Online forums are a critical resource for web designers and developers as they often work alone and need advice or input from their peers. Discussions center on technical questions such as an element of a site not functioning correctly, professional feedback on design, and dealing with the client side of the business.
Web Designer Forum
Web Designer Forum is based in the United Kingdom and while it focuses on designers in the UK, it has members internationally. There are over 50,000 members and the forums are very active. While most users are design professionals, those brand new to web design are welcome to ask questions. The forum boards are split into a few major sections.
- The Web Designer Forum Community covers general chat between members, forum news, member competitions and job postings.
- Web Design Resource has forums on design and layout, copywriting, feedback on websites, graphic design and a resource section listing tutorials reviews, and stock photo sites.
- SEO, Website Marketing and Business has boards on using social media, business and legal issues for freelancers, SEO techniques, e-commerce support and the basics of website management.
- Software and Hardware has a section for discussion of website browsers, scripts and software and hardware recommendations.
- The Marketplace is an area for classified ads and for posting freelance projects.
Most of the forums can be read by anyone without setting up an account although the job and ad postings are only available to subscribers. You need to set up a free account in order to post to any of the boards. The forum is free and ad-supported, but they do offer "supporter" memberships to help fund the site. Supporters receive extra perks like a higher number of private messages and ability to disable ads.
Stack Overflow is a very popular online community known for being the "place to go" when you have a web design or development question. The company behind it claims that more than 50 million professionals visit the site every month.
The site's content is derived from a very active community who work to develop their "reputation" by answering questions from people who need help. Other users can upvote their responses which increases their reputation. Members with higher levels of reputation have more privileges in the community, such as the ability to edit comments of other users. Stack Overflow covers all areas of front and back end development and you can find help for simple CSS and HTML questions, all the way up to more complex server-side issues.
Stack Overflow is free to join and just requires setting up an account. The forum is also searchable and you can often find an answer to your question before needing to post.
While Stack Overflow is a place to find a tremendous amount of information, it can get mixed reviews. You don't know the level of skill of the person answering your question and sometimes you can get conflicting responses. The site is available for professionals and beginners, but it's also known for its members being snarky. Timid newbies should be aware they may get some testy responses mixed in with the helpful ones.
This is another very popular community for developers and designers. The forums have over 255,000 users with about 2,000 posts per week. Like most forums, there is a search feature you can use to find answers to common (and not so common) design and development issues. Sitepoint has a very user-friendly interface and different forum topics are color coded for easy recognition. The community is also very welcoming of both beginners and more experienced professionals. The admin team is very active. In addition to the introductory help forum, the site is home to several other forums.
- Community for general topics and friendly member conversation
- Showcase to present your work and discuss it with others
- Business for issues related to all aspects of work, both self-employed and employee-related
- General Web Dev for topics that are not covered by the above forums
There are also forums for database use, content, server configuration, social media and more. The community is quite expansive and covers just about anything a designer or developer would need. Sitepoint also publishes several books and online courses and a free podcast on web development as well as memberships, but no purchase is necessary to use the forums.
With over 390,000 members, Designers Talk is a very active forum that focuses primarily on all facets of design. There are forums for graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and print designers. Web designers will enjoy the Web Design, Web Development and CMS forums.
Within those areas, topics are not split up by subtopics but instead list questions as threads in order of posting. If you are looking for a specific topic, you can use the search feature. The forum is welcoming of new designers and the user interface is colorful and easy to navigate.
If you're interested in other topics related to web design, there are sections on the business aspects of design, hosting, mobile development and more. Registration is completely free and is only required if you want to post. Otherwise you can read the responses to questions without signing up.
Digital Point is one of the largest webmaster/SEO communities online with members in 236 countries around world. The site is focused on professionals in the web design and development business and describes its user base as affluent business owners aged 18 to 34.
The forums cover just about any aspect of the business of creating and running websites. The focus is primarily on business but there are very active sub-forums for Design and Development. The Design forum has areas for HTML & Web Design as well as Graphics & Multimedia and Content Management. The Development section covers Programming, Site & Server Administration and Databases. Designers can also participate in design contests and submit their templates and graphic work for sale.
The forum questions in both the Design and Development areas range from beginner to advanced but tends to have more general and novice questions as well as questions from business owners who are not designers or developers. The user interface is a bit old-fashioned and not as visually attractive as alternatives like Sitepoint and Designers Talk. It is free to sign up, and the site is ad-supported with a very active marketplace.
Designer News is a website for anyone interested in design and technology. The forums cover anything from graphic design to UI/UX to web design. There are 175,000 active monthly users and the user base is international.
Designer News has a modern, colorful interface and the forums allow you to assign badges to your post to make them instantly recognizable. You can add a green "Ask DN" button that signifies you are looking for help or suggestions. You can also tag posts with badges for CSS, Site Design, Typography and other design topics. As such, there are no boards split up with separate topics but questions and topics posted in order of when they were created. There is a search feature to help you find topics of interest.
It is free to join although you can search through and read posts without creating an account. Setting up an account gives you access to special deals and offers from Designer News' industry partners. There is an area for posting and searching for jobs and also a section for their podcast and to sign up for design-focused newsletters.
If you prefer to access the web via mobile, there is an app for reading and posting to Designer News for iOS and Android. Designer News is a friendly community for beginners and advanced members but its focus is strongly on design. If you have technical questions about your site beyond CSS and design software, you may find this forum less useful.
Finding a Community
There are many forums online for designers and developers to discuss all things related to web design. Every community has its own focus whether it be the art of design or the complexity of code. Research forums by reading through their most active posts to see what sort of topics are covered, how supportive the community is toward its members, and the level of experience of the users answering questions. A good set of community guidelines and active admins and moderators are also important features to consider.