Tough Critics or Jealous Wannabees?

After a half day of launch, tens of thousands of views (at least), and thousands of votes, the Spring 2006 CSS Reboot is very much underway.

But despite all those good things, something odd seems to be happening. Put simply, the very best rating on any of the 700+ sites rebooted is 3.167 out of 5 (as of this writing). What? Barely 3 out of 5? 60% of the possible 100%? In a high school art class with a normal grading scale, the best-rated design just earned a D-minus.

Even for those of you attempting to counter grade inflation, you’re taking it a bit far, aren’t you?

Now you may be wondering if I’m just bitter because I rebooted a site that’s barely above 2 out of 5 stars. Well, you’re partially right – that’s certainly what got me looking. But this rant is more than that. Look at some of the beautiful top-notch stuff out there: Jeff Croft’s new piece of artwork and user-interface genius; Jonathan Snook’s new polish (complete with dockable comments and contrast switcher); Natalie Jost’s new thing of beauty – all of these, along with hundreds more truly beautiful, functional, and paradigm-stretching designs – graded with no higher than a collective D-minus? Please.

This can’t just be the tough critics out there who have valid critiques and are producing even better stuff. Why not? Because some of these sites are among the most beautiful, creative, and intuitive I’ve seen. Frankly, I would love to see the work of those who are rating these sites with 1’s and 2’s (bringing down the 4’s and 5’s). Chances are, critiques as “tough” as theirs would leave them scoreless.

To those of you who have put some nice spit-n-shine on your sites via redesigning or realigning, I commend you. Keep up the great work – you are the ones pushing the boundaries of user experience, beauty, and even great code. Even if there are some tough critics out there, let your hard work and iterative improvement encourage you to keep working hard and doing great things.

  1. Nathan, thanks so much for the kind words. I actually thought the same thing myself and here’s my take. Although I did give a handful of 5’s, I held back on a lot of them because I just didn’t feel that WOW, you know. Like my own site. I love it for me, but if I were giving it a ‘grade’ I’d say 3.5 or 4 tops. I also got tired of seeing all the same old same old all around too, for example fat footers get old unless presented in a different way, like Jeff (Croft) did. There are people like him who did something a little unique (sudoku). Those got 5 stars. I confess, though… I rarely graded on CSS, but more on graphics and otherwise aesthetic in presentation. I say we grade on a curve – a 3.5 is now an A! :)
    Natalie is the author. May 1, 20:53 is the time. <
  2. Good thoughts, Natalie – and thanks for the response.

    While I hear you on the “WOW” factor, and agree that not all the sites out there deserve 5’s, I just have a tough time stomaching the very best overall rating being a 3.167. That tells me that something is up (and it aint good). Take Jeff Croft’s site. He gets a 5 from me, maybe you, and definitely from some other people. Well to get him down to a 3, he’s also getting plenty of 1’s and 2’s to counter his 5’s. And that goes for all the other great stuff out there.

    Maybe it’s the somewhat subjective nature of the work, the differing perspectives of the raters (from high schoolers to people who have been doing typography for 30 years), or just desensitized folks. But to me, it seems like the result of a lot of people who may be much quicker to critique (harshly) than they are to produce.
    Nathan Logan is the author. May 1, 21:16 is the time. <
  3. I think it is a matter of a bunch of no-talent hacks voting willy-nilly with the click of a button, without taking into account, or even being able to fully appreciate the amount of work and planning that went into creating these sites. Even worse are ignorant comments such as those left by Hadley on Stylegala:

    http://www.stylegala.com/news/200605/947.htm

    The best thing to do is just appreciate good design for what it is, in spite of naysayers, realizing that most people have no taste whatsoever. Look no further than MySpace for evidence what these drones flock to.
    Nathan Smith is the author. May 2, 01:10 is the time. <
  4. I agree with you, Mr. Smith. The problem basically boils down to trolls given the power of AJAX-enabled rating systems.

    It might not be a bad idea to implement a system of rating where only registered users (or other rebooters?) could vote for reboots. Or maybe implement two different ratings – one of registered and one of unregistered voters?

    Although I appreciate the traffic and feedback of being involved in the reboot, it’s just disheartening to see great stuff shot down with what amounts to “whiny clicks”.
    Nathan Logan is the author. May 4, 19:52 is the time. <
  5. Well…. I’m sure some will call me a ‘naysayer’ or feel I don’t appreciate other people’s work. This is however not the case. I think many rebooted sites look great. Note the period. They look great. None of them however makes me feel thrilled in excitement.

    This reboot round sort of disappointed me. It seems a lot of designers are inspired by the same concepts. There’s a lot of ‘dark sites’. So many that I’d almost go and totally redo my own site just because it seems everyone wants a dark site these days. In that respect I think Matt Brett made a radical move with his reboot, even though the pink hurts my eyes. Its at least quite original.

    Another thing that disappointed me is the fact that some people with awesome designs came up with newly rebooted sites that I like a lot LESS than their earlier incarnations. I’m not gonna mention any names here because insulting anyone is the last thing I wanted to do. Yet this really did strike me as odd. Usually I see people getting better and better.

    Finally, none of the highest ranking sites managed to really blow me away. And I mean blow me away like when I first saw Veerle’s redesign just to illustrate what I mean.

    So… was the reboot nice? For sure! Some really pretty designs were presented. But did it blow me away? Nope. And apparently this was the case for the majority of voters.
    Marco is the author. May 5, 13:27 is the time. <
  6. Marco, I totally agree with your assertion that there are a lot of trendy, follow-the-pack, dark-gray-background type redesigns there in this round of reboots. But did you see BrianaBanana.com? That thing blew the competition out of the water! ... I’m kidding, only kidding. But seriously, there were some great reboots out there. You mentioned Matt Brett’s, for example – good stuff.

    My main point is not that everyone deserves a 4 or 5, but that the rating system becomes somewhat meaningless if the very best of the best are eeking out maybe 3 stars (and as of now, the very best is 2.77). Those designs I just linked deserve better than that – they are better than two-and-a-half star designs – they are 4s and 5s. Even if you wouldn’t rank them that high, there has to be a problem when the very best is at 55% – not even a consistent 3 stars.

    There were some reboots in this round that rocked. They may not be the best sites ever designed, but many deserve a good, hearty round of applause – and frankly, 2.77 just aint doin’ it.
    Nathan Logan is the author. May 5, 13:52 is the time. <
  7. I guess the way to get around this is to let go of the grades but just think of the scores as ‘rankings’. Like that it’s at least possible to define a top X and it’s possible to determine which sites scored well and which didn’t.

    I look at the CSS Reboot as a great event in which an explosion of creativity hits the internet. Some examples will leave us gaze in awe, some will look great and some may not impress us at all. Yet, they’re all the work of people who spent a lot of time to spread some of that ‘creativity love’ which is IMHO more important than all the ranks/grades in the world, high or low. If something deserves a lot of positive attention it will usually get it, no matter what all those ‘joe voter’ people on the CSS Reboot site clicked on ;)
    Marco is the author. May 5, 15:11 is the time. <
  8. You know, most of what people have been drueling over (or tearing apart) has been the graphics, not necessarily the CSS which is what the reboot is all about. How many sites were applauded for their CSS rather than what “thrilled” or “excited” them just looking at the graphics? For example, what was great about Matt Brett’s site was not so much the graphics or the layout even, but the way he incorporated multiple stylesheets. That’s the essence of the reboot to me, CSS talent, not photoshop.
    Natalie is the author. May 22, 18:08 is the time. <