What Dribbble Is Good For

I appreciate the thinking and research behind The Dribbblisation of Design, but I don’t agree with the conclusion.

Specifically:

“We have a growing number of people posting and discussing their work on Dribbble, the aggregated results of which are moving our craft backwards.”

This is a pretty harsh indictment and I don’t think it holds up. Dribbble is a tool. If I put it in terms of “jobs to be done,” here’s what I hire Dribbble to do…

Exploring and Learning Visual Styles

When I am exploring and learning various visual design styles, I want to find good examples of those styles, post my attempts and receive feedback, so I can improve my visual design skills.

Visual styling is certainly not all there is to design, but it is an important aspect. It’s often the visual styling of a site or application that grabs my attention, piques my interest, delights me and helps me connect emotionally.

To say that Dribbble “rewards superficial work” is true, in the sense that the visual style exists at the surface of the medium. It is the most immediate and obvious layer of the site or application. But it it not true in the sense that superficial means “easy” or “lacking substance.” Good visual styling provides emotional substance in design. And good visual styling is not easy to achieve, it’s hard work.

It’s hard work, just like every other aspect of design. But Dribbble, by it’s nature, is optimized for this specific aspect. Small screenshots, limited context, ease of posting and viewing, quick and casual feedback. These all lend themselves to supporting the exploration of visual styling. Not layout design, product architecture, or design systems.

It’s not that designers on Dribbble aren’t working in these other areas, they just aren’t hiring Dribbble to help them share or improve in those aspects of their craft.

Why Everything on Dribbble Looks the Same

This view explains why people say “everything looks the same” on Dribbble. Designers use this community to explore and learn visual styles. As new styles become fashionable, designers attempt to master those styles. To call Dribbble a design echo-chamber is to miss what’s happening as each individual designer improves in their ability to reproduce specific visual styles.

What Dribbble Is Not Good For

There are a lot of things Dribbble is not good for. Dribbble is not a great place to receive in-depth design critique. Dribbble doesn’t offer a good way to demo UI flows. Dribbble is not a good place to work out the specifics of an overarching design system.

But why should it be good for those things? It may be that people have already hired their teams or close friends or other online communities to perform these roles. It’s clear from usage alone that Dribbble solves a real problem for designers. Must it solves all their problems?

Sure, there are a lot of things Dribbble doesn’t do. But what it does, it does really well.

Posted September 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm