oday I went on a whirlwind tour of small web design firms in the DC area... via their websites. I'm not entirely certain where I'll wind up working next, but I wanted to get an idea of the playing field, who does what, who has which skills and so on. A quick Google search netted me about a dozen firms to browse through, cross-referenced to some Yelp reviews and Angie's List. I realized partway through that in the longterm I want to be working on a single project, e.g. for an organization developing and maintaining a service, product, brand or mission. However, until I'm at that stage, I do want to build or contribute to as many small things as I can to get more experience in a variety of languages, platforms, aspects, tools, ad infinitum.
Anywho. Between browsing all those design firm's sites and clicking any link with the word "design," I've been all over the place lately. My favorite sites are usually minimal, clean and simple, no clutter, a touch of flashy stuff (watch the "Silver and Light" video, this guy is great), hand-drawn elements, and a limited palette (though I might also go for lightly cluttered and slightly "hipster").
EDIT: I started an account on Bo.lt, but am not entirely impressed with the service. The idea is that they archive screenshots and entire copies of webpages, hence, good for a design inspiration collection. Adding pages can be glitchy, and it still doesn't have an easy "embed collection" sort of thing. Picasa (despite having irritatingly merged with G+) does support embedded slideshows, but generates an embeddable version itself. However, I'm not actually using Boltnet for its original intended purpose.
However, I ran across a lot of sites using carousels at the top of the page, and I have to say that was a big turn off. Knowing how popular they are, I'm pretty forgiving, but good lord. If I'm disinclined to actually look at a scrolling reel of content, I can't imagine that the average user will give it any thought. And a carousel is like the A1 photo; it takes up the majority of the space above the fold, which means that space is completely wasted if no one looks at it, much less clicks on the content flying past.
All of this has been discussed and debated quite a lot across the web. The general conclusions I found are that carousels stick around because you can sort of cram more content into a single space, and because they've become a staple. The problem with reading up on this is that while every design firm and marketing agency has done their own usability testing, that data is usually kept private.
The UX site on Stack Exchange has some discussion on the effectiveness of carousels, to wit, whether rotating content nets a site any conversion (meaning the user does what the marketer is hoping they'll do: convert from just browsing to being an active user or a paying customer). I can't remember how I found this article, but it's a good, recent roundup of tidbits on banner blindness, user control and contentless content. And from there I found Jakob Nielsen's denunciation of the autoforwarding carousel (though I was disappointed to find that the main example of user testing was literally user testing. One user.)
Anyone have a good way to collect inspiration online [that isn't Pinterest]?