Dribbble Isn’t Enough

Here’s an interesting stat from the Folyo database: out of 948 designers who have applied to Folyo, 55 (or about 5%) have submitted their Dribbble profile as their portfolio site URL.

This number is still relatively low, but I believe it’s indicative of a recent trend among designers: more and more people rely on their Dribbble profile instead of setting up their own personal portfolio site.

Now I can certainly understand why you’d choose to do that. Designing your own portfolio is one of the hardest tasks a designer can tackle: you need to find a way to cleanly present your work, yet infuse the design with your unique personality and style at the same time.

So show me a designer, and I’ll show you someone who has countless files with names like “portfolio-v3-c copy 2.psd” sitting around on their hard drive, consequences of numerous battles with Photoshop in search of the perfect portfolio design.

One of my own many unused portfolio designs

What’s more, Dribbble provides something even the best portfolio doesn’t: social validation. Look at all those likes! Look at those comments! People love my work, and even want to have sex with it! (if you’ve ever read the comments on one of Rogie‘s shots you know what I’m talking about).

Keep it classy, Dribbble!

So I get it. In fact, I myself rely on Dribbble to tide me over until the next version of my portfolio (which is coming as soon as I can get that background texture just right).

But despite that, I’m here to tell you that this is wrong.

Dribbble is not a good replacement for a personal portfolio, nor was it ever intended to be.

The goal of Dribbble has always been to provide a place where designers can showcase what they’re working on to each other.

On the other hand, your portfolio is a place where designers showcase what they’ve worked on to clients.

See where I’m going with this?

Despite their apparent similarities, these two medias have completely different goals and structures.

The Clueless Client

Browsing Dribbble makes a ton of sense to other designers, but many clients will be lost. The average non-design-savvy client would probably wonder:

  • Why they can only see a tiny part of each image
  • Why it’s not possible to zoom in, at least in most cases
  • Who are the people leaving obscene comments below the designs
  • Why one wrong click sends them to a completely different person’s work

But maybe what I’ve described here actually seems like a great feature to you: at last, a way to filter out neophytes! After all, if someone doesn’t know what Dribbble is, maybe you just don’t want them as a client.

Now’s the part where you expect me to vigorously condemn such arrogance. But I actually think that would be a pretty smart strategy, if it worked.

You see, the other problem is that even for savvy clients, Dribbble is not a great way to evaluate a designer.

How Do Clients Pick a Designer?

When you want to buy a new car, do look at the wheels and the engine separately, and marvel at the craftsmanship that went into designing them? No, you take the whole car for a test drive!

Similarly, the way people pick a designer is very simple: they need a website with a big button on the homepage, so they look for somebody who creates nice big-button-on-the-homepage websites. In other words, the client wants to evaluate the whole experience, not just a small part.

Now think about the kind of content that gets posted to Dribbble: small UI elements, cool effects, funky type treatments… But this doesn’t provide the full context people are looking for.

Designers think this is awesome, but the average client doesn’t care

A client doesn’t care that your radio button got 200 likes: there is simply no way they will hire you based on that alone.

Dribbble is Still Great

Don’t get me wrong, I love Dribbble. And I personally get 90% of my own client inquiries from Dribbble and don’t have a “real” portfolio.

But I don’t think you should follow my example if you want to increase your chances of landing a job, especially if you’re just starting out in this industry.

Services like Cargo or Squarespace make it a snap to setup a real portfolio, so you don’t really have any excuse to keep using Dribbble instead.

And “Oooh, I got into Dribbble, look at me!!” is definitely not a valid reason!

  • http://twitter.com/jmkdesign Jake

    I 100% agree

  • http://ivomynttinen.com/ Ivo Mynttinen

    Agree. In addition it seems like it is a new trend to use Dribbble Shots instead of full showcases and case studies on real portfolio sites.

    I had two clients recently who hired designers from Dribbble before they hired me and they where highly disappointed by their results. Often very young designers who can rock with PS create great visuals only for Dribbble and receive hundreds of likes on these shots. The problem is that the most of these designers have no idea how a real product should look like and even more important how it should work.

    A thing I keep telling clients: don’t hire a designer based on his Dribbble shots – let them send you previous work if they don’t have a real portfolio.

  • http://twitter.com/jon_patterson Jonathan Patterson

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Dribbble has its place but it is not a replacement for the portfolio. Even more, designers need to know the importance of real design work. So much of Dribbble is fictitious projects. How you respond to and execute a real project with parameters makes ALL the difference.

  • http://twitter.com/saschamt Sascha M. Trinkaus

    I sure agree with you Sacha, but there are two points Dribbble has over custom portfolios: visibility and traffic. Still, I think you should back a well-followed and visible Dribbble profile with a great, custom portfolio to show of some real work.