Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Designer News (layervault.com)
105 points by petercooper on Jan 21, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments

I like the idea of an "HN for designers." That said, I don't think it will work.

We built something similar around 2008 and maintained it for a couple of years. Ultimately, we chose to shut it down, due to the difficulty in getting good discussion, and the amount of "pseudo-spam" from folks who would flood us with links to crap and designer link-bait.

My suggestion is to ignore the design feedback you're getting here. It's not that it isn't perhaps accurate; it's just not your biggest concern.

In my opinion, the real key with these communities is the discussion. HN is ugly, but the content is good. Additionally, the active nature of the community is huge. Part of that has to do with it having first-move advantage; the other may be the associated "carrot" of pg looking at contributor involvement, come application time.

My hunch is that the biggest part of why HN is so active relates to startup-folk being more concerned with the data/insight than presentation. I could be entirely incorrect on this point, but my feeling is that the majority of designers simply aren't geared the same way. They're more interested in seeing eye-candy than reading, thinking, and discussing.

This is a generalization, and there are certainly designers who are geared quite differently. (Personally, I find sites like dribbble really boring, but am on HN within 5 minutes of waking.)

The challenge here, for you will be in getting a sufficient mass of good contributors/commenters (i.e. Thoughtful, meaningful dialogue). I think it's will be hard to make this happen. I do hope you'll prove me wrong, though, as the design community could use something like this.

HN is ugly

What? No way - this is absolutely a case of function instead of pomp and circumstance. One of the huge reasons, I believe, that HN was really kicked off well was because when Digg went stupid and redesigned their site (which looks like OP's design to a degree) people wanted more hacker/programmer style stories in a denser, less ad-drive way. HN was perfectly placed and lots of folks came over (lots of the better users, that is). These people hated the design of digg (a.k.a. "scroll scroll scroll") and needed a more information dense yet content and comment rich environment. This place thrived as did reddit - both sites who offer very dense information pages (reddit has styles/options to make it less dense though).

So yes, design is a huge factor IMO. Startup folks, articles, good comments - all of that works together with the design. You can't say that HN works despite being "ugly".

Actually, I can say that (and I did).

And when I say it's ugly, I'm not really talking about style. Instead, I'm referring to how I have to pinch and zoom when reading posts on my smartphone, and the awfully long line lengths, and the small type.

I get that such points probably aren't important to pg (or the community at large) and I can appreciate that. If it works, why muck with it? Still, I don't think it's a stretch to say that the design of this site probably wasn't ever treated as a key concern.

Another reason I prefer HN to Dribbble (although I think the bar is low as far as 'good design' is concerned here, too) is because people seem to care more about the effectiveness and purpose of what is placed in front of them, rather than if it's got 300 layers or was taken with an iPhone at enough of an angle to look cleaner than it is to get likes. The sad thing is that as designers we are first and foremost communicators, so when that communication fails, what's the point? Any given day on the popular shots page on Dribbble there are things that should never honestly be used in the wild, so why are we upvoting it and giving people the idea that it is good?

I've also found that a lot of people writing regularly on design (particularly on sites like SmashingMag that make useless lists of trends, but don't even find the best uses of those trends) aren't exactly the ones that should be. The biggest problem I see is that people don't know the appropriate verbiage or reasons as to why something is good or bad. White space? Must be well-designed! Large, thin text? Must be well-designed! Wells Riley's "Startups, This is How Design Works" (which was upvoted here and heralded across the web) was an ironically perfect example of using these methods in all the wrong ways. As a designer, you just hope the right people recognize it and know to avoid such things, but judging by how well-received it was; there's a problem afoot.

Personally, I wish there was a design section for HN, rather than adding yet another place I'm supposed to check every day. There are so many people here that could benefit from it, and a lot of the "design for devs" links I come across just seem to be more subjective noise rather than real-world application. Maybe that's just me.

I feel I should write about this somewhere else with proper justification, but something I've observed is that design culture is not an intellectual culture to the extent that programming culture is.

Having gone to school on the same floor as the design students at my alma mater and having met or worked with many designers, overwhelmingly my impression is that they are for the most part less verbally inclined than those who work with words, code, and math and prefer to express themselves through images rather than words.

