Has Dribbble gone flat?

Dribbble is an online sounding board for creatives ranging from web designers to illustrators. Once invited to be a player, a designer can show-off small shots of what they’ve been working on. There’s no real guidelines there.  The shots can be of projects or personal pieces that are at any point in the design process.  Once the shot has been uploaded, members of the dribbble community can then view it and potentially like the shot, add it to a bucket or leave the designer some feedback.

Since Dribbble launched in 2009 the community and site have grown quite a bit.  With this growth there have been constant, but subtle updates to the site’s offering and UX.  Just recently for example, Dribbble announced that they have expanded their staff and will continue to push the vision and feature set of their site forward.

However, the progress of Dribbble as a start-up has created some negative perceptions from longtime Dribbble members and the site has even negative perceptions from those that have yet to be invited.

Some feel the site is nothing more than a giant ego-stroke among a few select members.  Being an invite only based website doesn’t particularly help matters. Regardless of that fact, Dribbble finds itself an invite only service for scalability reasons rather than to be an exclusive club. That unfortunately isn’t always understood among the Dribbble community.

Some have voiced concerns that they have found the quality of the shots to have gone downhill.  It’s hard to argue that when some members purposefully post shots that are skewed, run through filters, are strangely angled shots of their actual monitors/work spaces instead of a posting ‘actual pixels’.

Some have taken issue with the fact that it can seem difficult to receive meaningful feedback to their shots, if they indeed receive any feedback at all.

So is there merit to these criticisms?

Of course there is.

But has Dribbble lost its way?

No. It hasn’t.

User expectations

As dribbble states on their about page:

“Dribbble is a place to show and tell, promote, discover, and explore design.”

Dribbble still does these key points, and quite well. The problem isn’t that dribbble has lost it’s way.  It’s that the community’s expectations and behaviors have gradually changed over time.  Some of these behaviors are not for the better and may be what’s hurting dribbble’s image.

So what needs to be done here? How can the perception be changed?

Temper your expectations and re-evaluate what you expect from Dribbble to begin with.

If you’re looking to join Dribbble, focus on doing great work and keeping your portfolio up to date. Don’t beg and plead for invites. Joining Dribbble won’t instantly make you a design superstar and if you’re work is genuinely good enough, an invite won’t be far away.

Use Dribbble as a means to gather inspiration for your own projects.  See what’s trending and if you want to follow that trend, or avoid it like the plague. Create rebounds to test out your own ideas on a shot. Don’t just rehash other’s work and really try to add something new. If you’re just recreating the same thing with slightly different colors (iOS7 icons anyone?) then actual inspiring work gets pushed aside to make room for “please-oh-please-oh-please look at me too” shots.

Are you tired of seeing shots that consist more of a ’tilted iPhone run through an instagram filter’ rather than an actual shot of the UI? Don’t just complain about them on Twitter. Instead give critical feedback that “these kind of shots don’t show off the work in a meaningful way.”  The shots on Dribbble won’t get better until people as individuals and as a community start calling people out on these kind of attention grabbing shots with little substance.

How to get more feedback

Dribbble is great for showing off bits of your work but there is absolutely no requirement that users have to leave you any kind of feedback. If you’re specifically using Dribbble to get feedback on your designs, then you’re going to have to work for it. Start giving feedback and comments out yourself. After enough engagement with others, they will start engaging back with you. You can’t expect people to flock to your shots to leave comments when you don’t do the same for others.

None of these ideas are ground breaking or even beyond the realm of common sense. 

In the end, Dribbble is just a forum.  It’s the community that has the power to make the atmosphere of Dribbble better or worse. To conclude, no, Dribbble has not lost it’s way, some members of the community just need to own up to the fact that they’re upset with behavior that they’re happy to complain about and not doing anything to fix.

  • Written by Scott O'Hara

  • Scott is a designer and front-end developer based just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He has been working as a professional designer since 2003 and specializes in product design, CSS, and responsive web design.
  • welcomebrand

    I actually don’t think Dribbble has gone flat, sure, there are people getting a lot of likes and work by gaming it a bit and churning out some junk stuff that will never see the light of day but actually Dribbble hasn’t changed its core mission/offering and that’s simply as a place to post snippets of what you’re working on.

    You’re not asked to post context (although you can), there’s no requirement to ask for or give feedback on a shot (although you can) and like many services where you can tailor exactly what you see in your stream by following only the people you want to, there’s no scope for getting pissed off about seeing stuff that you don’t want to because you’re the one picking what you see.

    In short, I don’t think it’s broken because it’s doing exactly what it says its objective you quoted above. It’s peoples expectations of it being a feedback platform of some sort that is broken.

    • Scott O’Hara

      Thanks for the reply!

      I obviously agree with everything you just said. I personally think it’d be nicer if there was less “gaming” of dribbble going on. But overall, as we’ve both said now, I think it’s stayed pretty true to the core mission.

      I find it a great place to get inspiration (mostly from the illustrators i’ve followed on there), and I like to give them as much feedback as I can. But I have found myself using the site less and less lately (at least since writing this article). Not because I’m sick of it at all, but more because I have work to be doing that isn’t really thumbnail appropriate.

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