The Current State of Web Design Galleries

UPDATE: Since this post was originally published, we have launched 5 galleries of our own:

Web design galleries started out as a novel idea several years ago when the first few launched to showcase excellent work of designers from all around the world, specifically those with exemplary use of CSS. There are now hundreds of design galleries out there.

Throughout the design community there are mixed reactions to design galleries. Many designers visit a few specific galleries on a daily or weekly basis to see what’s being added. Others get more annoyed each time a new gallery is launched.

With a number of design galleries drawing significant traffic and advertising revenue, others who are wanting to run their own profitable websites are often drawn to the idea of a gallery. With so many established galleries out there already, the opportunities for new ones are rather limited in most cases.

Still, some new galleries are finding ways to interest visitors through specialization in a specific niche. While niche galleries are unlikely to ever generate the traffic statistics of leading galleries like CSS Mania, they do offer something unique to visitors that can allow them to stand out from the hundreds of other galleries.

The Facts About Design Galleries

Over the past few years, several galleries have been successful at attracting visitors and producing ad revenue.

Galleries that don’t post several new additions each day do not take as much time to maintain as some other types of websites, such as an active blog. This, combined with the income potential, seems to encourage the existence of even more galleries.

Even though there are hundreds of galleries in existence, a relatively small percentage draw considerable traffic because of the saturation. Most of those that do draw a lot of traffic were launched several years ago.

Despite the fact that the market is saturated with design galleries, they continue to interest designers who are looking for inspiration due to the convenience of finding great designs in one place.

Why Were Design Galleries Successful in the First Place?

In order to look at the future of design galleries and what may be in store, it’s important to look back and determine what made them successful in the first place.

The biggest reason, in my opinion, that designers have loved galleries for years is the time that can be saved. All designers love inspiration of some type, and most enjoy looking at the best websites designed by others. However, without galleries, finding the best websites for inspiration would be extremely time consuming. Galleries make it possible for designers to get that inspiration in a matter of minutes.

Design galleries can be a lot of fun, maybe more so when they were a new idea, but they still can be fun today. The ease of design galleries made it an enjoyable experience to get inspiration, rather than a frustrating process of browsing through portfolios of individual designers or firms.

Another reason for the success of design galleries is do to the exposure that a designer or website owner can get by being featured in a popular gallery. Many of the visitors to galleries are designers and many of those designers are also trying to get their own work included in the gallery. That keeps people coming back and gives designers motivation to get their work in the gallery.

The originality of the first few galleries was also a significant reason for their success. People liked the idea and responded by helping to grow the popularity of the galleries.

Advancements in internet technologies and the availability of high-speed connections increasing have given designers more opportunities to experiment and take liberties in their design that might not have been possible earlier. The increased creativity of the work gives design galleries a wider selection of websites to feature that will attract the interest of visitors.

Current Problems with Design Galleries

The biggest problem with design galleries is that there are too many similar choices.

Many of the sites featured in galleries are showcased in several different galleries, making the difference from one gallery to the next pretty minimal. Visitors often have little motivation to visit more than just a few galleries because they won’t see much that’s new to them.

A number of design galleries become abandoned or very really are updated with new designs. In some cases, even those that were leading galleries in the past have slowed down considerably or completely stopped posting updates.

A surprising number of galleries don’t include images in their RSS feeds, although this is mostly the smaller galleries. With inspiration being the goal of a gallery, it’s easy to see why those that are the most successful are also the ones that are showing images in their feeds.

The popular galleries that were established several years ago make it difficult for new galleries to get noticed and gain an audience of their own.

Most visitors prefer to keep going back to their favorite galleries.

The Niche Solution

The desire to find excellent examples of new web designs has not faded from most designers. But these people already have their own favorite places to go to look for general design inspiration.

Some examples of niches galleries that were featured in this post include Design by Grid (focusing on grid-based design), eduStyle (higher education websites), Full Single (single-page websites), and We Love WP(WordPress-powered sites).

we love wp

All of these galleries have effectively chosen a specific niche that makes it a go-to resource for it’s own type of design. No general gallery can provide as much ease of use if you’re looking for that specific type of inspiration.

In my opinion, starting a niche design gallery is a better decision that starting a general gallery considering the amount of competition and the number of general galleries that are already established, not to mention that at this point niche galleries are more useful for visitors. There are a number of opportunities to start a gallery in a niche that hasn’t yet been touched, or maybe hasn’t been effectively served by other niche galleries.

The problem of abandonment or infrequent postings has also effected niche galleries, but those that have worked to establish themselves in their niche have seen decent traffic, produced some revenue, and effectively served designers in their niche (We Love WP is one of the best examples).

The Future of Design Galleries and Niche Galleries

Design galleries in general don’t seem to be going away any time in the near future. Niche galleries seem to have more use for visitors and more opportunities for success for those who are looking to launch a new gallery.

My guess is that niche galleries that are run well with a strong plan and commitment will have a much better chance of making an impact in the design community than general galleries that haven’t yet been launched.

What’s Your Opinion?

Do you currently visit design galleries? If so, which ones do you prefer? Do you have an interest in niche galleries and do you see a future for them?

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