The problem with this is that we don't recognize visual education in Western schools, so the average person lacks any kind of history or theory of visual art, design and culture, which are the foundation of taste and rational discussion.

As a result, the world is chock-full of designers who fall into simplistic design philosophies or obsessively identify with a particular design aesthetic simply because it suits their preference.

I'm a designer, and I agree with you.

> They're more interested in seeing eye-candy than reading, thinking, and discussing.

I think that's right, and it's reflected in the design of the site. The narrow width of the comments page strongly conveys an expectation of tweet-length comments. I'd guess the comment field itself is similar.

In contrast, the HN comment page is designed for longer, more thoughtful posts, and that's what you get. (Although every time I comment, I resize the textarea -- wish that could get fixed.)

Narrow width is actually a design convention to help the readability of posts (usually you want to do anything around 450-600px.) You can see this in action as your eyes can quickly jump from line to line.

Also think about the default size of this comment box I am writing in right now. It is approximately the same size as the comments on DN.

It sounds like you are referring to the guidelines for how long the measure should be for for optimal legibility. What I'm saying is that aside from legibility, the length of the measure also influences user behavior - a shorter measure nudges users to write shorter comments. Comment replies are indented by 20px per level, making the problem that much worse.

They could easily increase the measure and still stay within typographic guidelines.

My suggestion is to ignore the design feedback you're getting here. It's not that it isn't perhaps accurate; it's just not your biggest concern.

I largely agree with this. As long as it's functional, let design take a back seat to community. It can work, it just takes a lot of work. However, since your community is designers, you might want some way that they can contribute in a creative fashion outside of comments.

Best of luck!

As someone who has dabbled in UX, I wouldn't call "HN is ugly", HN is minimal, functional and highly usuable. HN is lightweight without tons of JS to handle interactions, etc.

HN in a sense is well designed, if by design you mean its usability, interactivity, IA, etc. As a famous quote goes, "Good design is about taking away, and not adding".

The gratuitously large amount of whitespace in comments pages is a little off-putting. The very, very light gray meta-info text on white bg is hard to read in the comments container; as is the kind-of-blue text on light blue bg. The icons are not descriptive enough as stand-alones to exist without text indication of what they do, or something similar.

So basically, this is just walking into the 'flat' fad without any careful thought. I'm just in disbelief. I'm primarily a back-end coder but I've designed better sites than this.

Edit: I realize I'm being a little bit mean, and I don't like being mean... but I think it's perhaps warranted this time given the name of the site.

I agree that we need to keep contrast in mind when designing, but too much contrast can be just as hard on the eyes. That cream on black text hurts my eyes more than most of the low-contrast sites that it highlights. Furthermore, putting shadows on an entire block of text is terrible for legibility. As a site focusing heavily on legibility, it could certainly use some fine-tuning in its typography and color.

I will agree that many of these sites, including this DN site, need to work on contrast and legibility and contrast.

I like how HN is actually one of the low-contrast examples and the comment you're replying to is complaining about contrast.

Here's a good example of what they mean:


This is hard to read. I'd guess PG may have decided to keep it this way so users don't post too many (long) messages.

I found that interesting as well.

Probably requires a calibrated Apple display to be readable.

For something aimed at designers, it's disappointing that the design is lacking. The font color is too light. I have young eyes and I found myself straining a little to read. This is especially poor since the number of points is in this light color. Points are what people look for and yet they don't pop out at you.

Another issue is the menu at the top; I didn't know the clock meant new until I clicked it. Adding a hover (at the very least) would make it more friendly to new users.

The key is to not go overboard with minimalism. At the end of the day, certain details that people look for in order to familiarize themselves with something cannot be eliminated for the sake of aesthetic.

It's worth noting that LayerVault are the guys behind the "Flat Design" blog post that's been getting a fair bit of attention recently.

The article was purposefully brief and the author has commented that no one quite grasps his concept of the flat design principle[1], so I'll try not to comment on that blog post specifically.

DesignerNews really seems like a minimal aesthetic is getting in the way of minimal design. There's nothing wrong with minimal interfaces, but I really think DesignerNews is a case where some design decisions sacrificed functionality in favour of aesthetic.

[1] See his comment here (Allan G). The comment system is strangely lacking some key features like permalinks, unfortunately: https://news.layervault.com/stories/558-skeuomorphic-texture...

