to connect with their brand, or as part of their ongoing market research…

    All this leaves people with very little incentive to support other people’s commercial projects in their free time.

    I really don’t know how to end this comment on a positive note! Some of the commenters above have mentioned the fact that your needs change as you move from being a beginner to an experienced designer and perhaps the answer lies somewhere there. For peers to support peers?

  54. 67

    The community is not dead. It’s just moved from the “free” web into the commercial space. When the leading lights of Design & Development realised that they had a following and their words actually carried some weight within the community they chose to monetize the (previously) freely shared knowledge. You can still find useful and innovative information but it’s neatly tucked in behind a “pay wall” in the form of subscription sites, conferences and workshops. I have nothing against this, let me add. Even if prices are often prohibitive. Everybody has to make a living. And they have chosen to cash in on what they know before some 16yr old copy/pastes a meticulously written article into their own site and claims it as theirs.

  55. 68

    Niels Matthijs

    March 22, 2011 3:45 am

    Brilliant article.

    Time is definitely a factor in the problem described here, but not the most important one I believe. In my opinion it has more to do with the lack of structure for meaningful discussions. We may call our web “social”, but it really isn’t. We connect, we follow, we like, but when it comes to spending more than two paragraphs on a discussion, the web fails us.

    It’s funny, but the “old” web had forums. These were centralized places were people gathered to talk about subjects. There were no character limits, no decentralized discussions, just one thread for each discussion, everyone could chime in.

    It’s also funny you talk about Twitter #, Twitter is probably the least perfect tool for any kind of meaningful discussion. Discussions are hard to track, prone to mistakes and are limited to 150 (or was it 140?) chars per message. This is really no way to discuss.

    It’s nothing new though, except that the problem is becoming more and more obvious these days. In my original article I compared the social web to big raves, which I believe still stands very much to day. You are amongst many, participating in one big event, but you are still very much alone and cut out of social contact with the others present.

    I’ve written this back in 2008:

  56. 69

    Offline in bars, pubs and small conferences?

  57. 70

    for me our community’s progress is based on the contribution that our dudes has mode till yet and we need to do it more properly and selflessly to make out best out of us

  58. 71

    A very good post.

    When I first started 14 years ago life was simple. I was a web designer. I knew HTML and CSS, I could dabble in photoshop and that was that. Life was so simple then. I had maybe one or two emails a day so I had plenty of time to sit back to help others and learn myself.

    Moving forward to today I’m now expected to be a web designer, a web developer, a graphic designer, a UX and UI creator, a JavaScript coder, a Flash designer, an SEO expert, a Social Media guru, a PPC campaign wizard. I’m expected to know HTML4/5, CSS2/3, Javascript, PhP, .net, MySQL, Action Script. I’m expected to know how to create templates in dozens of different CMS/blog/shopping carts. On top of that I now have between 20 and 50 emails I have to reply to each day.

    My role over the years has grown exponentially. With new techniques, new code, new languages to learn and the dreaded software updates which cause a new learning curve. I simply don’t have the time to contribute anywhere near the amount I would like to. I post helpful twitter posts and I occasionally add a blog post. That is pretty much all I have time for now and I’m sure many others are in the same boat.

    A great many web designers are expected to be front-end, back-end and graphic designer all rolled into one and there simply isn’t enough time for many of us anymore when we are expected to know so much…

  59. 72

    This is a fanTAStic article. Thank you for the plethora of new resource websites. I agree. As a designer working from home, I often feel a complete disconnect from any kind of design community.

  60. 73

    Popular web folks don’t feel like there is meaningful discussion out there because you don’t follow your followers. You’ve created this closed club of dribbblesque members who don’t pay attention to newcomers. The newbies are the ones that really benefit from discussion, and are the ones that bring new ideas to the table. I’ve often mentioned a big wig on twitter in reply to an article and get no response, no follow… Most of the time I don’t participate in discussions because I feel like no one is listening.

  61. 74

    This is mostly because people that are very good at what they do are busy doing it rather than blogging about it. Likewise, if I’m better than most people at something in particular, it doesn’t benefit me at all to teach other people how to do it, particularly via public websites where I would likely be training a cheap replacement overseas. This is the reason you never see anything worth a damn on CodeProject.

    As far as debating “design” with people. Design is too subjective for debate. Particularly with a community that seems to be about 95% uneducated, inexperienced amateurs. If you’re like “no it’s not”, then either you’re in the lucky 5%, or you’re one of the 95% and you’re just too stupid to realize it. Anyone that’s been in the hiring process for a web designer can tell you, you’ll meet about 19 amateurs to every 1 professional. Trust me, it’s agonizing.

    … and that will bring you back to our problem. Professionals are busy. They don’t generally have time to participate in a “community” and even if they did, it’s more likely to increase the abilities of their competition rather than help them. Most professionals are college educated, which means they’ve PAID for their knowledge with money and hard work, some are just seasoned veterans… again, they’ve paid for their knowledge with time and hard work instead of money. Asking for more community involvement from these people is like saying “Please give me your knowledge for free”. Anyone that would do that, outside of volunteering with children, is a fool.

    All of that said, thank you for sharing your knowledge, I’m happy to take it for free. BTW, I use AdBlock. ;)

  62. 76

    Jennifer Carr

    March 22, 2011 6:10 am

    I’ve been designing for 10 years. I’m not sure if that makes me and oldie or not. There are so many more layers to design now: Web 2.0, what CMS you are using, etc. Often times I am trying to concentrate on my specific design issues in working with these limitations. Its so much more complicated and I feel I related less and less to what other designers are tackling. I’m also not an early adopter, and when you combine that with the rapid pace that so many things are updating and changing at – I find myself sitting out of many discussions purely because I know a new set of issues is going to come along in time any way.

