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.
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".
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.
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.
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 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.)
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.
They could easily increase the measure and still stay within typographic guidelines.
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!
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".
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 will agree that many of these sites, including this DN site, need to work on contrast and legibility and contrast.
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.
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.
The article was purposefully brief and the author has commented that no one quite grasps his concept of the flat design principle, 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.
 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...
Less so on 1x though, agreed.
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.
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.
You're right: that has nothing to do with the contrast.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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".
As an aside, I just tried to register without a referral code and simply got a 404 error.
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.
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 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.
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.
If you're going to be a gated community then don't post it on HN.
(also, I seriously doubt this ensures "quality".)
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.