The design is optimized for Retina Displays – the typo is perfectly readable and the contrast is great; on 2x devices.

Less so on 1x though, agreed.


Then you are optimizing for a minority of your audience and alienating the majority, all for a shade of gray. Readability should never be compromised.

edit: And before this is perceived as me being hostile rather than my intention of helpful (though it seems it already has), let me say that this is the kind of site I have been looking for. And thus I want to use it and want it to succeed. But certain design decisions can imply things to users that may not be intended. Content that is difficult to read, especially content which calls for interaction, does the opposite of what its intended for. And that makes users feel as if they're not wanted.

I think here's where the difference would apply. Designers almost all of them use high resolution displays. And maybe Designer News is aimed at those designers, who're at the cutting edge.

Do you really think "almost all" designers use a specific model of a specific computer that shipped about six months ago? Hell, I consider myself a half-assed designer and won't upgrade to a retina MBP because a) the screens have issues b) the web has issues and c) most of the design software I use has issues.

Designing websites in a way that only works well on retina displays has to be one of the most ridiculous examples of the Silicon Valley bubble in recent memory.

That in itself seems like bad design, doesn't it? :)

Well, its just designing for a target audience. It isn't universal design if that's what you mean.

I'm on a 15" Retina and everything other than the links is still too pale (ditto for your screenshot). The links are the most important thing though so it's not a big deal IMHO.

Whats the link between resolution and contrast between colors?

The outline of type is rendered in much more detail on Retina – which makes the font seem thicker and accounts for the better readability.

You're right: that has nothing to do with the contrast.

Great initiative but I do have some feedback. The first thing I notice is that the top menu is unusable. I have no idea what the links do, I only can guess when seeing the icons. The smiley icon is the most confusing.

The second thing are the icons besides the posts. I guess the goal is to help users categorize posts, with the current number of categories it helps. But when all posts match a category you will could have, in theory, 20 categories. This won't help categorize, this will only help confuse people.

The third thing is the text. The lack of dots between the timestamp, username and count of points completely confuses me. When I read the entire line, I will think that Benjamin F. added 3 points 28 minutes ago to the link above. When in fact there are a total of 3 points added to the link above, the post submitter is Benjamin F. and the link was submitted 28 minutes ago. Placing two simple dots helps users not get confused.

I notice a lot of designers want to design something visually attractive but completely don't think about UX/UI. This is a perfect example.

Also, the tooltips on the timestamps make no sense. I'm not a fan of the "x hours ago" style of relative timestamp, and much prefer to just know the actual date and time an item was posted. Some sites, such as reddit, give you an absolute timestamp in a tooltip when you hover over a relative one, e.g. hovering over "2 hours ago" on a reddit comment produces a tooltip that says "Mon Jan 21 12:15:37 2013 UTC".

But hovering over "about 2 hours ago" on a Designer News post produces a tooltip that says "20 minutes ago". What's going on here?

Agreed on all points.

When I see stuff like this, I'm always puzzled how someone tested it and said, "Yeah, this works great." It took me about ten minutes to figure out how to close the drop-down panel after I opened it by hitting the "+" sign.

I had literally no idea what the smiley face was until I clicked it.

Reading some comments on Designer News [1], I can already see some HN-DN clash.

[1] https://news.layervault.com/stories/608-designer-news-on-hac...

It's amazing how many UI/UX experts you can find on Hacker News.

Not everyone who makes a comment is an expert but even then they can have an opinion and they have all the right to express it. Whether you are a hacker or designer you should be professional enough to be grateful that people are even making an effort to express their true opinion. BTW, there are many real UI/UX experts here and I guess there must be some great hackers on Designer News. Can't both peacefully co-exist without making nasty remarks on each other?

Ha ha some of the comments are funny. - "I have no idea what the links do, I only can guess when seeing the icons. The smiley icon is the most confusing."

so CLICK THEM if you're not sure. Sheesh where's people sense of adventure and discovery these days. And c'mon you don't know what a plus sign might mean?

It is amazing how one can find it funny when someone points a major flaw in design that results in terrible user experience. Beautiful icons are of no use if they don't convey clear message to the user. Such designs are similar to a beautiful girl who is mad. When will we learn to accept our mistakes?

