Designer News: State Of The Universe

almost 7 years ago from , Founder at LayerVault

I occasionally send a State Of The Universe to the LayerVault team between big milestones. This will be our Designer News State Of The Universe.

I'm interested to hear from you about some questions I don't have answers to yet. We'll also answer questions about DN in the comments. Let's be sure not to turn this into a Feature Request thread, as there's already one linked in the footer.

If this State Of The Universe is enjoyable for you guys and useful for me, we'll make it a tradition.

Traffic Health

Designer News receives lots of traffic. Despite not doing anything special in the marketing, SEO, or even design of Designer News, traffic metrics continue to slowly grow.

Designer News Growth

The graph above shows unique visits each week since inception. We got lucky and were off to a pretty good start right from inception. We continue to get lucky and DN grows little by little.

The holidays are approaching, so I'm predicting a seasonal slow down between now and Jan 1. Don't stress out if people take more time to reply to threads. Spend time with your families and we'll post about pixels and your opinions on flat design when you're back. And, if your family is boring you, DN is quite nice in Safari on iOS.


There are no format guidelines for Designer News. We trust the judgement of our community. However, now that we've recently opened registration a bit, it's probably time to formalize some community guidelines. I have a rough draft.

I'd like to make sure I cover the important stuff. So, with respect to the DN guidelines: What are topics you would like to have covered?

Open Registration

We feared that opening registration would reduce comment and story quality. To test things, registration has been opening daily from 12PM to 1PM, or until available accounts dry up.

I actually examine each registrant, every day. I've deleted a small number of users who failed the smell test. This obviously won't scale.

Since opening the doors, I've seen a healthy number of impressive companies represented. With such a small registration window, we end up with users who genuinely want to contribute but can't find an invite. I think the net impact to comment and story quality is positive.

Designer News Digest

The Digest has been around for a few weeks now. I've found it to be a nice wrap-up. I'm on the site all week, so I'm not seeing anything new. A weekly wrap-up is perhaps too infrequent.

DN Digest

For those of you subscribed, How's it going? We're open to suggestion and opinion here.

Jobs Board

Our Jobs Board has been a nice addition. It grows as the site grows. We've used it ourselves with good results. We've heard good things from some of the companies listing there.

It's nice to charge for listings and it works well as a qualifier. I wonder how often designers looking for work think about hitting /jobs. More importantly, with the "freelancer" threads that sometimes pop up, I think we could be doing better.

I don't want DN to compete with services like Ooomf, Folyo, etc. If you guys think it would be helpful, and the proprietors of those companies (Mikael, Sacha) would be into it, I think we could incorporate freelance work into DN somehow. I'm not a fan of bloating DN with features, but it might be an interesting experiment if we can find a way to make it simple and useful.

Does anyone have opinions on how we might improve the job listings, work with freelancers, or work with companies like those listed above?

LayerVault and Promotion

It's always a small shock to people that LayerVault does not advertise itself on Designer News. We really make no mention of LayerVault at all, save for the occasional story about interesting new features. This weekend, I added a covert LayerVault link to the footer which I'll probably replace with a Guidelines link as soon as we have it.

I feel strongly that DN does not belong, nor would it thrive, as some kind of sales or marketing channel for LayerVault. We debate internally, and I wonder often and openly whether I am being too sensitive about promoting LayerVault on DN.

It's no secret that DN is a LayerVault product. In many direct and indirect ways, DN provides value to LayerVault proper. We would never take self-promotion to extremes, but how much of LV on DN do you think the community would tolerate?

The Future of DN

We're going to try to do more AMAs with interesting designers. We're going to add some of the most requested features (down voting, karma sorting). The site's design will continue to be iterated on. The community will probably get bigger, but we'll reward older or more active members with more features and avatar colors.

There are plenty of things we don't know that we're going to do yet, so please let us know what you think.


