I've been pouring through the tons of wonderful entries in the current theme contest and I'm so seriously impressed. There are some very creative folks out there doing amazing things.
And the host, Alex King, has some really good comments on what makes a theme work in such a contest, so read the fine print and commentary very closely. He's spent a LONG time fixing many of the entries before they can be made public, and some just weren't "fixable". But overall, they are amazing!
I just thought I would add a couple notes, as I've spent way too long going through all of these marvelous designs.
Design the WHOLE thing not parts
I've mentioned this before but I've seen a lot of little details missed. For example, the hovers and links are all designed, but the visited mode has often been ignored. Especially when cruising through a long list of themes in the sidebar, I kept losing my place. Sure, I could often see the one highlighted that I was on, but I couldn't see which ones I'd looked at last time I came snooping around. On some well-designed pages, yes, I could see the past visits, but on a lot of them, no clue if I'd looked at the page before or not. STYLE YOUR VISITED LINKS.
Test Across Browsers
For the most part, these are looking great in different browers, but I am seeing a few little details that sneak in between browsers. For the most part, they don't matter, but the issues around floating or layered elements that overlap badly in one browser but look fine in another makes it frustrating for the viewer. Watch those edges and overlappings.
Use Some Color, Folks
I have to admit that I adore a very minimalistic look on a site. We work overtime on our own personal site to keep it real readable and clean, but I have to admit, in such a contest, if you really want to attract attention, add some color. Take some risks with color. Don't clutter everything up with everything being a different color, but get colorful. Pastels are fine, but there are a million other color types. So have some fun and get colorful.
Eye Sight Cruelty
Luckily, this is rare, but there are still some designs coming out with tiny text. Watch that. And make sure there is enough contrast between the background color and the text to show up. The problem usually happens in sidebars rather than in the content area. Stylized sidebars are wonderful, colorful and dramatic, but if we can't read the words and links, it's a struggle to navigate the site.
As a photographer, I adore sites featuring strong visuals and photography, but as a professional photographer, I recommend you make sure you are willing to give up rights to your graphics and photography, and that you make sure that your designs in general meet the requirements for copyrights and public release as outlined by Alex King, competition host. He will not post any questionable copyright sites or content, but it is your responsiblity to make sure you are protected, or totally releasing all protection rights.
- - - - - - - - - -
I think there are only a few days left, and themes are rolling in like crazy. I'm really humbled by the wonderful designs and great risks being taken in designing such powerful sites. Truly beautiful. Congrats to everyone who entered - outstanding work.
And for the rest of us....I swear, we are all lazy slackers. Go check out the contest and be inspired!!