    I think the line has moved from what a front-end coder is over the years. Earlier on it was easy to mingle the technical with the design, and now its so complex and overwhelming I find myself retracting from it and just looking for something that works where I can concentrate on actually designing.

  63. 77

    Thank you Smashing for giving us a wake a call , in our busy world trying to learn and understand so many new trends , we skip the base of our knowledge which share and discuss the same things with other people, Hey! when we need to learn something we ask, search and talk about it right? well the concept is the same we just have to express more frequent. Time is always short but during the day we should stop, think and post something interesting or simple ideas ….this is the beauty and the start point for our new design and the growth for our community.

  64. 78

    This is a very thoughtful and in-depth post. I like the idea of using #wdcommunity to try and get some more relevant discussions going.

    However I also think some of this is moot. As the design community has grown and grown, to try and maintain it as a single “community” is pretty much impossible. Instead of ONE BIG HUGE HONKING HAPPY FAMILY, it’s splintered off into many, many separate communities, either based on geography, specialization, language, interests, political views, pant size, whatever. I don’t think this is good nor bad, it just is.

    Personally I’ve had some challenges entering some existing communities because there have been such strong players or opinions. Instead of forcing the game, I just took my toys and found other places to play. Yeah, if I read “Flash sucks!” on more time…

    Anyway, I’m all for chilling out, sharing ideas and being open-minded. Good call on the hashtag and the idea to try and take some time to participate.

  65. 79

    Good post, and great comments. I agree with many on here that time constraints are a factor in keeping busy (good) designers & developers from blogging and interacting more. You suggest we take 10-15 minutes out of our day to contribute, but whenever I write a blog post it takes FAR longer than that — usually at least an hour. Because of that, my contributions are few and far between. If anything, that limiting factor drives me to Twitter.

    I would love to contribute to the community. I also understand that publishing blog posts and articles isn’t just selfless — it’s great marketing. However, at this point I don’t have time for any marketing, nevermind genuine contribution. I’m booked months & months in advance, and struggle just to keep up with professional obligations.

    On a different note, I totally agree with Anna above. There seems to be an “inner circle” of 10 or so revered blogging designers & developers whose material is referenced over and over and over in this “community”. Not that it’s not good stuff — much of it is. I’ve read and familiarized myself with most of them and they’re true pros — but at this point, I’ve generally taken what I can from them, and am ready for something new.

    Fresh faces are always welcome — but then again, I think time constraints are limiting new entrants.

  66. 80

    “Paul Boag, Dan Mall, Jeffrey Zeldman, Francisco Inchauste, Chris Coyier, Simon Collison, Andy Clarke, Paul Irish, Chris Heilmann, Jeffrey Way, Trent Walton”

    ‘Cuz I guess there are no female designers that matter…

  67. 82

    We’re in the hide0ut.

  68. 83

    Something I’ve noticed in recent years is the proliferation of pay-monthly services for things which people used to share for free.

    The best community sites offering the best content and/or tutorials seem to be the ones which don’t update as frequently probably because the author is busting his or her chops on different projects.

    I’m a designer who after 10 years in the industry still can’t find the time to design, produce and maintain a personal website. I’m in awe of designers who still make time to contribute to the community.

    If I was being cynical I would say that the industry seems a little more selfish these days. People invest time in learning how to do something well and then they don’t want to simply give away their secrets to designers who could be competition.

    I have to confess I’ve not fully read the above article or all the comments but I will re-visit this when I get home.

    • 84

      Crystal Odenkirk

      March 28, 2011 8:59 am

      Me too, Spartacus. After spending all day working on my employer’s web applications, who has the time to put together a truly awesome personal site, let alone write in-depth articles AND seek out these hidden “designer communities?” I’ve been in this for over a decade. The article asks, where has the design community gone? My question is, “There was ever a design community at large?”

  69. 85

    I will comment for once, as someone who generally doesn’t bother.

    I came into this industry in the last four or five years and believe the community is there if you are part of the clique. Asking questions, showcasing design and code is great if your stuff is pretty bullet proof. If however, you are a professional but very much still on the steeper end of the learning curve engaging with the wider community is daunting mainly because the times you do, you find your design and code ripped to shreds by cocky individuals who seem to want to keep you out.

    So I don’t bother. I keep my Clients happy and I do my best. My design is probably not the best, my mark-up is not the leanest and neither is my css. It will get better because I enjoy it I think, not because anyone in the community has helped me directly (this does not mean I do not see and read all the great resources out there and am not grateful to the people who produce them – as they have helped me).

    I have not had great experiences contributing to the debate that’s all.

    Cheers rant over! I’m not really a sour-puss I guess I’ve just never got that off my chest!

  70. 86

    Great post. And the problem is not limited to your industry. It is a tsunami. I’m using the hashtag #signal2noise to highlight great examples, such as this article, of guidance on how we continually improve the content, and quality of discourse on content, in our respective domains, industries, etc. Spread the word!


  71. 87


    March 22, 2011 9:31 am

    Talking from my personal experience, in the past couple of years: there are so many changes in the web industry, new technology appearing all the time, etc that I find myself having less and less time to actually read comments that people post. Keeping myself up to date with everything new, work a full time job and have my own freelance clients takes most of my time. Maybe the issue is that the industry is evolving really fast and we need to dedicate more time to absorb it all in, hence we have little time to actually get involved in discussions and debates?

  72. 88

    I was a bit surprised to read that you feel there isn’t enough community in the web industry, and even more surprised to see so many people agreeing. This hasn’t been my experience at all. I’ve been in web for at least 15 years, and as I see it, there has never been more sense of community and active, intelligent sharing of knowledge, information and opinions than there is now.

