In this environment, professionals can dive into the web head first and share their prized designs, without having to host their own portfolio.
Forrst is the latest addition to this niche. Though hiding behind an invite-only system, Forrst is an amazing community of knowledgeable web designers and developers who share snippets of code and design work. You can ask questions and share interesting links with your followers, creating a Twitter-like experience for us web designers.
I conducted a short interview with the website's developer and founder, Kyle Bragger (@kylebragger). Bragger gives us a brief history of how an idea turned into Forrst, he discusses the design and development process that goes on behind the scenes, and he shares his hopes for the future of the web app.
Question: What was the purpose of launching Forrst and the motivation behind it? How did the idea for Forrst form and then become what it is today? Was it an original idea of your own or part of a brainstorm with others?
Bragger: Forrst started as nothing but a tiny side project that I dreamt up in early January after thinking hard about how and where I was (or wasn't) sharing things that were really interesting to me from a development and design perspective.
I didn't feel that what I had to share really fit on Tumblr or Twitter; they're great tools but in my opinion aren't the right places to share the kinds of things you're able to share on Forrst.
The current incarnation of the website launched on May 1st, after about one and a half months of hard work and collaboration between me, Adam Kopec (@akopec) and Pasquale D'Silva (@pasql), and it was cheered on by my wonderful investors, Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk.
I'm responsible for 100% of the development; Adam took my wireframes and vision and kicked ass on a polished UI; and Pasquale is the brilliant illustrator behind the identity and home page scene.
Question: How do you collaborate with others and work on the website? Do you have a daily routine, or is each new day a surprise?
Bragger: I usually try to get up around 6:30 am, handle email and some Twitter support and replies and make it into the office around 10:00.
I'm still doing 100% of the development and have a pretty big list of both short- and long-term things that I'm working on or thinking about.
I constantly deploy new code and usually like to focus on hitting weekly goals. When bigger features need to be designed, I'll wireframe them and work with Adam to flesh out the UI. He'll send me a PSD, which I'll build out in HTML/CSS and implement in Forrst.
Question: Forrst has been blowing up in the design community recently, and traffic stats reflect that. Where do you see the website going in the next few months?
Bragger: Thanks, I'm pretty happy to see it, too. The next few months will hopefully see more iteration on the user experience of Forrst and working on on-boarding-basically helping users get up and running more quickly and with a richer experience.
We'll also be rolling out a new notification center, Towers, and maybe working on some job-related things, and also (finally) offering a pretty sweet merchandise pack to members.
I'm also keen to keep diving into the community-building stuff. It's been amazing to watch Forrst blossom into the community it is now.
Question: Do you ever plan to change the user registration process or remove the need for private invitations? This currently helps to keep the quality of posts high, but what will your plan be if the website continues to grow?
Bragger: Nope, Forrst will always require an invitation to join-but that's not to say we're in any way trying to foster elitism. Rather, invitations are a way to prevent sudden surges in new users, thereby allowing batches of new users to get a foothold and get cozy.
Also, from a scaling perspective, limiting the number of new users helps ensure that the website is always fast and responsive and that there aren't any (well, many) curve balls.
That said, it's been very interesting to watch the website grow as it has. As with any community, there will certainly be some outliers who aren't contributing in a positive way, but overall I've been happily surprised at just how friendly and helpful the community is (in my opinion, at least).
Question: I'm sure plenty of ideas for new features could be implemented in Forrst. Can you share any concepts or features that will be developed and rolled out over the next few weeks?
Bragger: Sure. I mentioned something earlier about a notification center. One of the big issues with the current email notification system is that for active users, the amount of email can be extremely overwhelming (it's even overwhelming for me).
The notification center is a place where you'll be able to keep tabs on interesting posts, monitor the website for mentions of your username, and keep track of conversations you're involved in.
Other things on the docket include finally rolling out proper RSS support, wrapping up the API, improving the new-user experience and some neat stuff related to jobs and collaboration.
Question: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs with start-up ideas?
Bragger: Build something ASAP. If you're a developer, learn basic HTML and CSS, and build your idea now. If you're not a coder, learn (maybe on Forrst?)! It's easier than you think, and turning an idea into a tangible product is so rewarding. Getting a prototype up and running has never been easier or cheaper. Get your idea out in the wild, iterate your ass off, and hopefully build something spectacular.
I want to thank Kyle for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I've been using Forrst for just a few months now, and I'm already hooked. The value isn't just in being able to showcase your work: Forrst is an entire networking tool!
Connecting with professional and like-minded web designers and application developers has never been this easy, and as Forrst grows, you can expect an even larger network.
Forrst won't open registration to the public anytime soon, but countless invitations are being given to members every couple of weeks. If you're looking for one, try tracking one down by following a few popular designers on Twitter.
If you have a decent portfolio of anything related to digital arts, you shouldn't have much difficulty getting into this hot new underground network.
Exclusive interview for WDD by Jake Rocheleau.
What do you think of Forrst and similar services? Please share your comments and ideas below...