As one who is interested in design, I find reading design sites, and design blogs to be a wonderful way to gather information and inspiration. I am filled with a hunger for knowledge in this field, everything from typography to color to layouts to best practices and standards. Therefore, I love to read sites that are written by well-known designers and bloggers who have been around for a while and have a lot of experience. But, sometimes I run across a site (or a dozen) that claims to be “pro” but just follows the same pattern all the other “pro” sites follow. These days, with so many “design” sites doing so many of the same things, it almost makes it seem like “more of the same” can be – and is – a recipe for success. Let me break down why I think there are so many sites first:
- The market is flooded with graphic designers (but how many of them are really good at what they do?)
- Online work, freelancing, graphic design, and webdesign are growing very quickly these days (especially in a struggling economy where people turn to whatever they can to make ends meet)
- Pirated and downloaded software for design makes it so anyone can do what only professionals – who could afford it in the past – can do
- Everyone wants a “cool” website, including companies, and professional and private organizations (so the demand is there as well)
- Blogging has been proven to be profitable if you can get enough page views for advertisers to want to place their ads on your blog
- So, design blogs – with thousands of “designers” searching for them everyday – will get tons of page views and therefore generate tons of revenue (or expect to)
Now, let me describe the elements that are common among so many “design” sites these days:
- A sleek, Web 2.0 template (I’m sure many of them are templates, because they all look the same)
- A dazzling header that says “I can design!”
- A sweet Web 2.0 or “expert” web address or site title (Something like “designerexpert.com” or “sweetdesignresources.com”)
- Links to all the social networks (from where they propagate links to their posts)
- Advertisements in boxes (almost always boxes it seems) in the right hand column (actually, most ads are the same across design sites)
- List posts (like “The Top 20 Design Resources Today” or “15 Ways to Raise Your Pay” or “Design Trends of Movie Websites”)
- Tutorial posts (basically, “This is how to use your software better”)
- FREE Resources and Downloads (obviously, you need to drive traffic there to get advertisers to pay right?)
- Book reviews by experts in the design field (to establish your own credibility – critique someone’s book who is credible – makes you sound more credible, right?)
- A lot of cool other links, in a large footer, or another page
But beyond these annoying consistencies in all these cookie-cutter design sites, are a few more annoyances:
- Have you ever Google-searched for some kind of design resource – say, a brush – only to find that Google’s top 10 or 20 search results turn up the same brush? (albeit posted in different ways on different “design” sites)
- Have you ever been auto-followed by someone on Twitter because you happened to post an article or link with one of the keywords they were looking for? (That’s crazy annoying to me. Yes, I see you’re following 10,000 people. No, I’m not going to “follow-back” so you can annoy me with your worthless list posts)
- Have you ever been on an “expert” website that is run by a 20-something kid? How much of an expert can you be? True, many of those sites do have good info, (I’m not only bashing 20-somethings) but I wouldn’t label myself a “22-year old expert graphic designer” or anything. I think there needs to be a little more life experience to prove your “expertise.”
- Another annoyance, though not entirely related with design, is “social media experts.” What is a “social media expert” exactly? Someone who knows what Twitter and Facebook are and how to use them? Is there any quantifiable way to measure “social media expertise?” I’m not trying to bash all social media experts here, because there genuinely exist a few. But, when reading through dozens of Twitter profiles and nearly all of them say something like, “Dad, husband, chef, cook, AND social media expert!” it really makes me wonder.
So, what does the design community need?
- Content. Substance. Not cookie-cutter sites that all try to copy the few very successful incarnations of design resource sites.
- Originality. Show me something that makes me say “Woah! Seriously?” Not, “Great, another new ‘design’ site. Seriously…” As designers, your work should stand out from the crowd, not blend in with it.
- Usefulness. I.E. Tell me something I don’t know. Show me something I don’t know. Give me something I don’t have. Not another “X Somethings Y Should Have” Post. Teach me with originality, not sameness.
- Design Fundamentals. Too many sites post tutorials ONLY that let me know how to use my software, but not how to actually design something. Software can only take you so far. What happens if the software fails. And where are the underlying design principles behind all the Web 2.0 glittering, glistening magic? Don’t show me what to do with my software. Teach me how to think for myself so I can invent my own graphic effects.
- Freshness. Seriously. I want something that will keep me coming back for more, and keep me hooked. I want to eagerly anticipate the next entry on your blog, because it combines good design, with great content, and relevant images. I don’t want to glance up at my Twitter and Facebook pages and think, “Ahh really? 15 more somethings?” or “No way, are those icons really free? Again?”
What do you think?