    When it comes to any online forum, I admit I’m always a bit annoyed when I hear people say they don’t like the quality of discussion they are seeing. As Ghandi said, “You must BE the change you wish to see.” If you don’t like the discussion you’re getting, start one you do like.

    • 89

      Crystal Odenkirk

      March 28, 2011 9:12 am

      Commonly in discussions like this (not just about design community, but any community) I see a lot of comments at either extreme. “So dead” and also “Never better”, at the same time. And generally, I think both are accurate. The problem always seems to me not that there’s a lack of discussion, but that most people (myself included here) have no idea where the discussion that is worth having is happening. People tend to form community groups and within the group, things seem great. To people outside the groups, it seems dead. Perhaps those groups would be open to new members (though it seems many are not), but even the most open group won’t attract new people if the people on the outside don’t even know it’s there.

      So open question to anyone reading these comments: WHERE are these pockets of great community, also with great content of a varied and useful nature? Preferably, not the ones that are invite only or outsider-unfriendly. Simple blog comments generally don’t generate much in the way of actual discussion, just regurgitation of an opinion with no back and forth. Twitter and Facebook are generally blocked for most of us at work and at home we’re most likely busy with our families and friends with no extra time for random weeding through design blogs. So where to look?

  73. 90

    This begs the question: what is considered community? Locally, my web design community is astounding. I’m a board member for the local AIGA chapter, I volunteer time as a mentor for students at our local college and I participate in group critiques. Just because we work on the web doesn’t mean that my sense of community needs to come from the web. In fact, I find it much easier to have an impact in person than I do interfacing with a comment system.

    I blame dribbble for my loss interest in the online web community. I’m interested in critical feedback, not people fawning over my work. Drawar has been a good place for it, but even better, are the people in my town. I know the quality of their work so I can then trust their feedback – this compared to relatively anonymous visitors on a site.

    That aside, I don’t think the community is dying, just changing. The absolute pervasiveness of the internet in our lives has disillusioned us from a promised sense of community and driven us back what’s local and not virtual. Farmers markets are huge again. Buying local manufactured products is considered best-practice; it just makes sense to me that we are moving that way in our personal lives as well.

  74. 91

    You should probably make a big difference between community, the professional community (who never had any of the problems you mentioned above – it’s part of the game) or the public. What most people believe it’s design, it’s actually not. It’s pure bullcrap, photoshopped trends, that YOU as part of the public community, helped create.
    You don’t have new ideas sharing anymore, because the professionals realized just how dumb the public is. A designer (a REAL, university schooled, that can draw, that reads, that understands the visual arts in all its forms) will always have someone to talk to, to experience/share/discover with, new and interesting things. But as long as you, as an individual within the community, help create this giant mass of design trolls, you are responsible for the outcome. When common so called “web-design” sites use these troll to generate profit, by spreading mediocre informations, trends, most 100 *stuff* awesome amazing, the real deal (Sites that inform you, that can teach you, that value content over presentation etc) tend to be left away.
    You want the next step, progress, change of paradigm? Break the goddamn rules! And don’t need a community to support your idea. No major artist needed. He did not followed the community, it was the dumb public that followed him.
    So you want that old thing back? “Get buffed”, or move aside and let the other pass.

    • 92

      Well said, albeit a bit harsh. I like SM but it surely is a “cheap” blog, or so it was, things are improving. The same is true for nettuts and all those other popular web design magazines. They are part of the problem, as you rightfully put, they hardly teach design at all. They lure for traffic using populistic article titles and repeat the same design trends all over. As I said in another comment, design is being commoditized as a cheap off the shelf product and these sites have found a way to monetize it. Typically they own entire networks of such sites, including theme sites in which they promote this culture of copy and paste.

      And now we are surprised that the newcomers in the industry are not properly educated? They sites are to take an example from A List Apart, those are people that genuinely care about their craft, new and better ways, original content.

      This criticism is not for SM, it is for all the usual suspects, which includes SM. Again, SM is improving for the better and I am enjoying the more in-depth articles.

      • 93

        To make my point more clear:

        You do not list the 100 best color tools, you teach how to use color in your design.

        You do not showcase the top 500 dark web designs, you teach how to make one. How it relates to contrast, font selection, feel for spacing.

        You do not teach how to replicate OSx icons, you teach how to create depth in design, how you can consistently create the illusion of a light source.

        This is teaching design, and most magazines are doing a crappy job at it. While I’m ranting, there’s another opportunity: bleeding edge articles. How about some serious HTML5 canvas tutorials, that go beyond drawing a bloody circle. Or a full WebGL showcase? There’s plenty of things like that that you will find almost nowhere.

        • 94

          Totally agree with these points – well said.

        • 95

          But don’t you think there is place for that too? Granted, I am a real beginner, but I have found articles like “25 free fonts” or “50 Drupal themes” very helpful at the time. I learned how to create my own theme since then, but in the beginning you are just overwhelmed by the learning curve of the whole thing. I was glad to find something which seemed well made in the whole jungle, and that is how I actually started to read this magazine. Of course I understand it doesn’t help seasoned pro’s like yourself, but this kind of “populistic” articles can bring over some noobs to learn design more in-depth. Just my 2¢

  75. 96

    A well written article, my compliments. I think a few things are going on:

    – Fragmentation. The community has exploded and so have the amount of blogs, twitter accounts and other platforms to share. By the way, I don’t find Twitter a valid platform for discussion. It is hardly surprising that you will only find links there.