The discussion in that thread left me with a sour taste. Forget about the design of site, now I have serious doubts about the quality of the actual community there.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, many in the HN community are clearly defensive about their lack of design skills. Almost every time a nice-looking link comes up, the reaction is predictable: you'll find lots of comments finding fault with the design.

In a lot of cases, those comments are accurate. Design is hard, and designers don't get it right 100% of the time. What's strange about these comments is that they only come up when the author of the link is a designer -- no one makes comments about design problems on developers' blogs.

So it seems like there's an attitude of wanting to take down designers a few notches, which is a bit unprofessional and immature, IMO.

It's worth it to note that Designer News began as a side project, which may explain the less-than-perfect design details. I guess you could argue that a side project intended for designers should still meet basic accessibility guidelines, but the point certainly apologizes for some of the weaknesses of the framework.

I am very excited about the future of Designer News. As the community grows and matures, I hope it will conjure more discussion-oriented posts and less of the generic links that have made up the bulk of the content. But there is really no place for designers to discuss thought-provoking articles and trends or ask for feedback/criticism. I find Hacker News to be somewhat intimidating as a venue for design discussion, or unable to provide the perspective I am seeking feedback on. Other sides such as Dribbble or Forrest tend to be poor venues for constructive conversation - perhaps because it is the same place where people are displaying their work that might go under fire during the conversation, and many of us don't like to shit where we eat, as it were.

It's a strong concept, even if it needs a few more weekends of polish before it's truly fit for prime time.

After reading Designer News for the past week I've noticed most threads have zero (or single-sentence) comments nevermind in-depth discussions.

No offense, but it's essentially a dead-forum and to make it invite-only shows the bigger picture is out of their grasp. I hope they open registrations and shape itself to be something...anything.

Designer News is invite-only and will remain so forever.

While it's still in its early stages, we want to future proof things quite a bit. Currently, we can map our users onto a directed graph which will help immensely with spam, dead accounts and so forth. (If you're a spammer, everyone you've invited gets their account nuked along with the person that invited you.)

Also, one of our users put together a sweet visualization of this in action, which you can see here:


I never believed in invitation only. It work on certain types of communities, like torrents, with 100% control of the use. But on sites like HN, you simply doesn't need to use invite only.

I believe in a meritocratic system. If you contribute with good information, insight or whatever resource you want to call it, you will be rewarded well so the community will be.

Just think than one asshole with invite can invite another 23 assholes. Then you're beloved community will be ruined and "invite only".

I'm curious to know if there's an application process that's in the works or if it's going to stay entirely referral-based. Without the ability to interact with anyone or any content on the site, I can imagine this'd be a huge turnoff for designers who might not be in your particular clique.

As an aside, I just tried to register without a referral code and simply got a 404 error.

Pretty sure things like this: https://twitter.com/Stammy/status/293495292265893888 entirely taint any intellectual reasoning behind invites.

Paul's a friend and I trust his ability to dole out invites. That's why we gave him some.

I'm curious to learn more about the decision to keep it invite only. I can only provide personal insight, but I lost interest as soon as there was a link I wanted to comment on and couldn't.

It's hard to say a forum is dead before it's even taken life...it's three weeks old! how active was Hacker News three weeks into its inception?

My point was, yes, the site needs polishing, but save the judgement of the community and its curated content until after it has had the chance to gestate a bit.

Looks more like Reddit than Hacker News:

    Kevin T. about 7 hours ago
    We have to go deeper.

        Marian M. about 6 hours ago
        That's what she said.

    Tyler H. about 7 hours ago
        YO DAWG - http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/33729543.jpg


"We're keeping things small and invite-only to ensure quality."


Heh. Was Hacker News ever invite-only?

I think the reason why Hacker News works is because the demographic are not all the same - there are all kinds of people that are active on the site, rather than simply "friends of x" and "friends of friends of x" which often leads to inane comments like the examples you listed.

I don't think one can engineer this collision of demographics, I doubt the design nor even content allows you to control it once the wheels are in motion.

Put me in the "Wow - that's too much white space" category. I'm on a 1680x1050 monitor and I have to scroll once to get to the bottom of 20 articles. And let's face it: they are presented as sentences. That means that, for me to read 20 sentences, I have to scroll. Again: I have to scroll just so that I can read 20 sentences yet I'm on a 1680x1050 desktop device.

