There is a plethora of design blogs and online design magazines that many designers turn to for inspiration and keeping abreast of current web developments. In fact it’s no exaggeration to say that our field is saturated with them. Looking for inspiration from them is both easy and hard. Easy, in that there is no shortage of articles and blogs with the word ‘inspiration’ in them. Hard, because it’s not always going to be the sort of inspiration you’re necessarily looking for and you find yourself browsing a multitude of distracting online content, only to forget what you were looking for in the first place!
As a designer it’s a good problem to have I would say but requires some self discipline and patience. If you’re like me however and bereft of such virtues you may find the following tools useful in your everyday life as a designer.
I’ve been a Netvibes user for about 2 years now having been introduced to it by my esteemed work colleague (Diego Lago – Springmile). I have to say it has completely changed by browsing behaviour. Netvibes is a ‘mashable’ – a free web tool that allows you to personalise your web experience by incorporating feeds from your favourite websites so you can view them all on one page. It also allows you to set up tabs so you can categorize your space. So for example, if you set up a tab called Design Inspiration, you can pull in feeds from Smashing Magazine, Six Revisions, Abduzeedo, Dzine Blog, Weddesigner Depot and view as many as ten items from each one. This is an excellent tool for a consolidated view of your favourite websites and in theory you need never use your bookmarked pages again. What’s more there are plenty of associated widgets to choose from including, Hotmail inbox, Google calendars, Tube service updates and Twitter where I can post tweets directly from. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I actually logged into my Twitter account – there’s just no need when you have this widget.
Clipmarks is a sort of ‘clipboard’ that you can create whenever you want to capture something of interest. My personal page has a host of logo images which I take inspiration from and BBC iPlayer videos that I want to watch again. You can see clips of text, images or video and save them for public viewing. It also allows you to post clips directly to your blog and email them to friends. There is a nice facility to select Guides. Guides are people who will bring you the most compelling clips of text, images, and video they find on the web. Essentially, they’re your web editors, enabling you to consume a more diverse stream of content than you could surfing alone. I’m not personally a very advanced user of Clipmarks. I don’t have Guides and I don’t generally view other peoples’ clips. I do random searches and I use it a repository of interesting things I’ve come across on the web. For me it’s a sort of online scrapbook.
Scrnshots.com is a community for designers to share screenshots of interesting and beautiful design. This is a fabulous tool for designers looking for inspiration. Essentially you can search websites that users have posted with certain keywords and have a whole host of screenshots made available to you. By signing up you can make screen shots of cool websites available to others. It allows users to post comments and follow your favourite contributors by adding contacts to your personal profile. That allows you to keep up to date with their screenshot postings. It’s not really all that sophisticated but it does have a desktop widget available so that you can select an area of the screen you want to capture, upload saved files and attribute tags to improve searching.
So there are my 3 favourite web tools I use to get inspiration. I would love to know what others use.