    – The industry as a whole has moved from experimental to delivery. A large majority of web sites and apps are not as innovative or groundbreaking as the ones you see on design blogs. Design is an afterthought or the cheapest possible solution is sought. It is being commoditized. Design of the shelf.

    – Just like in the IT industry in general, the industry attracts money seekers. They’re not here to stay, nor do they have a passion in design. You will be surprised how many programmers and designers never read blogs, books or visit conferences. They have outdated knowledge and just see it as a job that pays the bills. This ruins our industry.

    – The world is in an ugly place right now and you cannot exclude world events such as the economic crisis from the equasion. People are in survival mode.

  76. 97

    One more word to those new in the field or somehow insecure on publishing themselves. Don’t. Just write. It’s how everyone started. If you get nasty comments, that is good news, it means somebody is listening and you can learn from it. The writing itself is liberating and very educational. There is no better way to learn something as to teach someone else. Once you have a basic routine going, start to pick some fights. Experiment and write about a topic few or none have written about. I also highly encourage you to take on pet projects.

  77. 98

    4 things happened for me.

    1. Link bait articles by many of the design-centered blogs killed my interest in many design-centered blogs, and my main connection to the industry/community. I stopped going to them as much, then I stopped going to them altogether (this one included).

    2. Champions of design and code became authors and speakers. What used to be conversations about standards became conversations about waiting for a cab at the airport in whatever city.

    3. I had an early desire to work to become some sort of industry expert/internet famous kind of guy. I quickly got over that when I realized the work was more important then my ego.

    4. I think a lot of us reached maturity at the same time. There’s always more learning to be done, but most of that is independently done, and in specialized areas.

  78. 99


    March 22, 2011 1:54 pm

    At the end we all still have the same goal, but forgot that we are not alone.

  79. 100

    Long-winded blogs and comments are a big fat trend.

    I encourage everyone to be more concise with their words. Craft your intent into a potent flow of readability.

    Get me on the skim.. get me with bullets and headers.. with well formed info-graphics.. charts.. interactive demos.. get me with page layout.

    If you don’t get me, someone else will.

    ~The Use

  80. 101

    Ian Scheller

    March 22, 2011 3:00 pm

    I love this article because it expresses a passion that as the author states we haven’t been making time for.
    It can be difficult for some depending on their work environment. As these new technologies have proliferated the scene, not all make it a point to keep up with the lastest trends, or build a solid foundation before trying out new ones.
    Moreover, it is up to each and everyone of us to stand up for new principles and standards that work as we continue to learn about new ones that come to the forefront of our industry. It is all too easy to do something the “old” way, when it is being recommended from a senior member who did not start in this industry – we have to remember not all are students of the game – and they don’t have to be.

  81. 102

    Fabiana Simões

    March 22, 2011 5:19 pm

    I’ve seen a few comments that made the whole discussion seems like some sort of newcomers vs cool kids battle. I’m a newbie myself, but I guess that completely misses the point. In fact, I think that only harms the community even more.

    I think we’ve just been missing each other. Seems like we’re trying to engage in the community the same way we did years ago. That’s just not happening. Engaging in the community shouldn’t be something this painful, something you gotta force yourself to dedicate 10 minutes to. If it’s feels like this, then we’re just doing it wrong.

    I absolutely agree that we all should be more thoughtful about the community, but the 10 minutes a day solution just won’t work. Some will do it for a week. Some will do it for a month. Some might even be able to manage this for longer. But, getting real, the fact is that most of us will drop it at some point ’cause it just isn’t part of our (nowadays) daily routine. Not in a “natural” way.

    Even during the most over-scheduled week I see most still manage to check Twitter and Facebook accounts, but I feel like I can’t say the same about our favorite blogs. Actually, it’s from Twitter that we hear of most of the articles we’ve been reading. That’s why I love the hashtags solution. What if the big blogs finished their posts with something like “Follow this post in Twitter @ #blogabbr_whatevertopic”?

    I do agree that a 140 characters limit isn’t the best condition to raise in depth discussion, but I guess it’s better than no discussion at all (and if you have time to go deeper, we’ll always have comments). Also, this would really help finding spots of interesting discussion and raising awareness about what’s going on in the community, specially when you don’t have time to go over all blogs and stuff (which is pretty much what happens most of the time).

    That’s one way to go and there gotta be plenty more that we just haven’t figured out yet. The main point, I guess, is to make community part of our routine, ’cause the other way around just isn’t working.

  82. 103

    Lynn Cummings

    March 22, 2011 6:14 pm

    We’re busy working. There is only so much time in a day and any free time goes to my family. Very good article though.

  83. 104

    Gabriel Reiser

    March 22, 2011 6:19 pm

    This article is FANTASTIC! Very well written and covers some things that I have witnessed over the course of my 10 year foray in web design/development…

  84. 105

    Dave Grimes II

    March 22, 2011 7:46 pm

    The community has definitely been slacking lately, myself included. I’ve been so busy working on stuff for my own business I’ve been neglecting the forums throughout the web for sure. I’m going to hop back in and try to keep up.

    What can I say… your post was inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  85. 106

    Good article! Our experience in our 12 year old studio is there´s no time for everything, now it´s great time for co-workers. Thanks

  86. 107

    The webdesign spirit is gone where, true skills are gone for a time.
    Today most people in Agency’s using Plugins, CMS, Frameworks and Tutorials
    that they take from the World Wide Web without real compliance.

    Today you need to know xhtml and CSS – to style CMS System and copy FIles around, copy and paste is known as true work flow. PHP, Javascript or Flash are not realy needed more,.. Fast and “Cheep” Work.

  87. 108

    There was a big crowd developing windows native applications, then the internet came along and a lot of the good creative people moved into ‘web development’. There were still a lot of good developers, but the community didn’t have the fervor that it once did.

