• Introducing the Drawar Gallery

    10 years ago I created a site called the CSS Vault. It was a website gallery showcasing all the best CSS designs. It was a joy to work on. Since its creation a billion other CSS galleries started up and they all basically did the exact same thing.

    It seems now though that most of them have died away. Designers like to go to other places to get their inspiration like Behance or Dribbble, but I still find a need for these galleries when doing research. The problem is, none of the galleries solve the problems that I need solved.

    • If I’m looking for beautiful About pages then I want to be able to find beautiful About pages.
    • Too often I might find a site I think will look cool so I click over to it only to find out that it has changed designs or no longer exists. It would be awesome if there were full page screenshots so these designs could be kept for posterity.
    • As designers we work hard on making all pages of a site look good, not just the homepage. It would be killer if I could see all of the wonderfully design pages from a single domain.

    If you clicked any of the links above you can see that I went out and solved the issues I had with current galleries with one of my own. The Drawar gallery categorizes each design with tags, sorts them by root domain, and includes full page screenshots so you won’t have to worry about losing that awesome design again.

    Currently there are over 1300 beautiful designs in the gallery with another 700+ waiting in the wings for me to upload. I also have a number of features that still need to be added, but I wanted to get this out into your hands so you can enjoy it as much as I have the past couple of weeks.

    So please, take the time and browse the Gallery if there is something missing that you want added to it, be sure to let me know.

    WARNING: Since the images are full page screenshots they aren’t really suitable for viewing on a mobile device that isn’t connected to WIFI. I’ve compressed and optimized them as best as I could, but they are all still pretty large. Just a warning.

  • A better way to learn web development

    Over the past couple of weeks I’ve come across a number of people that have hit upon the same theme that trying to learn web development today is much harder than it was in the past. Of course this makes sense because there are many more technologies being used. Where does one even think to begin?

    In the past you would simply create an HTML doc, attach some CSS and go from there. You were a full fledged web developer! Today? Knowing HTML and CSS won’t even get you through the door. I can see how that would turn a lot of web designers away from even attempting to understand these things.

    I wondered if web development education had changed at all since I started learning these things over a decade ago. I did some research and while there are cooler tools online, they are still stuck using the same concept: learn one technology at a time.

    That just seems old-fashioned to me and while I’m sure that works for some people, what about the people that want the Cliff Notes version of education? I mean I don’t know the complete ins and outs of PHP or jQuery, but that hasn’t stopped me from creating a ton of sites and web applications over the years. Most people just need to get started and then when they encounter a problem, look up a solution and go from there.

    This got me thinking, what if I offered up all the code to Drawar with a ton of documentation and videos going over why I did things the way I did. Would it help anyone out? I mean sure you can go to Github and go through any project you want basically, but none of them come with instruction manuals that go beyond ‘how to install’.

    So here we go. I have started to work on a new course that teaches web development as if you were Neo learning different fighting styles.

    Because I’m super excited about this and think it will help a ton of people I’m opening up pre-orders today. Order today and get 50% off! With every package you will get all of the Drawar source code up to the time when the course is finished. Order the Platinum package and you’ll have access to the code for the next year. That’s an extra year of continued education.

    What’s great about this is you can take the code and do what you want with it. Create your own Drawar. Morph it into something better. Impress the world!

    Of course there are places that will teach you how to create an application, but they are always fake applications that nobody uses past creation. With this course you will be working with the code of a site that thousands visit every month. If it’s on Drawar, it will be in the course. I don’t want to brag, but that’s pretty damn cool.

    So if this sounds interesting to you go and check out the course to see all of the cool stuff that comes with it. I’ll only have the pre-order 50% off sale up for 7 days so don’t waste any time jumping on this.

    This is just the beginning of many more educational resources that I’ll be producing this year. I look forward to helping more and more people become better designers and developers. I hope you’ll join me do the same on Drawar.

  • A Drawar For Everybody

    After some thinking I’ve decided to make Drawar free for everbody. Drawar has been doing ok by asking for paid memberships, but a design community functions much better when there are tons of people talking about design and critiquing each other’s work. Knowing people were willing to pay to join a design community that offers them the chance to better themselves has encouraged me to push even harder on my plans of what I want Drawar to become in the future.

    I am forever grateful to all of you.

    So I encourage you to sign up, post a project, write a post, take a challenge, and ask a question. Let’s all get better together.

  • Drawar Opens Its Doors

    The first Drawar post occurred in 2009 and at the time I wasn’t quite sure what the site was going to become. I had a ton of ideas and if you have been around long enough you’ve probably seen them all come and go. There was a time when Drawar was a great community for designers to interact. It wasn’t the largest place around, but it was one where you knew you could enjoy some genuine design discussion with like-minded individuals.

    Unfortunately that place disappeared as I wrestled with what I wanted to do with my own life. As my whims changed so did the direction of the community and that should have never happened. Many decisions were based around getting more traffic, some were based around how much money could be made, and all of them didn’t do any good in furthering the design community.

    I took a very long break from the site knowing that the people that help make it what it was deserved more and if I couldn’t offer it then there was no reason to force a site upon them. The time has come now to open up the doors again because after trying to fill the void left behind from the old Drawar community with other sites I’ve found that there just isn’t another replacement on the web. Dribbble is superb at what it does, but you don’t get many discussions out of it. Some of the sub-reddits on Reddit are decent, but are mostly filled with people looking to get ahead quickly. In between there are a couple of other design places that fill in certain niches, but no site seems to bring it all together.

    Making a Better…Everything

    I truly believe the world can be a better place if everyone had some sense of design. Unfortunately many people associate web and graphic design with Photoshop when we all know it is so much more than that. It isn’t fun paying $400 for a course on Adobe software only to be left not knowing the basics of design. It can be frustrating working on a new design in a bubble without getting the design feedback you crave.

    My hope for Drawar is that it fills the intellectual void that so many of us are missing. We can only get better as designers if we interact with other designers in a way that furthers our craft. This can be through a discussion, a critique, or a shared piece of inspiration. Drawar has all of these (or will very soon) things, now it just needs you.

    If you’ve always missed the old Drawar or want a creative community to exist that yearns to make the world better, then this Drawar will be for you. Membership is either $3.99, $5.99, or $9.99 depending on how much you value these things in your life. All price points get the same experience, but the ability to get better at design should be accessible to all and that is why I’m stupid enough to offer memberships at these prices.

    I think you’ll enjoy the experience. Welcome to the new Drawar.

  • Why Drawar displays your password

    You might be curious as to why Drawar displays your password on the registration form and this link gives some of the reasoning. If this was a super secure financial site it might make a little more sense, but users should be able handle the security of making sure nobody is staring over their shoulder with a notepad writing down their password. It also makes life a lot easier on mobile devices where it can be harder to ensure you typed in the right password.

  • The Return of the Design Community

    (Some people would apologize for the pretentious title, but screw it, I have faith in this idea and I really do believe we are lacking a true design community.)

    Back in the late 90s and early 2000s when the web was still very fresh to many people, there were a number of design communities that actually felt like communities. Designers would come together to talk about design and show off the things they were trying. At this time everyone was new to web design so it was fresh to see your peers growing along side of you, learning new things, and experimenting without worry of trying to impress the people around them.

    As more and more of us got comfortable with design there became less activity in these communities. Many of them, as is this case of most communities, fell into the lowest common denominator trap and discussions stopped being about design and started to lean more towards pop culture. Now design communities are more like art galleries where the work of our peers is put up behind a glass case, not to dissect and analyze, but to throw praise upon.

    While it is great to have places where we can all showcase our work there are still a lot of pieces to the design process that we are missing by going this route. Why did we make the decisions that we did? Why did we even go in this direction in the first place? How does this design solve the problem that we are facing?

    When I look at a new design that I come across, whether I like it or not, I always question why the designer made the decisions that she did. Even when we don’t think something is designed, it is still designed. While the best way to get better at design is by constantly designing, there does need to be some time to sit down and go into thought as to why a design exists.

    For over nine months I questioned if Drawar had a place in the design community and if it did, why did it deserve to be around? Not too long ago I started to formulate why it should exist and what I wanted to do with it. So what you see now isn’t months of hard work, but months of letting my subconscious do all the hard work while I focused on other things. Now it is time to make it happen and share it with all of you.

    So what is it?

    First and foremost it will be a place where people can come together and write about design. Writing is one of the best ways to gain a better understanding of how you view design. Applying flat design to everything because it looks good is cool, but taking the time to sit down and write about why you continue to do so will help provide you with a clearer picture if it is the right approach to take.

