The Dark Side of Dribbble

Dribbble is full of beautiful interfaces. But one thing you will rarely find on Dribbble is great design.

It might sound like I am contradicting myself, but I’m not. I believe that good design should be aesthetically pleasing, but good design is so much more than that.

Here are three reasons why UX and UI designers should be careful when using Dribbble as well as a brief guide to using Dribbble responsibly.

1. Dribbble praises aesthetics over good design

Dribbble is all about aesthetics.

It’s full of eye-catching interfaces and illustrations. According to the legendary industrial designer, Dieter Rams, good design has to be aesthetically pleasing. But that is only one of his 10 principles of good design.

According to Mr. Rams, good design is innovative. Also, it makes the product useful. And these qualities are not met by the majority of the projects you will find on Dribbble.

None of the beautifully crafted weather apps are particularly innovative or useful. It’s 2020, who is in desperate need of another weather app?

Also, Dribbble creates a culture where we judge interfaces on their aesthetic qualities rather than their usefulness. It makes us think that aesthetics is more important than anything else. This is a problem.

2. Dribbble moves our focus away from designing great products

A UX designer’s job is to design products and services that are easy to use and fit the users’ needs.

The problem with using Dribbble to show your work is that you can fall into the trap of aiming at designing a Dribbble-worthy product instead of designing a good one. Because by getting a lot of likes on Dribbble you get more exposure and this could potentially lead to a new client or a new job.

A good product solves a problem and improves the users’ lives. Aesthetics is important. However, the designer should use aesthetics to make the product easier and more enjoyable to use.

Remember, design is not about making pretty things. Design is about making useful things that improve the users’ lives. If it doesn’t solve a problem, it’s not design: it’s decoration.

3. Dribbble does not provide any context

On Dribbble, we are met by a sea of beautiful interfaces and illustrations, but we don’t hear anything about the context.

The reason is that Dribbble doesn’t give the designer the opportunity to tell the story behind the product.

We don’t know whom the product was designed for, what problem it solved, or what made the designers arrive at certain decisions.

The fact that we don’t know any details about the project makes Dribbble difficult to use for inspiration. Even though something looks great, it can be a horrible idea to integrate into your project.

The Dribbble project you are looking at aimed at solving a completely different problem than you are. This is why it can be dangerous to use Dribbble for inspiration.

What’s even worse is that the majority of Dribbble projects are not solving any problem at all. We already have enough weather apps to tell us if it’s going to rain.

Re-designs are cool projects to put on your portfolio, but they should tackle some of the issues that are inherent in the product or interface. If they don’t, it’s not a re-design, it’s a re-decoration. Being able to spot those issues is a trait of a great designer.

How to use Dribbble responsibly

There are two ways to use Dribbble: for inspiration and for promoting your own work. Here are some precautions you should follow when using Dribbble.

1. Inspiration

Keep in mind that Dribbble is all about eye-candy, not great design. So don’t be discouraged when you browse around and find hundreds of apps that look more slick than yours. That doesn’t necessarily make them better products.

Be careful about stealing ideas. It’s fine to use Dribbble for inspiration, but keep in mind that the products on Dribbble were designed to solve a different problem from yours. All design situations are unique. It is important to keep that in mind when taking inspiration from other designers’ projects.

A better source of inspiration is the sites and apps you use yourself. Start analyzing them and ask yourself what made them easy, enjoyable, annoying, or frustrating to use. Don’t limit yourself to studying digital products. Analyze coffee machines, dishwashers, and the dashboard in your car as well.

2. Promotion

When you use Dribbble to show your own work, you should make as much info about the context available as possible.

It’s also a great idea to link to a case study on your portfolio or in a Medium post where you show the reader what problem you solved and how you did it.

View Dribbble as a way to lead potential clients or employers to your portfolio website. A case study is a much better way to present your work and your way of thinking than just leaving a couple of images and your contact information.

Austin Kleon‘s book, Show Your Work, is a great guide to promoting your work in a smart way.

In closing

Be careful when you use Dribbble because it promotes aesthetics over good design. Good design solves a problem and improves the users’ lives.

The products on Dribbble were designed to solve a different problem (if any) from the one you are working on.

Keep this in mind when you use Dribbble to find inspiration, and supply the necessary information about the context when promoting your own work.


Cover Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

This article contains affiliate links.

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