    Now there are ‘Apps’, it’s the new shiny thing, creative & talented people are frequently drawn to shiny things. There is still a lot of really good web developer talent out there, but any community is going to ebb and flow with its environment.

  88. 109

    Hi Vitaly,
    thx, your thoughts are all right. Many professional designers leave the community, specially discussions platforms. Why? OK, a lot of work. But I have 2 other theories: (1) Newbies are too lazy to search and ask the same questions. At some point you lose the desire to reply.

    And (2), “pseudo-professional” designers are pure killjoy. See Dr. Web in Germany… hab ich Recht? ;)

  89. 110

    I myself am a 26 year old professional web designer. I studied a multimedia degree in the UK but like most people, much of what I know has been self taught and self learned through books and online. I remember when in college if I needed help with something I would use one of the many forums out there, where people where usually more than ready to help out a novice and or student. Fast foward to today, and although I consider myself a professional, I’m by no means the finished article or greatest web designer on the planet. I still look for lots of help online, however one thing I noticed is that, when Smashingmag introduced its forum I tried to ask some people some questions on there on a couple of occasions, and the general response was one of disdain, either you wouldn’t get a reply and those that did were more concerned with the ‘online politics’ that seem to go in a forum. For exmaple, because I’d written thread, and then added to it before anyone replied, somebody only bothered to comment to tell me how rude I was to keep spamming the message board with what I felt was a legitimate question asking for help on a particular subject. I think people are too busy blogging and leaving useless comments than, trying to actually help a guy out.

    I think too many web designers put themselves on a pedestal, far too quick to ridicule something or someone rather than contribute or help someone out!

    • 111

      Had I had the time, or brain power yesterday, this is almost exactly what I should have written in my original comment.

      I especially like the, ‘pedestal’ point. Interestingly enough I am 28 and wonder if it is our, ‘generation’, that are feeling this most?

  90. 112

    These are all things that are definitely true about the current design community – and unfortunately, as a young student, I never really got the chance to experience the design community when it was new, exciting, and more of a community.

    I think it’s really important that designers learn to become more receptive to others, especially students, because it makes it rather difficult to break into the industry if we aren’t offered any help by those who came before us.

  91. 113

    Over the past several years the web design community has become fragmented by specialization. When I first began building and designing websites in 2001 we were all still web designers. In 2011 rarely will someone describe themselves as a “web designer.” Instead they’re a “user-experience designer” or a “front-end-developer” or an “interactive designer” or a ” web developer” and the list goes on. This fragmentation has created specialized communities populated by “experts.” If you’re not an expert in a particular area of web design, you’re less likely to contribute to the conversation. Instead you leave it to the experts and only observe the conversation for the latest information. I don’t think this is a good thing.

    Web design is exciting because it bridges the gap between design and technology. This is what makes web designers unique. We’re on the forefront of the merging of art and science, design and technology. Not only is specialization breaking apart our community, it is also fragmenting this exciting development in the realm of creativity.

    We need to embrace the concept of being hybrid designers with the goal of pursuing a deep understanding of both design and technology. We all need to be expert user-experience designers, user interface designers, web developers, graphic designers, content strategists, interactive designers, artists etc. under the umbrella of “web design.” You don’t see print designers or architects trying to endlessly redefine themselves or separate themselves into specialized groups.

    To quote Robert A. Heinlein, “specialization is for insects.”

    Let’s all become web designers again.

  92. 114

    I take issue with so many people out there calling themselves a “professional web designer”. There was a time when that actually meant something.
    Today, anyone who downloads a free 30 day version of CS5 web premium then re-skins a wordpress, joomla, or drupal theme and publishes it as their own work will self title themselves as a professional web designer. They think of a catchy new ‘profile name’ and design a cool avatar in Illustrator so they can subscribe to various blogs, newsletters or post their concepts on feedback sites.

  93. 115

    On top of all the other reasons mentioned in the article, time most importantly, we should also acknowledge that it is pretty much impossible to have a discussion even if you would want it.

    Take this SM article. It has 106 comments. The article is lengthy. If I were to properly analyze it, consider its pros and cons, and then do the same for all comments, it would take me hours. The size of a discussion is not infinitely scalable. It becomes unmanagable soon. In business, it is recommended to not have more than 8 people in a meeting, preferably not more than 3 if it concerns a discussion. Here we have dozens.

    Plus, it is not conversational. I could post a comment here. Then I have to come back (which could be hours later), to see if somebody responded. In the meanwhile, the entire discussion may have changed and move on to another level. You simply cant have rich discussions on a popular blog and Twitter is even worse.

    The only thing I want to suggest is for people to stop making comments that are meaningless. I’m not saying mine are great but I don’t want to scroll through enormous lists of “great job”, “well done” looking for a comment with actual content in it. If you like something, like it, or vote on it, but please dont say it.

  94. 116

    Well, if you are really excited about what is happening, start from your Smashing Network. Sorry for saying bad things, but half of the feed is junk and bullshit.

    And the whole thing is sad but true. The web design community has gone posting in their blog yet another “10/20/30 things/pictures/logos to inspire/tutor/something-else”.

  95. 117

    Jens Grochtdreis

    March 23, 2011 11:05 am

    Hi Vitaly,

    thank you for this lengthy piece. As a spokesman of the German webstandards-community I want to discuss some of your thoughts. I cannot discuss all of them, as it would be a too lengthy answer.

    I don’t see the present as dark as you do.

    You look for leaders and claim, that they are all busy. Well, the old discussion-leaders are busy and resigned years ago. There is seldom any real input by Eric Meyer, Dave Shea, Molly Holzschlag, Zeldman or the like. All those heroes of the past had their time. Now is another time. And I personally don’t miss them.

