Of late, web designers have placed a lot of attention on online communities. As many will know, the two niche leaders are Dribbble and Forrst. As someone who’s spent time on both, I thought I’d attempt to practically break them down, explaining the pros, cons, and ideas behind each.
First, a little history…
Founded in late 2009 by Dan Cederholm and Rich Thornett, Dribbble was a whole new concept. Members post 400x300 pixel screenshots of what they’re working on and receive comments and likes from other members. When it went public March 2010 after an eight-month beta period, the site’s popularity exploded. Membership is invite-only, thus making the quality of work featured on the site very high.
Kyle Bragger started Forrst in January 2010 as a then side project. He wanted a place where he could share code, designs and concepts with friends. After a few months the project gained momentum and Kyle made it his full time job. Forrst too is invite-only, although more invites are allotted out monthly, so membership is much easier to attain.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve had the privilege to be invited to both communities. Low-profile fights often break out between patrons of the two, but in my opinion, they each have strengths and weaknesses.
For starters, let’s talk about Dribbble. Because invites are so scarce, it’s a big deal to get one and only designers with at least decent work get them. Thus, having a Dribbble account instantly gives you a certain level of perceived standing in the design community. It’s like a right of passage — when you’re on Dribbble, you’ve arrived.
On the other hand, being a Forrst member carries far less weight. Although many very good designers reside there (cue Morgan Allan Knutson, Luke Beard, Jonno Riekwel, Benjamin De Cock & James McDonald) the site’s also got it’s fair share of mediocre designers. But Forrst does bring things to the table Dribbble does not — Code, Question and Link posts as well as high-resolution screenshots.
One other major difference I’ve noticed is the type of feedback you can expect to receive. In my experience, Forrst users tend to focus more on constructive criticism and how the design could be better than do Dribbblers’.
A typical Dribbble comment is more or less as follows…
WOAH! FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!! <3 IT!!!
And here is a typical Forrst comment:
Nice work — I like where that is going! What if you moved the navigation up a little and incorporated the social icons into the left side. Also, I think the green in the footer is a little too strong. Maybe lighten it a bit?
Which of the three examples above is really going to help your design? For me, hands down, it’s the Forrst comment every time.
Going back to what I said earlier, because Dribbble invites are so scarce, the quality of the work you will find there is usually very high. I have the opportunity to learn something or gain inspiration from 95% of the accounts I run across. Many of the world’s best designers are there (Tim Van Damme, Veerle Pieters, Rogie King, Matthew Smith, Cameron Moll, etc.). I’ve said all this to say: Dribbble may be the best place on earth to get inspired. Stuck on a project? Go browse Dribbble.
One of the most important things to me in a site like Dribbble or Forrst is the community aspect. As I’ve used them, I’ve gotten to witness first-hand each website’s distinct community “feel.”
The Forrst community is very down-to-earth. 95% of the time its users are friendly, encouraging and supportive. As I talked about earlier, the feedback you receive there is usually aimed at making your work better and making you a better designer. It’s almost like a big, happy family, all working together to make the web a better place.
Dribbble, on the other hand, has a more “uppity” feel. Not that its users aren’t friendly, but there’s definitely an “in-crowd.” This is likely because many of it’s top users are the world’s best designers and they know it. They speak at and attend conferences together, chat on Skype… they’re friends. They know what each other is currently working on and what they’ve done in the past. All of this can give a low profile user an out-of-the-loop feeling at times.
If you’ve gained one thing from this post, I hope it’s that each site has its own strengths and weaknesses. For what it’s worth, I believe that the two can co-exist and without there needing to be a “better one.” I use them both nearly every day and gain prospective and insight from each.