Gmail Invites

Thursday, June 24, 2004 at 6:00 am | Comments off

Seems like everyone has been giving away Gmail invites on their blogs lately, perhaps as something of a gift to their readers. Since I appreciate all my readers so much (yep, both of you ;) I've decided that I too will send a Gmail invite to one of my lucky readers. It could be you.

Like most other sites, it doesn't come "free". I want something from you. So here's what you have to do...

Critique the site.

Yep, that's it. Post what you like about the site and what you don't like about it. Tell me what I did right and what I need to fix whenever version 2 is born. Feel free to critique the content as well as the design. Let me know what your favorite post has been and what topics you are most interested in when reading my blog. Let me know how to improve the site.

The winner will be chosen randomly out of the on-topic comments. Any comments that are off-topic will not be included in the drawing. Please feel free to leave as many comments as you like, but you'll only get your name in the hat once.

Entries must be received by Monday, June 28th at 11:59 PM CST.

Update: The contest is now closed. Thanks to all who critiqued the site and please feel free to continue doing so in the comments for this entry.


Brandon Walsh
June 24th, 2004
6:30 AM | #

To be honest, I absolutely love this site. The header graphics are beautiful, the sidebar is well organized, and the colors are perfect. There's so many different details in the design (such as the gradients on the main nav buttons, the striped footer, the form highlighting, etc...) which all fit together while being distinctive. I also love the link colors you use.

However, there is one (very minor) thing that bugs me about this layout: the striped dropshadow, which looks exactly like the one on Binary Bonsai. A little bit of tweaking would take care of that, though.

As far as the content goes, I generally enjoy your writing, whatever the subject. I particularly enjoy your tutorials, such as Form Highlighting Redux, Designating Offsite Links, and Backing Up MySQL with PHP. I always like to see how others do these types of things.

Anyway, great site!

June 24th, 2004
8:06 AM | #

I too love your design. (BTW have you done something to fix the slow load in IE of your form highlighting images? There is no longer a noticeable lag)

I find your content interesting too, but I originally came here for information on xBlogPro. Lately there has been very little of that. If nothing is going on then, I guess you can't write about it, but if there is - tell us stories! After all, lots of folks write the generic stuff about blogs and design. I haven't yet encountered anyone who talks about the blog software he is writing

That is not to say that your content has been generic, but it certainly follows a typical theme

Totally unrelated to the rest of my comments, but the email notification for comments rocks my casbah. As do the concepts you were throwing around for editing comments

June 24th, 2004
11:33 AM | #

Hi Ryan,

Your site is now in my news feeds, so just update it a wee bit more often and I'll be a happy geezer.

And I love the blue borders on focussed form inputs (ala iTunes). I must get around to figuring out how you do it one of these days ;)

June 24th, 2004
1:19 PM | #

Ryan, I don't want a Gmail invite since I already have an account. I am, however, an avid reader and thought I'd respond to your request for comments.

I'm with Brandon on the striped drop shadow I'm afraid. It's not to my tastes but it doesn't have a detrimental effect either - it just causes me to frown whenever I notice it.

I need say nothing else about the design - it's great!

I would like to see more content, more regularly posted (think Scrivs). But I wouldn't want you to compromise either your standards or your style by feeling pressured to write.

All in all then, a fine website: great eye-candy, great content, great software. Keep up the good work.

[begin plug]
"I haven't yet encountered anyone who talks about the blog software he is writing..."

I do, I do!!!
[end plug]

June 24th, 2004
2:56 PM | #

Gmail is poor. They scan ALL your emails to display adverts in them. DO NOT trust google.,1377,63204,00.html

use Yahoo, they give you 100mb for free now.

June 24th, 2004
4:29 PM | #

I first found your site from the recent A List Apart article and am thankful. I like the design (even the drop shadow). The one thing though is that I'm waiting for a designer to break out from the content on the left navigation on the right design with everything in the middle. Get a little crazy you know? I'm a firm believer in "if it ain't broke then don't fix it" but I'm anxious to see what the next generation design is going to be of blogs/personal sites.

Regarless of my desires this is a great looking site that is straight forward and well designed. Great work.

Robert Wellock
June 24th, 2004
5:59 PM | #

Are you really sure you want me to critique the site. I may eat you alive in the process; I am far worse than a large hungry piranha who has not eaten for about a week, being close to starvation.

June 24th, 2004
9:01 PM | #

When I first visited this site, I was wowed. The design was amazing, the header graphics were great (which is why I asked where you got your stock photography), and it was very legible. The grays were a change from normal designs, and I welcomed them. The little details furthered my enjoyment.