    If you want to break this idea down to its simplest form then you could almost equate it to being Medium / Quora for Designers, but I don’t think that does it justice, especially considering the mixed feelings people have towards those sites. While everyone deserves a chance to participate, that doesn’t mean that every article or discussion deserves to be promoted or even seen. Some stuff just doesn’t help push us forward at all so don’t expect a free-for-all.

    There will also be interviews with designers and developers, design dissections where we break down a design with the person who created it to find out what was going on in their mind while making the decisions that they did, and exercises where you will be given a task to design and when you are done get to compare it to how other people approached the problem (what a horribly long and poorly designed sentence).

    I also have a lot more in mind that might see the light of day or might get pushed six feet under. The key though is to bring all lovers of design together to discuss design and what makes it so wonderful. If this sounds interesting to you then please sign up as I’ll be sending out invites next week. If you are still uncertain (admittedly I’m leaving out huge chunks of this community will be) then no worries, just wait around for a bit until the site is open to the public.

  • Designing for Time

    A lot of different iterations for this next upcoming Drawar have gone through my head. As I started to build it out I made the mistake of letting every cool idea I could think of into the door. From a product development standpoint that is a huge mistake. While I could build anything that I could think of that doesn’t mean it should make it into the final product. So I decided to take a break and let my subconscious ponder over the Drawar final product.

    During this break I hit up the usual design galleries and did some browsing. 90 minutes later I realized how much time had passed without me getting anything done. Even worse, the 90 minutes I spent browsing didn’t better me as a designer, thinker, or person. I’ve always wanted Drawar to be a place where when you left you felt like you got something out of it. It made you just a little bit better whether by learning something new or figuring out something that was bothering you for a while.

    There is only so much time in a day and we never know how much time is in our lives, so it is important for me that I make the time you invest on this site worthwhile. I don’t think I will nail it after the first iteration simply because it is a community concept that requires a community and time.

    Kathy Sierra wrote a great post that talks about how digital creators need to be more aware of the time we are using up for the people that use our creations.

    If our work drains a user’s cognitive resources, what does he lose? What else could he have done with those scarce, precious, easily-depleted resources? Maybe he’s trying to stick with that diet. Or practice guitar. Or play with his kids.

    That one new feature you added? That sparkly, Techcrunchable, awesome feature? What did it cost your user? If the result of your work consumes someone’s cognitive resources, they can’t use those resources for other things that truly, deeply matter. This is NOT about consuming their time and attention while they’re using your app. This is about draining their ability for logical thinking, problem-solving, and willpower after the clicking/swiping/gesturing is done.

    Of course it’s not implicitly bad if our work burns a user’s cog resources.Your app might be the one place your user wants to spend those resources. But knowing that interacting with our product comes at a precious cost, maybe we’ll make different choices.

    I hope I can create the foundation for a community where you leave and don’t feel drained, but empowered. Only time will tell, but if it doesn’t work out hopefully the only time wasted was my own and not yours. We’ll find out next week.

  • When Trends Betray Context

    Some of my favorite words to read on Twitter are: “X just redesigned.” I get giddy because I never know what I am going to see on the other side of the link. I always assume though that it is going to be something great. So consider my disappointment when I clicked over to the new Newsvine page.

    Aesthetically, it doesn’t look bad. Far from perfect, but there are uglier news sites out there. The issue I have is that they took the Pinterest-trend and applied it to news without thinking about how news actually works. Think about a top news story, Aaron Schwarz’s death for example, and how new pieces are added to it daily, weekly, or monthly. It simply isn’t one headline that can fall down the page and into the archives. The story develops over time and the design should reflect that. The Newsvine layout can’t achieve that.

    The designers (or more likely their bosses) see something cool and stuck it into their category of site without thinking about the context of their site. There is no way they could sit down and stare at the design and think it is easy to browse the news. You know the best news site I visit every single day? Hacker News. If a story is still relevant it stays at the top of the page until it is time for it to fade and another one takes its place. That is how news works.

    When you let a trend betray the context with which your design is trying to work in, then that design will fail. There is a ton of innovation still to be done in the online news space, but this is a backwards move that lacks innovation. While the old design was a bit dated, it still knew its context. This design is trying to be something it never can be.

  • Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer.

    — John Maeda

  • Simplicity does not mean want or poverty. It does not mean the absence of any decor, or absolute nudity. It only means that the decor should belong intimately to the design proper, and that anything foreign to it should be taken away.

    — Paul Jacques Grillo

An Emersian creation. About the place you are at.