I just don't understand this sort of design. It's the kind of thing that looks good on paper but, once you try to use it, it becomes obvious that you aren't presenting people with enough information per click. So I kind of understand someone giving me a comp for a design like this, but I don't understand someone putting this out "live" and then not recognizing the inherent and obvious problems that this amount of white space cause.

Also, put in the "I despise hate icon-only navigation, especially when I'm on a new site" group. The icons also don't make any sense to me. WTH is a smiley face for? No alt title or helpful hint when I mouse over - I have to view the URL to see what it is. Unusable. Unfriendly. And the plus sign is also a login? Whoa...

Sorry - I could not ever use a site like that.

> We're keeping things small and invite-only to ensure quality.

If you're going to be a gated community then don't post it on HN.

(also, I seriously doubt this ensures "quality".)

We didn't post it.

Invite-only isn't a bad idea, given the audience. This approach may help them keep the overall content quality higher than if they opened it up to everyone.

As for posting it on HN, I think it makes sense for them to try to attract some new viewers--even if they are selective about who they let in. I'd do the same thing.

Invite-only can help with scaling issues as well.

Why not? Being by invite-only worked wonders for Dribbble.

A lot of the points outlined by commenters here have already been brought up by the Designer News community in this Feature Request thread: https://news.layervault.com/stories/126-feature-requests-let.... If you're already a member, that's where you can add feedback.

I am using a Samsung monitor that kinds fails at contrast.

Also I have a design degree.

Summing the two I can conclude: Your color scheme is veeeery bad, and strange considering the site is called designer news.

Nice concept, I liked the circle "categories" (CSS, Show, etc)

But one things that really bothers me, especially in a design oriented site, when using image only cues, at least add a title / alt for a tooltip: (1) for accessibility and screen readers (2) for users who don't get the hint of the clock/newspaper/plus icons as the equivalent newest/news/submit concepts from HN.

Good potential, nice MVP overall

I find this site to be designed rather poorly, especially for a project you'd expect good design of.

- I find the icons in the bar on the top to be rather *ambiguous. I don't immediately know what purpose they serve, save for the + icon. Some text (just text?) would be useful here.

- The text underneath the link titles is very hard to read. I have to squint. The colour is too close to the white background it's on.

- I have no idea what the tomato and the T circle are supposed to indicate.

- Nested comments aren't easily scrolled over, because the indentation is quite small.

I'm not a designer at all, these are just some things that I notice as a user. Aesthetically I find the site to be quite pretty.

Edit: I like the concept a lot!

1. "Unambiguous" is good-- you probably mean they are ambiguous.

3. It's an Apple, not a tomato. I'm guessing articles having to do with Apple have that "badge". The "T" is indicating a typography related story, whereas the "Show" badge is a "Show DN" post.

I was not involved in the site, the badge thing is just observation.

Given that one badge is Show, my natural inclination was to think that T is tell. YMMV.

It would be nice to link to the actual article rather than the Designer News link in RSS.

For a website called Designer News that header bar is pretty fucking incoherent.

I have absolutely no idea what the icons at the top of the page mean. Why is that good?

Looks neat! What is this written on? Are you making the source available?

Search for lamernews for the same thing but opensource and redis based (written by antirez)

Thanks for your reply. But Lamernews does not seem to have search. I also found lobste.rs to be good. It is also based on rails and seems like a good choice if someone wants to set up a hackernews style board. Guess I'll try coding up something similar in Django for this month..or does something already exist?

Rails. No.

I like the idea. not very impressed by the design though ..

I like the design of your site very much (I am a web designer), most of the people who complain about design here - are just programmer - don't ever let a programmer to tell you how a proper design should look like...

I find some serious issues with the design, not in terms of aesthetics, but in terms of usability. I am a programmer, a web designer, a marketeer and a business guy.

don't ever let a programmer to tell you how a proper design should look like...

Don't ever let anyone tell you to ignore genuine feedback from anyone especially when he can be a potential user of your site. Focus on what the feedback is and if it is good for your project and not on the "profession" of the person who gave you feedback. Also, I have all the reasons to believe the person who you are giving this advice, who created this site, is also a programmer.

Looking at your personal website: http://www.anujkumar.com - it's very hard to tell that you have any relation to web design.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact