Dribbble’s Conundrum

Is it a forum for improvement or a popularity contest?

Dribbble seems to have adopted a strange place in our minds as of late. There‘s some sort of energy shift happening. Have you felt it? Shifting the general consensus of what Dribbble wants itself to be and how we should be using it to our advantage.

What do I mean?

If you’ve been a user of Dribbble for the past few years, I’m sure you’ll have noticed something is becoming increasingly wrong with the platform. Something toxic seeping into the cogs.

The confusion really boils down to the following question.

Is this site supposed to be about feedback or showing off?

At the time of writing this, it seems to be trying to accomplish both and that’s becoming a problem. You can’t achieve both unless you want to dilute the site with different types of content and intent. It adds unnecessary confusion. It needs to be one or the other, not both. What in essence Dribbble is lacking, is focus and direction.

Contradictions in the Platform

Reading the Player’s Handbook raises some interesting questions about the aims of the community.

“Dribbble is a place for show and tell. Your work need not be finished or polished, but strive to make it interesting and relevant to the community.”

We’re told how we shouldn’t worry about sharing our unpolished work and how it only needs to be relevant to the community. In essence this sounds all well and good, yet if we take a moment and examine the marketing model Dribbble is built around, cracks start to appear in their philosophy.

Dribbble is an invitation-driven website. By ensuring the ability to post is driven by exclusivity, users are feeling apprehension surrounding the quality of the work they’re sharing.

Even if you don’t want to limit yourself to single 800x600 shot uploads, you’ll need to become a Pro member by parting with $20 a year to begin adding attachments to your shots.

It’s also worth mentioning the limited amount of shots members are allowed to post per month (48) might also be effecting how they govern their uploads.

What We’re Choosing to Share

When we’re working on a project, we are constantly iterating, adjusting, and trying out new ideas. Over 90% of everything we create will likely end up being deleted or not make it into the finished product. It’s that last few percent we’re most proud of and that’s what we want to share with the world.

Without a doubt, posting to Dribbble can be unnerving. We fear others will see it and judge us. Of course that’s vain but, after all, we are only human. Knowing that if you post it, people will see it when they click on your name can be daunting.

In the Player’s Handbook there’s a section entitled “Explore the work of others”.

“When commenting on other members’ work, make it meaningful. If you add value to others’ work, they’re more likely to be interested in yours.”

Essentially saying, if we like and comment on others work, they’ll do the same for ours. Maybe this is why we’ve ended up with a system where comments like “Awesome man. So sick!” have become commonplace (and are actively mocked).

Dribbble Has Become a Portfolio Platform

It has become a place where you can showcase your best work and to receive validation and recognition from other designers.

It’s a fantastic repository of visual inspiration on a vast amount of subjects, with it’s incredibly active user base producing some truly outstanding work. We should recognise it for this and perhaps stop expecting it to become some grand forum for feedback.

Simply put, I feel we need to stop expecting it to become anything more than a showcase platform. We should respect it for what it is.

What About Feedback?

What we want is a community where there’s no anxiety about posting your work in progress and asking for good honest feedback. I just can’t see that working when it’s being published alongside finished work.

Maybe Slack communities the answer

After becoming a member of the designer community Slackshot channel I found myself far more willing to post work-in-progress. With the relaxed, fun nature of Slack, it became much more of a enjoyable experience.

You could argue other users haven’t worked on the project before and therefore aren’t in a position to provide feedback. I would then argue that they’re a fresh pair of eyes. They’ll spot details you might easily overlook or take for granted. An interaction that is perhaps clear to you, but not a first-time user, for example.

While the number of active users is small, it‘s become a powerful asset for me to gather feedback and help validate my design decisions. Knowing that what I uploaded would disappear into the chat history within hours makes it far easier to upload work for an open and frank debate.

What Needs to Happen

Dribbble has already taken recent steps to becoming more of a showcase platform. The recent introduction of gifs has allowed users to showcase interactions in addition to static visuals.

While this may seem like a step-forward, it’s causing the minimum quality of work to skyrocket. Simply uploading a rough wireframe or design for input seems to be no-longer an option amid the sea of pixel-perfect animations.

We need Dribbble to understand this realisation and start promoting itself as only a two-level showcase website — purely for designers to promote their best visual and interaction work — leaving feedback to alternative platforms.


If you have any thoughts about this I’d love to hear them. Maybe you agree entirely or disagree wholeheartedly. Let me know :)