    Today the most heard voices are from browser- and search-engine-evangelists, Javascript specialists and webdesign-magazines. The actual heroes are Chris Heilmann, Bruce Lawson, Paul Irish and some others. We moved from a few influential blogs to a huge ecosystem of knowledge and discussion. And this ecosystem is alive and in constant change. Maybe in a month there will be a “new kid on the block” who thrills us with good articles, good tutorials, good demos, good ideas. And as this ecosystem is so vast there are no real leaders anymore.

    Readers on the other hand may have not been professionalised, like all the authors have. Often I read articles about a very old topic which receives excited comments. Or there are articles about YUI where half of the commentors claim jQuery to be super-cool. Not-so-intelligent readers don’t disappear.

    Everything in our business is now more professional. There are hundreds of conferences around the globe all year. Many of these talks are delivered as mp3 or the slides are on slideshare. That is great and it feeds our knowledge. There are more and more books published and fortunately there are more and more books for specialists and pros.

    Real discussions are not easy. We have much more magazines and blogs than “in the old days”. So where to focus? On Smashing or CSS-Tricks or Nettuts or dev.opera or dev.mozilla or …?

    Waht drives me more nuts than any possible loss of discussion is the lack of professionalism in many articles and examples. There are many articles about jQuery that don’t care about a correct, semantic HTML or about a really useful example. You can even find those strange codes in books. And there are many CSS3- or HTML5-demos out there, that are nearly without use/sense or aren’t what they claim to be.

    I think we can indetify a lack of patience and professionalism out there. Many people ask querstions without researching the topic in the first place. And if the presented solution doesn’t fit perfectly many “developers” aren’t capable of customizing the solution to their needs.

    You write “We need more meaningful and helpful discussions within our community”. Well, we have those discussions, but the are ignored because the noise of all those blogs and magazines is so loud. And on the other hand did we have good and effective discussions in the past. It is unlikely that young developers will use layout-tables and it is more and more likely, that those young developers care about accessibility. But there is a small and very influential habitat in a parallel-universe that influences all our debates: the W3C and the WHATWG.

    Not long ago the W3C’s HTML5-group claimed that there should be a role=”layout” for a table in HTML5. Those guys are killing the effects of years of discussion and promotion by the webstandards-community. This is awfull and they should be ashamed. But I guess they don’t get it.

    Time gets faster and faster. You realized it in your article yourself. I myself write fewer posts in my blog than I did three or four years ago. And for reading it is worse. About two years ago I nearly quitted reading rss-feeds, because I get more links than I can read via Twitter. So the techniques and services we use change and they have an effect. Many discussions that could take place in blog are now held via twitter. So twitter has both a positive and a negative effect on our community.

    You are right that high-end infos are rare and tend to be ignored because of all those fancy CSS3-jQuery-HTML5-thingies. It’s a shame but it is not unusual. It is like the real life where the tabloid papers get more readers and attention than the intelligent newspapers.

    I think we have a few real “problems”.
    1. We have a huge information-ecosystem.
    2. Twitter focusses discussions and informations.
    3. The number of half-educated “pros” is rising. And many of them don’t like to think and research by themselves.
    4. Many code-examples (and jQuery-plugins and CMS-plugins and …) on the web are pure rubbish and nobody tells it to the developers and readers.
    5. There are no real groups that focus attention. We are a huge bunch of individuals.
    6. The W3C doesn’t care a bit about what the webstandards-community does and thinks. And this although we are the supporters that are teaching the standards they create. There is no cooperation between the W3C and the community.

  96. 118

    Kristine Jubeck

    March 23, 2011 1:54 pm

    Wow, THANK YOU for this article. I have felt the void in meaningful discussion, and was not in the web industry early on to experience the original sense of community that you describe. I’ve tried to start up my own discussions with a minor amount of success ( and I gobble up anything I can to learn more about processes and best practices, so thanks for the links to several wonderful sites.

  97. 119

    Scott Richardson

    March 23, 2011 4:17 pm

    Doesn’t help that you have countless Indian ‘off-shore’ cheap-ass web development/SEO/PPC companies turning quality web design into the MacDonalds of web design. They completely devalue what we’re trying to do by bastardising and downplaying what it is that makes what we do important.

  98. 120

    Part of what has made me a bit wary of joining in too much with the community is basically because the kinds of websites I make aren’t the kind that the community would look twice at – not that they’re bad at all, just that it’s e-commerce where being “edgy and daring” is a very dangerous thing to do. I just re-launched one of my sites and all I got from some of the web designers I know was “It’s not very edgy” or “it’s a bit traditional”.

    Basically, the site is very good at what it does, makes people feel safe when buying and makes a ton of money, but all it gets is ridicule from the web community because it doesn’t “break any rules”. It just became clear over time that the kinds of sites which win design awards and get featured in “top 10 prettiest sites” type countdowns aren’t the ones that actually work. I’ve tried multivariate and A/B tests on some of my sites to incorporate what could be considered “edgy and daring content” and the result was that sales bombed!

    It’s therefore a bit difficult for me to engage with a community who seem to be so far from reality when it comes to actually maintaining gainful employment in the web industry. Just adding the caviat though that this is clearly not *all* of the community :) I have met many like minded developers over the years and you’re lovely.

    • 121

      Really pleased now I’ve read some more comments that it’s not just me that thinks this :)

    • 122

      Scott Richardson

      March 24, 2011 1:19 am

      Well said Mike. If I could add, that whenever I have tried to be more edgy/arty/out of the box, my clients haven’t liked it as much as being more ‘standard’.

      • 123

        i have a story from my University days, decades ago, that speaks to this. I was the designer of most of the posters for concerts and events. I was quite ‘edgy’, doing things like triangular and 3d posters, but mostly I made simple effective pieces of marketing.

        Someone decided to get a poster made by one of the best fine artists on campus. The poster was so beautiful that it was consistently stolen, and so artistic that it was unreadable. In frustration the events chairman came to me for a solution. What we did was to paste a very plain helvetica sticker diagonal over the pretty posters we put up to make them readable and not worth stealing. We also sold the original artistic poster to those who wanted them.

        The artist was initially appalled at what we had done, until he found out that he was getting a cut of the sales.

        So by all means, do edgy work when you get a chance, like on your hobby site, but as a professionl you are paid to sell your client’s product. If it’s insurance or banking edgy is probably not what they want.

    • 124

      Crystal Odenkirk

      March 28, 2011 9:33 am

      Maybe what we need, Mikey, is a community for those of us with corporate clients and employers who are more interested in pleasing our clients, making it work for their users, and getting it through committee, than with being the most bleeding edge designer ever. I mean, I like new, cutting edge design as much as anyone but at this point I spend my day dealing with legacy code and making sure nothing’s broken in ie 6 and 7 because that’s what my users are using, both internal and external. It would be great if there was a place for folks like us to congregate and commiserate and help each other.

      Maybe instead of opining that we need such a thing, I should just start one myself…

  99. 125

    There is something painfully contradictory about writing, “We way too easily consume and accept ideas, designs, concepts out there, sometimes without even questioning their validity and correctness.”

    All the while, most of these comments are just nods of agreement.

    Personally, I think you make some good points, but I disagree strongly with the general sentiment of your article.

    The design community, both web and traditional, debates and makes efforts to band together – almost to an annoying degree.

    Weapons of Mass Creation, Design Chat (#dcth) every Thursday, Creative Mornings, Design Chat with Ryan McGovern, and the bajillion debate panels at SXSWi are just a few of the discussions I’m aware of and I’m sure there’s more.

    From localized meet-up groups to lively debates on Twitter surrounding people like @angrypaulrand… the discussion is there.

    Right now, I’m part of AIGA Chicago’s Mentor Group (another instance!), and I’m really shocked by people’s lack of awareness that there are solid and very real efforts within our community to dialogue and connect.

    Honestly, if you’re not already spending 30 minutes to an hour trying to connect with the industry, you’re going to fail to the wayside like all those complacent traditional designers who are struggling to learn web right now just to feed themselves.

    Our industry and careers require us all to stay on top of what we do and what others are doing. It’s about relevancy – find it.

    If the idea of networking and building a community from it is novel… all I can say is wow.

    As another poster said, I could come back and check the comments for your replies to continue this as a conversation, but I probably won’t.

    An inherent flaw of trying to start a community via a threaded forum that isn’t built for continuous conversation.

    • 126

      Vitaly Friedman

      March 24, 2011 7:34 am

      I respect your opinion, Sharlene, but I am afraid that those discussions have become invisible. Maybe there is too much noise or maybe it’s just that most discussions take place offline, or maybe I am not following the right people — I do not know; but in my discussions with my colleagues, readers and designers I had the same feeling that people feel disconnected from the large community. I am afraid that many designers do not participate in discussions any more, and that’s too bad. But again, I am talking from my personal experience. I am very happy to hear that it’s different for you!

  100. 127

    Just read through your list of designers who produce awesome web work. Correct me if I am wrong, but are there any women on your list?

  101. 128

    @Vitaly: Great article. I’m glad Smashing is working on how to make these conversations more meaningful. It’s ironic how the more participation increases the lower quality our conversations become.

    @Samantha: You are right, Vitaly didn’t list any female designers in his list. There are some great ones out there like Jina Bolton, Veerle Pieters, and Meagan Fisher. Do you know of others? Please share.

    • 129

      Jina and veerle are not great designers, just popular ones. Again, same old names banded around. Yawn. What about Paula Scher?

  102. 130

    Thierry Meier

    March 25, 2011 3:34 pm

    Excellent article and often, oh so, true. I am a rookie myself and would love to see more interessting discussions (or shall I say, I’d love to know where they take place) to learn from and of course communicate my thoughts as well, especially since the web design community here in Switzerland isnt that large, open-minded and communicative.

  103. 131

    Joseph McCullough

    March 26, 2011 3:11 pm

    For a publication that is supposedly anti-bandwagon, you sure have a lot of band-wagoners. Is it the anti-bandwagon bandwagon?

    Thanks for the yearly “The community is dead” article, smashing. My life was feeling incomplete without it.

  104. 132

    Mike Edward Moras (e-sushi™)

    March 26, 2011 3:49 pm

    Where we have gone?

    Simple: leaving the forums, abandoning the blogs, minimizing our info on one-page websites that are hard to discover in the mass of twitter-alike information spit out by the big search engine beasts… we’re simply trying to avoid the noob tsunami, heading over to that thing called “undistracted work”, concentrating on our personal capitalistic health.

    Why are you asking? You’re missing our free content, brilliant designs and cool tips so you can reblog them here? Sorry, that party is over indeed. Welcome to web 3.0! ;)

    • 133

      You were a noob once. Congrats on perpetuating the ever increasing barrier to entry.

      It’s people like this who think they are better than “noobs” that create a hostile community.

      The community isn’t all dead, but isn’t really a place you’d want to hang out.

  105. 134

    Maybe Graphic Designers, Art Directors, etc., are tired of programming, developing applications, i myself had a problem at work because now Flash is all about OOP, and im not a programmer. Maybe we should leave the discussion for developers, web developers (not web designers) and make a rational division of tasks. Maybe we should leave that progress to the ones who know what to do, with a logical approach, and designers occupy time in what they best do, design and illustrate (even animate), with an artistic approach.