Now, the lack of color kind of gets me to me, depressing me, even. Grays and a little bit of red are great for a while, but I like to see some color; this difference is what makes IWD more aesthetically pleasing than your personal blog, IMO. I mean, yes, there can be advantages to having grayscale colors, such as improved legibility, minimal stress on the eyes, and subtle effects having more impact, but colors make the page more vibrant, warm, and inviting, rather than cold, bland, and stoic.

That's my only real complaint, though. Your site has some excellent content, much/ most of it innovative and useful. It might help to have links to your tutorials, and a seperate set of links to your personal entries, so that it'd be easier to get to the archived meat, but navigation is painfree and simple still.

Oh, yes, and I don't want GMail either. I use yahoo for commercial sign-ups, and my account has unlimited space, and a (maybe too strong) excellent spam blocker, so I have no use for Gmail; I just wanted to get my two cents in.

June 25th, 2004
12:04 AM | #

Well I had a nice little comment almost finished up and accidently lost it (I'm retarded). So you get the shorter (and probably preferred) version.

I love your site. I've loved it since the first time I visited.

The layout is clean and well-organized. It is simple and easy-to-understand (exactly what you want out of any site of this nature). The colors work perfectly together - impeccable. The content is generally helpful (thought-provoking) or entertaining.

On the other hand, it feels weird to critique you, since you have really inspired me in design and are at a level I will never be...but since you asked, here is my two cents (at a pretty low exchange rate, no doubt).

Echoing some of Omega's thoughts, I would love to see the use of some bolder colors and a less 'formulaic' layout. Don't get me wrong, yours is incredible (especially due to your attention to detail), but after seeing StopDesign's redesign, I realize that there is some real potential to come up with unexplored and riveting stuff. I think the two largest potentials are in content layout and color/image usage. There is some neat stuff out there that I can only appreciate (it's people like you who can create it).

Personally, your favicon doesn't do a whole lot for me, either. In my humble (and largely uninformed) opinion, a favicon should correlate with the 'brand' of your site and be an obvious reference to it. Looking at yours alone, I would think it was a site devoted to Native American dream catchers. Google has a G, Cameron Moll has an M, Cody has a C, and Stop Design has an S (etc.).

I would also love to see some more on your faith (this is, after all, to some degree, a personal site)...but that may just be me.

As a site note, when I am using IE, that Adobe Acrobat loading deal is sometimes highly annoying. I'm not sure if that is an accessibility feature or what, but it is sometimes unduly aggravating.

I too will pull myself out of the GMail pool. I like POP3able e-mail too much. I'm curious, but it wouldn't become my primary e-mail. Thank you for the opportunity, though.

Keep up the incredible work. You continue to be an inspiration.

(Sorry for what turned out to be a REALLY long response.)

Bickram Rai
June 25th, 2004
1:15 AM | #

Seriously speaking, i think your site is shit. sorry, i had to speak the truth, GMAIL or no gmail. bye.

Ryan Brill
June 25th, 2004
1:57 AM | #

Thanks for all the feedback, guys. Some of it I have already been planning on doing and some of it sounds good, so it will probably get added to the queue.

Nakijo - You're probably right. Perhaps I'll start posting every now and then on new developments to xBlog. For instance, comment editing is basically done and ready to go on the current development version of xBlog, I just haven't upgraded this site to it yet.

Malarkey - Check out my article on the subject. :)

NateL - I agree completely about the favicon. It REALLY needs to be changed, but probably won't happen until I redesign.

Omega - Grey? It's blue here. Might want to check your monitor...

Ryan Brill
June 25th, 2004
1:59 AM | #

Bickram Rai - I'm so glad that when people like you leave feedback like that you leave your urls. *rolls eyes*

Brian Barbutti
June 25th, 2004
2:38 AM | #

Awesome website! The header graphics are just perfect (the "freedom for design" just blew my mind first time I saw it). I'm not a big fan of the dropshadow, but have nothing against it either.

I'm from Brazil and over here the webdesign scene is just pathetic; very few designers know well CSS and accessibility and I'm tired of seeing big famous sites that have a *lot* of money to spend on webdesigning that work exclusively on IE (Sony is an example). On my country we are stuck at the old era of designing for the web with images and tables used *everywhere*. It's really hard to find a Brazilian site with a clean design. Its people like you Ryan, as well as Dave Shea and Douglas Bowman that make me wanna try to evolve the Brazilian web. You guys give me straight to fight against the stupid Brazilian IE addicted designers.

Anyway, your website is just amazing the way it is and I can't imagine a better version.

Robert Wellock
June 25th, 2004
1:52 PM | #

In reality my past posts and informal chats probably provide more of an incite of what I do and don�t like. It would be a semi-unproductive scheme for me to even attempt to rehash what I've said.

