If you’re an active follower or member of the web design community then you have certainly seen or heard about the current debate surrounding the potential demise of the web design community.
While I don’t want to give my opinion on this topic itself in this article, I do want to have a closer look at the scapegoat that is often argued to be one of the main reasons for the current developments in the design community: The List Post.
Before I’m getting started let’s make sure that we’re all on the same level and define what a list post is.
A list post (I’m quoting nobody, but myself here) is a post that features a list of different web sites, links, photographs or other elements all surrounding a certain, common topic or theme. They often, but not always, consist of nothing but a short intro/outro and a collection of links and/or screenshots or images.
If you disagree with my definition please leave a comment explaining why; I don’t actually think there is that much room for interpretation or arguing here.
How It All Started
Smashing Magazine was one of the first design blogs to publish lists, loads of them. Lists as a way to present a multitude of different links surrounding a topic were surely around before in the world of blogging, but Smashing Magazine were the first one in the design community to actually do it mainly and – as it turned out – very successfully.
They quickly gained popularity, traffic, exposure and countless diggs, tweets, stumbles & co and also started making money with ads.
I’m certainly not blaming Smashing Magazine for anything and if they would still be one of only few blogs that published list posts then I would actually appreciate that.
Since those days Smashing Magazine changed massively and even though they still do post the occasional list post (often helping smaller sites gain exposure) their focus switched and most of their content are in-depth and high-quality posts on various web design topics.
Unfortunately success inevitably attracts copycats and in combination with easier to use blogging platforms web design blogs that focused on list posts popped up like mushrooms all over the web.
Not even this would have been a big problem, if all of these blogs had invested all of their efforts and time in finding unique topics, proper research and preparation, but quite many of them were just after a quick buck or traffic without having too much interest in actually sharing links and images designers would actually profit from.
This resulted in what we have now: Hundreds (if not thousands) of design blogs that pump out one mediocre list post after another, Twitter streams filled with retweets of the “20 Best Firefox Plugins for Web Designers” or “50 Most Awesome jQuery Plugins Ever” and Designers that actually would like to share their unique opinions and knowledge, but are discouraged by the constant stream of list posts that stop people from actually checking out their sites.
What Can We Do?
So how do we get out of this mess? Bloggers should start by reducing the amount of list posts they’re publishing and publish either alternative content (how about a in-depth review of a web site, service or design rather than a list with “20 Fabulous Web Sites with Big Headers”?) or make sure that their list posts are unique, of a high-quality and have, if fitting, descriptions and explanations for each item.
Readers should stop to retweet, digg and bump every mindless list post they see just because 100 other people did the same. If you think a post is great (you can only do this after you actually read it) share it, if not don’t – it’s so very simple.
Wrapping It All Up
To get to an end here and to answer the question I asked in the title: Are list posts a curse or blessing?
They can be both. A unique list post that features some extraordinary designs or sites, adds some valuable background information and really showcases and summarizes a certain aspect of web design can be just as valuable as an in-depth, opinionated piece. A list post that, on the other hand, covers a topic that has already been covered by 100 other blogs and doesn’t add anything new is nothing but spam.
When I started DesignLovr one of my goals was to publish list posts only occasionally (besides our weekly Resource-Wednesday there were only 2 so far) and if so, to do my research, find truly stunning examples of what I want to showcase and also offer some background information on the respective topic. I think I did well so far and hope that other bloggers will rethink the way they see and approach list posts as well and start turning all list posts into blessings – if we can save the design community at the same time, even better.