  • Todd BurtonTodd Burton, almost 7 years ago

    As far as promoting LV is concerned, you're providing a free service that allows the design community to connect/debate/bitch. While I can only speak for myself, I'd hope that everyone is ok with practically any amount of LV promotion. I can see how an extreme amount can turn people off, but anything less should be somewhat expected.

    Per usual, you guys are awesome.

    6 points
  • Tycho Klein SevertTycho Klein Severt, almost 7 years ago

    About 'The Digest', I think most of us have already read all the posts that received a lot of karma. Maybe you could add some unpopular posts that in your mind should've ended up with higher karma. Some people here mentioned a daily digest. I wouldn't like that at all. :)

    4 points
  • Jason CarulliJason Carulli, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I am open to any amount of LayerVault promotion as I imagine it will be tastefully integrated and not clutter the current or future interface.

    The main reason I would love to see more promotion of LV is my own personal need for the product to grow and succeed. I have rethought my entire design workflow since signing up and have moved in a direction where LV has become the foundation for how I organize and present to my team.

    On the heels of the Everpix shutdown and being apart of several failed startups, I know how hard it is for products, no matter how useful they are, to grow in the market and succeed. If it takes extra promotion here to your core demographic, why not take advantage and try to convert some users.

    I need LV in my life, I am tired of Dropbox and scripting my own "delivery" templates to clients. So please, promote on.

    3 points
  • Joe CJoe C, almost 7 years ago

    Really interesting post Allan, great to get some insight into one of my most visited sites!

    On the subject of guidelines, I feel kind of on the fence about this.

    When I first joined DN, I almost felt slightly nervous posting links to things I found interesting. I think being an invite-only community (at that time), I found myself really wanting to contribute worthy content. In this time I found myself confused about the badges for posts, as well as the 'Ask DN' and 'Show DN' features (Are they automated? Am I allowed to do one?) These worries passed over a few weeks of usage, and I'm sure also are down to my personal disposition; but it could perhaps be useful for 'newbies' to see a run through of the basics of DN, could even take the format of a FAQ or something.

    On the flip side, we of course don't want to stifle creativity by enforcing strict posting rules, and a community that is largely invite-only + quite heavy guidelines = maybe not that much fun to post on!

    As a community, we here at DN seem to be pretty good at just leaving alone posts we know are a bit spammy. I've seen a good few 'Show DN: My Dribbble' posts that were just left alone to sink to the back pages - so maybe the system is working now.

    Thinking about it, perhaps the best guidelines would be not telling newcomers what they shouldn't be posting, but maybe giving a few examples of the kind of stuff we love here.

    Anways, sorry for the ramble! Looking forward to the evolution of DN, keep up the great work guys and thanks again for letting us hang out here ;)

    2 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 7 years ago

    I really don't mind if you start adding freelance jobs. Folyo works on a different model anyway, so it's our job to convince companies to give us a shot. I really appreciate you asking though :)

    2 points
  • Julian NJulian N, almost 7 years ago

    Wow this is really cool. I've never experienced such openness in a blog post before and it looks like there's some great stuff coming up. I really appreciate that attitude and all of your work, thanks!

    One thing though: This site doesn't show my last name, but if you search me on Google, my DN user page pops up. Is there anything that can be done about that?

    2 points
    • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, almost 7 years ago

      In which direction? Having your last name appear on DN, or not displaying your profile on Google?

      0 points
      • Julian NJulian N, almost 7 years ago

        Not displaying my name on Google. I just noticed that clicking a user shows their last name. So why the abbreviation in threads? Not that I dislike it.

        Don't really now why, but I like to keep the number of services my name is publicly tied to to a minimum.

