As a designer you should not be scared to seek help. Not for your mental issues, but instead for feedback on your work in progress.
In a previous article I focused on ‘keeping clients in the loop’ with design progress, and I also very briefly touched on seeking out fellow designers and asking them for constructive criticism. In recent months, two design communities, Dribbble and Forrst, have begun making this search very simple.
Why should you use these services and what are the two options like?
Why Dribbble and Forrst are so helpful
The basic premise of both Dribbble and Forrst is to allow designers to share work-in-progress with other designers. It is made very simple for the other designers to give feedback on the work and hopefully give ideas on how to improve it.
Personally, I find these communities have really improved my design work in the few short months I have been participating. Not only have I received loads of really helpful feedback, but the swathes of uploads from other designers serve as amazing inspiration.
Looking closely at other people’s work and trying to provide feedback can also improve you as a designer. By taking the time to look at the detail in other people’s work, you notice areas where they could improve, which later down the line could improve your work.
So how exactly do these communities work?
Similarities between the communities
Dribbble was the first to start and employed an invite only method of growing the community. This made invites highly sought after increasing the reputation of the site. Forrst first emerged a few months ago and has also used an invite only system.
So you can’t just sign up to these services, however, Forrst does allow you to register your interest with the creators. Instead, you will have to seek out current users who might have a few invites to give out. If you’re lucky enough to gain an invite, be sure to make the most of it.
Both services include a quick and easy ‘like’ feature that enables users to inform the designer that they think their work is great. This is a good way to gauge how many people are impressed with your work and gives you great pleasure every time the numbers go up. While this is a nice feature to have, it really doesn’t help nearly as much as receiving feedback. I’d give up all of my ‘likes’ for one great critique.
Both sites also employ a feature that allows you to ‘follow’ other users. Following people brings their work up in its very own update feed allowing you to pay specific attention to their interactions. Personally, I’m not too interested in following people within these sites. I’m not concerned who posted the design, as long as I have something to say or admire about the piece, I will comment. When browsing the numerous uploads, I prefer to choose the ‘latest upload’ option, which allows me to see everything I want to.
Both communities share similarities, however, it is their differences that mean both will continue to thrive. Here’s a little look at their comparative strengths.
A little about Dribbble
Dribbble has attracted some world renowned designers from many genres of design. The standard of their work is extremely good, making Dribbble a great place to find inspiration and explore other ideas. This isn’t to say every upload on Dribbble is to the same quality but in general the best work on Dribbble is better than the best on Forrst.
Dribbble has also restricted uploads to only 400 x 300 pixels, which means most uploads are of small section of detail from a much larger design. This has led to a greater focus on pixel perfect work and is great for people looking to learn about the small details.
As I mentioned earlier, Dribbble started first and is therefore a much larger community than Forrst currently is. This means there is always new work to look through and talk about and far more activity on the site as a whole.
Overall, I think Dribbble is a brilliant place to find inspiration, however, its size means that as a new user it is now very difficult to gain any traction within the community. The biggest names have so many followers that it is nearly always their work that is promoted to the ‘popular uploads’ list, which seems to be the list that gets the most views.
I have uploaded 4 different pieces of work and only one of them has received any feedback at all. If your work isn’t amazing it seems no one on there wants to help. Seemingly, it’s more of a place to pat other users on the back for already great work instead of supplying helpful feedback on how things could be improved.
A little about Forrst
The biggest difference between Dribbble and Forrst is what you can upload. On Dribbble they have focused on the visual side, while on Forrst you have the additional options to upload links, code snippets and questions. This seems to have attracted a higher percentage of web designers.
Instead of restricting users to 400 x 300 pixel uploads like Dribbble, Forrst has a feature to ‘view original’ uploads. This means a lot more uploads are of whole designs, allowing you to take in the context of the whole piece. Some users still choose to only show small sections of their work, which is equally accepted. It’s nice to have the freedom to upload any size you want.
The final, and in my opinion, most important difference between the two websites is the greater sense of community that is evident on Forrst. Every piece of design I have uploaded has received numerous comments and excellent feedback that has helped me to improve on the original concepts. I’m not sure what the reason is for it, but Forrst has managed to cultivate a group of people who want and are willing to give out advice from others.
I can’t recommend seeking design feedback enough. For some reason certain designers struggle to put their work in progress out there for review. It may be because design is such a subjective thing or maybe because some designers feel personally attached to their work. Whatever the reason you should get over this hump and I promise you, your work will improve. Who wouldn’t want that?
However, as I previously mentioned, these communities are invite only, which means you will have to go and find some nice people who are willing to put their neck out and invite you to join them.
Luckily, I have 2 invites to Forrst available to you lucky readers. However, these will not be given out lightly; I want to ensure the standard of work on Forrst stays high. So if you would like to be considered for an invite, all I would ask is that you post a comment below, including a link to your portfolio, and if I find anyone I think would improve the community, the invite will be yours. There’s no closing date, it will be open until I have no more invites left.