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Interview with Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine

Believe it not but we've interviewed the guy whose Smashing Books have dispersed the whole Internet.

So if you were going to read another manual or freebie compilation from the Smashing Magazine, but somehow got here, we'd like to offer you this interesting talk between the guy behind Smashing Magazine - Vitaly Friedman, and a brave girl from TemplateMonster team - Stacy.

Enjoy your read.


BTW, when you finally manage to get to the end of this page, you will find a test called "How much of Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine are you?"

Don't forget to share your results in the comments section or make some funny graphic manipulations using one of his photos 🙂


Stacy: Hi Vitaly! It's a big pleasure to talk to you! Can we start with a not-usual question to editor-in-chief of
Smashing Magazine? The 14th of February is coming, have you planned anything significant? 🙂 Have you found your true love?

Vitaly Friedman: Dear Stacy, thanks for having me! I do have something significant planned, and you now every time I’m traveling (and I travel a lot!), there is this wonderful feeling of belonging and feeling of going back home. For many years, I didn’t have it, and to some degree, it felt like floating from one part of the world to another. I’m very happy to have this feeling for the last couple of years.

Stacy: Web design is your passion, but what about some hobby? Is there anything besides “the web”? Maybe, sport? We at TemplateM
onster are going crazy about sports, for example. We have our hashtag on Instagram #templatemonsterpower. So, what about you, Vitaly?

Vitaly Friedman: Absolutely! There is nothing that relaxes me more than a good workout in the gym. Unfortunately, with traveling it’s difficult to set up a proper schedule or routine, but I try my best always to find some time to get back into shape — I usually feel way more energized and creative afterward!

Stacy: You are an accomplished author and have written lots of books in addition t
o writing articles, maintaining Smashing Magazine and Twitter account, etc. How do you find the time, and what’s your method for time management?

Vitaly Friedman: Oh I wish I’d found that magic formula! Most of the time, it’s just about setting priorities straight. I don’t use any fancy applications or tools — I just write down all to-dos in a plain text file, and every evening before I go to sleep, I prioritize and pick seven most important ones for the next day, and I just tick them off. There is never time unless you choose to dedicate time to something that matters to you. I set time apart for things that matter, and everything else follows naturally.

There is never time unless you choose to dedicate time to something that matters to you.


Stacy: Vitaly, we know that you’ll moderate
a full-day live stream from the AWWWARDS conference in February. Would you like to take part as a speaker, or maybe you prefer organizing such events?  

Vitaly Friedman: Yes, absolutely! There is something almost magical about being on stage and feeling all the energy coming from the audience. If I weren't an editor, I’d probably be a teacher, as I love sharing and evolving ideas, thoughts, learning from different perspectives and refining yours. 

I’ve been speaking quite a lot, and I do it mostly because of my drive — I need to share, to learn, to explore, to doubt, to double check, to question. I’m very curious, and that’s also why we organize conferences. The initial thought to set up a conference was all about bringing people together, so we can all learn from each other. It hasn’t changed a bit yet.

Obviously financials matter as well, but I treat them as enablers — I would never cut down corners or budgets for saving money (I’m not that good at it at all anyway!) The thing that we create and how we create it, with dedication, with passion, with obsession on quality, is way, way more important for me.


The thing that we create and how we create it, with dedication, with passion, with obsession on quality, is way, way more important to me.


Stacy: A huge part of this  conference will attend to UX design.
 What do you think is the biggest mistake that new UX designers make?

Vitaly Friedman: I think that many of us tend to stick to “safe” solutions. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we keep reusing common patterns and frameworks and strategies. But I think that if you
want to stand out, you need to have a strong vision — a vision that some people will genuinely dislike or find tasteless.

There are too much “neutral” experiences around us today — we do want to delight users, but I feel like we delight them in the same way. In our consultancy work, we always try to make one step more — add a bit of joy in every single step of interaction, with interface copy and visual design. But it’s also important to experiment. Break out of the existing patterns and try something different. It doesn’t mean ignoring what exists, though: take what exists but use it as a boilerplate to build upon, to break it and move to various design directions, to get out of the existing patterns.


Stacy: Please tell us the most interesting project you’ve ever had or taken part in?

Vitaly Friedman: Oh, it’s really difficult to say. To be honest, when I’m asked this question, I always feel like my current project is the most interesting one I had so far — just because we haven’t figured out it entirely yet! Right now, I’m working on our lovely new Smashing Membership, and I won’t reveal too many details just yet, but this has been a massive challenge regarding UX. We've decided to take a closer look at everything — what Smashing Magazine stands for, and how we are seen, and how we want to be seen. 

It was a personal journey for me since I co-founded the magazine back in the day, and it was a big challenge as for rediscovering the checkout UX, the product pages, the reading of our articles and so many other things. We’ve been very, very busy.


Good design is about effective communication, not decoration at the expense of legibility.


Stacy: We are going crazy about templates, you know 🙂 That’s why the next question is crucial for us. What do you think about website builders and ready-made SaaS solutions?

Vitaly Friedman: Well, there is room for everything. Sometimes you design one-offs which can’t be broken down into parts to set up a design system, and sometimes every page follows a template. I think that the most important part is that we, as designers and developers, should enable everybody to publish for free, without permission, immediately, quickly. Personally, I tend to start from scratch with a pencil and a notebook. I usually work on a concept and design the experience. I tend to avoid everything: no frameworks, no actual prototypes, no templates. Eventually, it changes in the project, but at this point, the idea is already being implemented.


Some info for social media maniacs

Vitaly's Facebook

Vitaly's LinkedIn 

Smashing Magazine Facebook

Smashing Magazine Twitter


Some talks by Vitaly in countries where you have never been 🙂

Dirty little front-end tricks - JSConf Iceland 2016


Vitaly Friedman - Responsive Web Design: Clever Tips and Techniques


Vitaly Friedman: Real-Life Responsive Web Design


Nordic.js 2016 • Cutting-Edge Responsive Web Design



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Alex Bulat

Writing a blog post or building a micro niche WordPress website is something Alex can do bare-handed. You're welcome to contact him via Telegram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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