        0 points
  • Sean HendricksonSean Hendrickson, almost 7 years ago

    Despite never having used LV, I appreciate hearing about the latest features. I think LV is a great product for designers and I'm excited to hear about new features when they come out. (I'd like to link my dropbox with it as well but wish it would be easier than contacting support)

    I love the email newsletter, but I feel like it doesn't come as frequently as I want it to. I love sidebar.io for its daily links, and having DN only coming weekly, I feel like it doesn't come often enough! (or maybe I'm just addicted)

    With regarding guidelines, perhaps there is some sort of option that you could select which kind of feature you would like to post about (Ask DN, AMA, Show DN, etc.) and provide an appropriate form for that. I feel like there are starting to be so many different features that it's hard to keep track! (I could have made it a "Show DN" post)

    Lastly, I feel like the karma aspect is a little unutilized. It is (probably on purpose) very played down. I almost feel like it should take a card out of the Reddit playbook or Facebook and put a thumbs up next to the post or comment. (doesn't have to be big)

    Anyways, that's my 2 cents. Take it or leave it.

    2 points
    • Allan GrinshteinAllan Grinshtein, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

      wish it would be easier than contacting support

      You can do it from your settings now.

      I love the email newsletter, but I feel like it doesn't come as frequently as I want it to.

      What's the right frequency for you?

      With regarding guidelines, perhaps there is some sort of option that you could select which kind of feature you would like to post about (Ask DN, AMA, Show DN, etc.) and provide an appropriate form for that.

      We need to outline what each of the badges mean and when to use them.

      Lastly, I feel like the karma aspect is a little unutilized.

      Downvote is coming. Karma levels grant you new avatar colors. Eventually, threads should be sorted by karma. Other than that, what else could it be used for?

      2 points
      • Sean HendricksonSean Hendrickson, almost 7 years ago

        You can do it from your settings now.


        What's the right frequency for you?

        I like daily newsletters. It sums up what's popular from the day before. I think giving people an option between daily and weekly newsletters (or make them different experiences…daily might be a list of links where weekly might have the titles with sumaries, for instance)

        Other than that, what else could it be used for?

        I think I was misread. I feel that people aren't voting enough. Rather than vote someone's comment up, someone might just reply instead. They might like the comment, but don't upvote it. My solution was to make the upvote link more graphical to encourage more voting participation.

        I love the voting aspect and the reward colors, though. Can't wait to sort by points!

        0 points
        • Ryan LeFevreRyan LeFevre, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

          The lack of voting is something we actually anticipated and compensated a little for. To make up for it, comments count a tiny amount towards the story's overall rating. We've had some good arguments internally about this, and decided to leave it for the time being. It's something that can be adjusted over time if voting habits change.

          3 points
  • Amelia HumfressAmelia Humfress, almost 7 years ago

    Hey guys, I love the format that Sidebar uses with it's emails. I actually look forward to receiving them everyday. I'm sure I'd feel the same about DN! I agree, once a week feels too infrequent.

    1 point
  • Jonathan YapJonathan Yap, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I like the varied post from time to time, but I especially enjoy those AMAs, Interesting products/apps, and thought provoking topics that are tossed around in discussions. I tend to skim over the site designs and the occasional dribble post, unless I have nothing much on or if it's something really good.

    On the newsletter, I find it useful round up for when I miss something, but most times I have already seen all the post. So it's not too relevant at times like you said. Perhaps there is something you could look into with Timezone. I usually missed the good content that is coming out of the States because I'm not on DN at night in the UK or the weekend.

    I would actually understand the promotion of LV on DN, I'm not too fused about it. Actually I like to see more of it sometimes, maybe some insight from people using it. Still having trouble convincing the office to jump it, though that's just me and it might differ from others.

    You guys are still doing amazing!

    1 point
  • Nathan NNathan N, almost 7 years ago

    how much of LV on DN do you think the community would tolerate?

    Probably less frequently than how often YC is mentioned on HN. I follow you guys on tumblr already anyways <3

    1 point
  • Quentin R, almost 7 years ago

    If you find good people that need invites, you can refer them to me. My twitter handle is @qrlns.

    I love to have more topics of productivity and mornings covered. Or even better both i.e. waking up early, staying up and getting things done.

    Keep up the amazing work!

