Customer Spotlight: Smashing Magazine

Hailing from Freiburg, Germany, Smashing Magazine was created in 2006 by Vitaly Friedman and Sven Lennartz as the online destination for quality articles on web design presented in a very accessible fashion. Since then, Smashing Magazine’s presence in the web design community has allowed the team to branch out the “Smashing Magazine” brand: While the Smashing Library provides top quality eBooks for web, UX, and app designers, the weekly Smashing Newsletter goes in-depth with essential tips and tricks, and the Smashing Conference has become a staple for web designers and developers worldwide to get together and share insights and input.

What pushed you to create Smashing Magazine back in 2006? What gap were you trying to fill in the designer community/world?

Vitaly Friedman: I started my career in web design in 1999 with the typical table layouts, and thought it was terrible. After high school, I began to study mathematics and computer science and, then, I came across CSS, which I found exceptionally interesting. Quite by chance, I discovered and started to write for, a German web design magazine published by Sven Lennartz, who later became the co-founder of Smashing Magazine. I also had side projects, like my own “Web Developer’s Handbook”, a website that gathered CSS tips and tricks. When Sven became aware of the Handbook, he decided to create a new online resource where we could unify the publication of these articles. So, we set up a WordPress blog, chose a free WordPress theme, and gave it a shot. Smashing Magazine was born.

How hard was it for a German-born magazine to become a household name in the global web design community?

Vitaly Friedman: It wasn’t our initial focus, certainly. Our focus was to mostly discuss issues we were encountering and working on. But then, a post changed it all and took us to the next level of exposure and visibility vis-a-vis the global web design community: 53 CSS-Techniques You Could not Live Without. It came out on January 19, 2007 and went viral the same day. I think lot of the success of Smashing Magazine comes from the fact that we tried to do the right thing at a time when there was a real need for truly useful information and tips about web design.

How is the Smashing Magazine team involved with the global design community?

Vitaly Friedman: Since the beginning, one of our goals was to be actively supporting the global web design community – and, in turn, the community has supported us. Without all the fantastic contributions, both by the well-known and the not-so-well-known authors we’ve had the honor to work with, we couldn’t publish new, helpful content almost every day. Over the course of almost a decade, we have published more than 2,400 articles on Smashing Magazine, written by over 1,000 different contributors.
Markus Seyfferth: An essential aspect of the Smashing brand is our annual web design conferences. It’s a great opportunity to be able to meet all the contributors we’ve worked with (and our beloved readers!) in person. Getting some face time with them is just one reason why we host the Smashing Conference in different countries and frequently attend other web design conferences all around the world.

As Smashing Magazine’s Managing Director, what’s your favorite part of your job? Why?

Markus Seyfferth: The most important part of my job is to keep Smashing Magazine current and relevant to its audience. We continuously work on improving the Smashing Magazine experience. With the Internet constantly and quickly evolving, we want to make sure we stay on top of the trends that matter to our readers. Incremental changes are the foundation of what I do at Smashing: Getting a little better every day.
Apart from the business end of running an online magazine, I am also in charge of the Smashing Library and the Smashing Conference, which truly enjoy. The positive energy you can find at web conferences, including our own, of course, never ceases to amaze me. It is a really special feeling and I’m very proud to be a part of that community. I am also humbled to participate in such an active and talented group of people.

Do you feel your audience has evolved a lot in the last couple of years, in terms of what type of designers and developers are reading Smashing Magazine the most? How have you been maintaining your content relevant to the next generation?

Markus Seyfferth: In our first year, we gained popularity by publishing round-ups. Yet, by 2008, we noticed that many other blogs were copying  our concept, which is why we chose to focus on exceptionally technical and detailed articles about web design. Since then, we go beyond just putting some useful online resources together: We try to unify important conceptual and practical content, something that takes considerably more effort than just wrapping some links up into an article.

If there’s one thing you would like people to know about Smashing Magazine, what would it be?

Markus Seyfferth: We’re not as big as most people think. Most people think there are hundreds of us behind the scenes, but the truth is, Smashing Magazine has only a few remote editors and a small team of 10 in the office. I bet most of our readers are working at bigger companies than Smashing!

What can your readers expect in terms of content, format, website design, etc. in 2015?

Markus Seyfferth: We’ve been working on new long form content for our audience. So we will be debuting a big change very soon: We’re relaunching our e-shop – finally with a responsive layout!