    So, for the spirit of the article, maybe web design community is focusing on things like, breathing, relaxing, designing, and working, trying to live life without losing their brains in learning things they dont need. What would happen if Rembrandt was more interested in developing a new brush than painting?

    Maybe we are painting now, so don´t bother waiting.

  106. 136

    Ramsez Stamper

    March 28, 2011 6:59 am

    The community is there, but i agree that more often than not designers are prone to kiss each other’s asses more than necessary.
    I’m a developer and as such i’ve worked with multiple designers and I have rarely found one who can look at their own designs objectively and say “wow, i really messed up on this one”. As a programmer, we always know when we mess up….someone goes “dude, you messed up, it doesn’t work”. (now, it doesn’t matter that they’re running IE4 on windows NT3 or something, we get the blame ;) )

    The best community for web folk (designers and programmers should work together, not separately) is hands down. I read interesting new posts and questions every day and learn something new almost every day. It helps us keep up with new trends, because let’s face it, if you don’t keep up , you become obsolete pretty quickly in our industry. It’s just the way it works, mainly because the web has become tied in with the fast-moving, ever-changing pop culture of today. Of course, i agree with some of the comments above that following every new trend gets you nowhere, so i pick and choose what to do, in the end, the things that make it big are the ones we MUST get into whether we like em or not (twitter, facebook are two prime examples), the rest fade away pretty quickly.

    The community exists, and it’s alive an well in small hubs like forrst and dribble. The people who are active on those sites are all passionate about our craft. If you are passionate too, go where the passionate people are. They are invite only to weed out the people who sign up, hang out for a week, and forget about the whole thing. They want people who live and breathe this stuff, and that’s what I think is what makes them great hubs for web folk.

    My two cents.

  107. 137

    Joseph Rooks

    March 31, 2011 8:03 pm

    The web design community has never been, and will never be, one massive, cohesive behemoth of people with the same viewpoints and practices.

    If you want community, I suggest you hand-pick a dozen people you’d really like to collaborate with, and make your own community. Nothing professional is going to spring up and then let just anyone waltz into it.

    A real community takes more investment, more intentionality, more accountability than simple “openness” affords.

  108. 138

    Well, your article can be resumed to one thing: The Eternal September.

    Quoting Wikipedia:

    “In 1993, the online service America Online began offering Usenet access to its tens of thousands, and later millions, of users. To many “old-timers”, these “AOLers” were far less prepared to learn netiquette than university students. This was in part because AOL made little effort to educate its users about Usenet customs, or explain to them that these new-found forums were not simply another piece of AOL’s service. But it was also a result of the much larger scale of growth. Whereas the regular September freshman influx would soon settle down, the sheer number of new users now threatened to overwhelm the existing Usenet culture’s capacity to inculcate its social norms.”

    People forgot Netiquette. By that I mean the online culture of posting really useful information, or to help each other, to contribute, collaborate, behave, etc.

    Let me put it this way, if you open the door of your university, house or business without any restrictions, you end up with a mess, you need to open that to at least people interested in learning. Another example: Back in the old days people learned photography and then they started to develop a style. Now that everybody can buy a dsrl for 600 usd and read some blogs about Photoshop tips, everybody is a “talented” photographer, even if they don’t have a clue about concept, storytelling and personal vision.

    So it’s happening, web 2.0, the internet for the people, where everybody can be a Nobel prize writer (at least in their heads) if they open a blogger/wp site. The web 2.0 is touching the Eternal September, the eternal generation of garbage, the growing for the sake of growing.

    Psychologists are saying that too much choice doesn’t free us, it numbs us. As is happening with the market, is happening with communities that seem to dissolve because they are to big to be “communities”.

    My two cents.

  109. 139

    This may or may not go for the entire industry but as a web developer, things like wordpress, jquery, etc have ruined the industry. Yes, while making the overall job of a developer easier, its also introducing many of “non developers” into the developer scene.

    Before, you needed to know sound javascript principles, OOP and be a competent “programmer”, now all you need to know is how to download a plugin.

    Before you needed to know how to sculpt a proper min-width flexible layout, now all you need to know is how download a theme.

    I know this may sound like an elitist going on a rant, but think about it. Before you needed to really dive into the industry and learn learn learn to be proficient. Now all you need to do is learn how to modify a few scripts, themes, and plugins.

    Where I work now, they interviewed 10 different “developers” and I was the only one who could properly answer why “prototyping in javascript is ‘bad'”. Though I don’t personally agree with that, I could answer it and give my opinion on it because I actually know Javascript, not just jQuery.

  110. 140

    I think that leaving the page 47 answer out causes me to leave the next film (if there is to be one) out of my list of movies to go to.hellooo writers or editors.. either wrap everything up in the same movie of leave it on the cutting room floor.

  111. 141

    The real “community” disappeared when BB forums were replaced by “Web 2.0” and “social media”. Forums allowed for so much more interaction between designers. Now, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogs, Gallery sites etc., are all based on “Comments” left which usually contain nothing but ass-kissing, mindless praise with replies like “Cool!” or “I like it”.

    I miss forums immensely. Sadly, the days of 1000+ active users on a design forum are gone.

  112. 142

    Raquel Rodriguez

    March 15, 2012 4:32 pm

    Thanks for these resources! Look very promising for teaching me a thing or two.

  113. 143

    Ivan Tolmachev

    March 18, 2012 8:53 pm

    Wonderful, simply wonderful article. And several resources I might as well follow from now on :)


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