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Nah Seriously! Who designs the YC startups websites? Loving it.
26 points by rokhayakebe on Aug 5, 2007 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments
Really guys, how do you come up with such designs?

Till now the only consistent force across YC startups was that I nagged people to fix the same kinds of things.

But it's kind of amusing to read this, because this year we got Bryan Kennedy (http://pairwise.com) to fly out and fix up some of the uglier sites, and I can hear him down the hall talking to one group of founders right now.

NO joke. When I am ready I am giving Bryan a call. Mr Kennedy expect my email in 6 months.

As an engineer with no design skills, that's the hardest part in getting together a team...I can't find a good designer. I may be able to pump out an amazing site, but if it looks like crap no one is going to use it.

It sucks not being a jack of all trades (then again, I'd hate to be a master of none...)

If you have no design skills, just try to make things as minimal as possible. Google's UI was designed by engineers with no design skills, and it still works for them.

If you can't design the (original) Porsche 911,


just design a Land Rover


The thing to avoid is getting halfway to cool design and ending up with a Pontiac Aztek


or an Edsel


And dont stray too far from traditional design conventions, or you could end up like Weber's new supercar and people will want to throw up when they see your work:


Ouch. That's like a distillation of all that's wrong with the latest batch of BMWs.

The problem is not that they strayed from conventions. The problem with that car is that it's fugly.

"the shape allows the car to reach 62 MPH in 2.7 seconds with a top speed of 240 MPH"

People also thought the Aeron was ugly when it came out...

I wonder how it handles?

shape -> engine

Hah yeah, apparently they drank a bit too much from Chris Bangle's "flame styling" cup. Believe it or not, the back is even worse...

That just demonstrated to me how I have exactly zero visual aesthetic sense. All four of those cars seem completely equivalent to me, aside from being functionally different. I'm beyond not having a visual design sense; I can't even notice good visual design when it hits me over the head.

It's just visual that's the problem, though-- I know elegance in proofs and programs, and I know good music; a Monet, though, does no more for me than a hotel painting, in that they're both kind of blurry.

I can still find things like Myspace obnoxious compared to Facebook, but only because of functionality and usage patterns, not any sense of aesthetics.

Do you have an aesthetic sense for women/men as appropriate?

Women, yes, but I'm fairly sure that's evolutionarily hardwired. I have absolutely no sense for clothing on either women or men. Especially not color clash. I was presented with what I was later told was the absolute most clashing colors, period (a green and an almost-green), and had no idea that they were particularly bad.

You overestimate the skill required to create most of these sites. They're usually following some very simple rules. Most are inspired by the style of 37 Signals. Nice fonts, gradients, and pastel colors.

Most of what makes these sites seem so nice is that they're familiar and "modern web 2.0". Scribd is very Diggish for example.

Inkscape is like magic for creating nice logos, if you keep it simple. Truly anyone can do it. Use a color scheme tool like http://kuler.adobe.com/. Don't invent a totally unique design, imitate someone at first.

Anyone who can code well can easily reproduce nice simple site designs. Overcoming the "I can't design" mental block is the hardest part. Becoming a real design master takes a lot more effort obviously.

I agree totally.

Often, half the battle is just knowing good design when you see it (i.e. picking what to emulate).

I think that half though is pretty tough though. I'd call that half more like 80%.

>Anyone who can code well can easily reproduce nice simple site designs.

These are actually a win. Look at reddit, ebay, Google. I bet the coders/engineers/computer-scientists there thought they couldn't design either.

Google has always been good at UI's, but they don't have truly talented illustrators on staff (it's not what they need). Take a look at the "Pick a name" button thing on gmail as a reference.

I agree that these sites don't necessarily require an MFA to design, but they do require really careful thinking about exactly how the user will use site - not just which rounded font and pastel color scheme to use. Designs may be simple, but simple does not imply that they aren't well thought out. Fortunately, this is precisely what a good engineer should be thinking about the whole time.

[As an aside those faded blue gradients make me want to throw a rotten tomato at Jason Fried.]

Skype is another example of a very striking and original site. But sometimes, like you suggest, good graphic design is simply about paying attention to details like lining things up.

Design isn't an exception to most other talents. The way to get good is to do it. It helps to know how to make things, from paper prototypes drawn freehand to more serious tools.

Also, from a usability perspective, there are a number of tools people use. Lots of them boil down to "figure out why people can't use this or think it's ugly". But i'm no expert.

Also, it helps to have a sense of aesthetics. That usually comes when you admit something is ugly, and grows from there.

There are a ridiculous number of design books out there. You could probably finish "Laws of Simplicity" in an hour. http://www.amazon.com/Laws-Simplicity-Design-Technology-Busi...

Note that I'm no designer.

What if you know a good designer (css/html), but they have no programming experience? Would a partner that knows how to hack but currently lacks design skills be more effective?

I too have no design skills, but believe I can create at least a decent site if I tried. The hardest part is overcoming the fact that you probably can build a decent looking site if you tried.

If your are not a designer stay simple. Everyone can respect minimalism. Especially in a beta product. Some of the best designers in the world are known for their use of "white space". Dont kill a good product with overdone bad design.

check this site www.irintech.com/x1/ its a blog with simple 3-4 colors everything from the font to the design aspect. its actually not the design but the layout and color combination that wins, and very few in the management understand. imagine a site with all sorts of animation it would look more like a site for a circus company

Any recommendation on a design firm? How much should you expect to pay?

I know http://www.silverorange.com. They seem very good. They made Firefox's layout (I believe) and even Digg's layout. But I assume it must be kind of expensive.

And they're swamped. Would give you an upper limit on the price though.

I'll second that request!

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