Let’s Face It, Dribble Is Design Porn

A part of me hates Dribble. For good reasons.

But it also makes me feel good when I see this.

A “Daily UI Challenge” on Dribble

AH. It’s so soft and fuzzy. It feels nice. But… What are the numbers underneath the city name? I have to bring my laptop up close to my eyes to read them.

Poor legibility, that’s bad design. And then, what are the numbers next to the current temperature: are they the previous and next hour’s temperature, or the previous and next day’s temperature?

Who knows? The truth is, it doesn’t matter. None of it is real.* Dribble is about likes and lies. The images are designed to look like real-life apps, but once you look closely, you start to realize they couldn’t possibly be real.

For example, take the lovely blue themed image below. It looks like a real app UI, doesn’t it? But then, consider this. Would a real app choose to showcase its “immense speed” with a picture of a hot air balloon?

An experience called “Onboarding”

The more you think, the worse it gets (also like porn). Onboarding is about introducing new users to a service by quickly explaining how to use it. This, in turn, requires complete sentences of an instructional nature, and imagery referencing parts of your UI. Here, there are just 2 words in each screen, and random giant images.

What’s the problem?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with practicing your visual design skills like this. The problem lies in the misunderstanding (many have) that this is what most designers actually do in the real world.

When people design pretty things on Dribble with no real users in mind whatsoever, when the content is fake, when the business is fake, when the brand is fake, when the customer is non-existent, you’re not thinking of the customer needs, pain points, main goals of the design, main tasks user needs to accomplish, potential technical constraints, and business requirements: therefore whatever you’re doing only vaguely resembles what professional designers do in the real world.

Even though it may look similar on the outside as to the “output” of a real interface. You’re doing just “the face”! There’s something inherently disconcerting about Dribble. It’s as if the whole platform is a facade, based on the flawed premise that UI design is the same as graphic design, that it’s about making a pretty image, and that users are an optional part of the picture. This isn’t a function vs. form debate. This is the question: can you do UI design without real users? Without a real goal? And if so, is it still UI Design, or is it something else?

But it’s so pretty…

And that’s the thing about Dribble.

There are nice things on there, but what are those things? If we call them examples of great design, in the same sense that design is used in the modern digital world, then that is very disturbing. If we call Dribble an example of inspiring concept art — I am totally cool with that.

Mature, professional design is about crafting a thoughtful experience for real users. It is about creative problem-solving. I don’t need to explain this too much, any seasoned designer will know it, and already has been articulated so well here. Design isn’t just making sexy visuals.

For what it’s worth, my answer to the existential question posed above — is UI Design without real users UI Design — is unequivocal no. The user is so central to the design process that removing the user makes me question what you think you are doing. And if your design process doesn’t start and end with the user, if the user isn’t at the core of why you’re making decisions, then it must be all about what looks nice to you, what feels nice to you, and rings your bells. This is nice art. But let’s not confuse this with UI Design.

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