    1 point
  • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, almost 7 years ago

    I think frequency with which you mention LayerVault, right now (In posts), is great and I actually find them interesting and useful. I don't want to see much more than I do though. Like, no ads, please. I will say that I think you deserve something like a "Brought to you by LayerVault" link in the footer.

    1 point
  • Jeremy HooverJeremy Hoover, over 6 years ago

    I love that the digest is just once a week. There's just too much to read out there, it's nice to have a short list. Thanks for running DN with such awesomeness!

    0 points
  • Martin BavioMartin Bavio, almost 7 years ago

    What do you think about a slightly different layout for AMAs?

    I feel like that's one of the best ideas you’ve had here, but current design of a thread doesn’t feel prepared to support that type of content. Maybe separating each question/answer on it’s own white box?

    0 points
    • Ryan LeFevreRyan LeFevre, over 6 years ago

      I think sorting comments by vote count will actually help that a lot.

      1 point
      • Martin BavioMartin Bavio, over 6 years ago

        Ryan, that might help, but I feel like visually some questions could be lost given that they are on the same block. I could also be wrong, of course.

        0 points
  • Pete LadaPete Lada, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I feel like your comment points should count towards your overall karma or show up in your profile somewhere.

    In regards to more LV promotion -- I suppose it wouldn't be a huge deal as long as its not in-your-face and done in a reasonable/classy way. I do think that having layervault as part of the URL is quite a bit of promotion already, though, and shouldn't be discounted.

    Would love more AMAs from well known designers.

    Congrats on the success! Loving it so far.


    Also, I should add that I really want to try out the jobs listing to see how it performs, but I am a little burnt after using dribbble's job listings and not getting much return for the money spent. Perhaps some sort of trial for your first job listing to gauge if its a worthwhile avenue for recruiting?

    0 points
  • Brandon JacobyBrandon Jacoby, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    Thanks for this post, it's awesome to see a small peek behind the curtains, and I love how community-driven DN is.

    As far as LV promotion goes, although I don't use it, I love seeing the occasional new feature posts, but I personally wouldn't mind a little bit of LV promotion around DN.

    I've been loving the weekly digest, but like you said, I've already seen most of the stuff on it. I wouldn't mind even a daily digest.

    Here's my thoughts about registration, and how there could be a steady growth, without having to completely open registration. What if people could sign up to be a equivalent to Dribbble's prospect. Current users could then invite them from there. You could then give an invite to give out to current users for every 10 karma they get or something along those lines.

    For guidelines, like others have mentioned, I think it's starting to get to a point where there should be some sort of key on what badges mean, and when to use them.

    You guys are amazing. I ♥ DN.

    0 points
  • Tierney CyrenTierney Cyren, almost 7 years ago

    Newsletter: I'm in the same boat you are with the newsletter, because I see everything on DN anyway, so it has no use to me. I wish this were different, because I would love to get something that I could use from DN in my inbox every now and then.

    Promotion: I think that the method of posting any/all blog posts/updates about LayerVault is perfect. While I'm not interested in them (despite my brand loyalty generated through DN), I'm sure there are people who are and find them useful. They're unobtrusive to me, which I like. But, that said, I wouldn't mind a bit of intrusion if you would like to add some--it's your site and it's probably a good way to promote your product.

    Features: I'm pretty happy that features are being continually added, as it's what I expect of most web apps/sites, but rarely see. Hearing that features that I want will be coming within a reasonable amount of dev time (however long you're taking right now to add features is just fine) makes me extra happy.

    0 points
  • Oskar LevinsonOskar Levinson, almost 7 years ago

    First let me just say thank you for providing this excellent resource to us, and free of charge and ads no less!

    I think the implementation of features you mentioned will not only sway new users from lowering the quality of links/comments but actually improve the quality we've had since day 1.

    I wouldn't mind if you promoted Layer Vault at all, just make sure to somehow differentiate it from other posts about LV (new features etc.)

    I get the weekly newsletter and even though I've seen all the stories during the week it's a nice round up and I get another chance to read something I might have missed or just skimmed through.

    0 points