I myself have no longing for a GMAIL account it seems nearly everywhere I go they are being offered; they're like the chewing gum on the pavement creating their own life form (though it was a nice idea).

Perhaps what I haven't commented on previously with regards to the design is you remain faceless; I see no area where you've add a photograph of the author to create that human touch, also try to be more controversial do not blindly follow the flock of design-sheep.

Regarding; Bickram Rai well I assume he learnt that word in the school-playground today, perhaps later they'll teach him how to string a sentence together and provide logic reasoning for his convictions.

June 25th, 2004
3:54 PM | #

Hey Ryan.

The site isn't bad. But it's not blowing me away. It seems reminiscent of other sites out there. You obviously have design sense, I just think you can make it stand out better.

The drop shadow around the edges - it's fairly standard nowadays. Everyone and their mother has one.

I really don't like the navigation bar... Why doesn't it fit into the space? Why is there space on the left and right? And the thin gray bar above the nav doesn't fit.

The sidebar, and the formatting of the posts themselves seem right, they fit nicely. As does the Google ads.

All-in-all, I like the site. I'm not trying to slam you, just give you an honest critique.

I'd like to see a little better seperation between the post and the comments. The gray border helps, but don't know if it's enough to differentiate.

Also, you don't seem to be moving to the minimalist type of design, but yet still seems to be avoiding color. (I tend to do this myself.) A stronger sense of color in the site maybe? Give it some punch? The orange seems to fade for me, not really reinforce anyting.

Finally, I really just don't like the Focus on Design type, nor the spacing in the graphic area. I like the graphic area, but the type bothers me. But that might be more of a personal feeling that anything to do with a design sense.

June 25th, 2004
10:09 PM | #

Would like to have a Gmail invite. If you have any left, I would sure appreciate one. Thanks in advance.

I sincerely dont like to critique as it is once own view of looking at things. its like glass half full or half empty. all is gold

June 25th, 2004
11:26 PM | #

I would agree your navigation looks odd. Also the right column left border that runs down the page even when the content ends looks out of place.

And try to add some more colours and maybe a less square layout. Everything is straight and everyone's blogs seem to look the same. My favourite is SimpleBits because it has color for a bolg and he updates a lot (*hint)

June 27th, 2004
6:42 AM | #


Now for the critique: your site sucks. Whats with the rotating header images, huh? I never know I am on because the image always rotates. What next, rotate my monitor?

And what about the link colors? Don't you know that the links ALWAYS need to be blue and underlined. God has spoken, you will rot in hell for the ugly-looking red links.

And what about the color scheme. All webpages are required to be black on white. There is no room for grey and red and blue. Only black and white.

And why do you specify font? I want to use default font. I demand default font. I love comic sans ms, and you do not use this font at all. You suck!

Oh, and the fading background of the navigation just sucks. Backgrounds should never fade.

Overall verdict: this site sucks. Give up webdesign and look for another profession.


June 27th, 2004
6:59 AM | #

BTW, an interesting take "against" what we all stand for:

> My site looks shitty for the following reasons:

> Bandwidth conservation.

> [A]s a protest against all the slick-looking,
> contentless web sites out there.

> I use large fonts also as a protest against
> all the stylish garbage you see out there.
> When I go to a web site, I WANT TO READ THE CONTENT.

> I've chosen a black background for most
> of my text because it's easier on the eyes
> than staring at a white screen.

Plagiarized shamelessly from

June 27th, 2004
9:04 AM | #

I hate to seem spammish, but on my 32 bit LCD screen (I honestly don't know if that's good or not...) it's very gray. Oh, so gray. Also, I feel hypocritical because of the redesign I did for Jona's blog, entirely in grayscale, but still, I'd like to see a more vibrant design here.

I know you can make amazing designs, and if you try to break ground in blog layouts, and throw in color only good could come of it. Everything (that isn't totally asinine) that was said on this "thread" of sorts I agree with, but I really want to see more color. My only complaint.

June 29th, 2004
7:06 PM | #

I think you could maybe add different categories. Like a "Life" and a "Web Development" category =)

Zach Blume
July 2nd, 2004
11:22 PM | #

I can't really think of a way to critiqe your site other than I want more posts because I like it so much...but I guess that not much of a critiqe =P lol

dan, birthday flowers
September 10th, 2004
5:28 AM | #

I don't want a gmail (I have one, so I will not critique your site, only if you insist :P

Ryan Brill
September 10th, 2004
5:46 AM | #

Feel free to have at it. The Gmail account has already been given away, anyway. ;)

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