The Why of Inspect Element

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

When I first started Inspect Element, I was simply blogging about everything I learned and to be honest, it was mostly selfish. I had a terrible memory at the time and I knew if I wrote everything down it would be easier to remember and I could always reference it anytime I needed to.

I decided to share it on a blog so that anyone else could learn too. I didn’t think many people would see it. Now at over 2.6 million unique visitors, I’ve realised designers have found what I share valuable but now I really want to focus on helping web designers as much as possible by taking it in a slightly different direction.

To explain it in a single sentence, this is the “why” of Inspect Element:

Inspect Element exists to help you get the most out of your talents as a web designer.

In more detail, I want to help you get more out of your web design talents by helping you:

  • make better design decisions
  • be more creative
  • be more productive
  • master Photoshop and other tools (making them “invisible” so you can focus on the actual design work which is what matters)
  • and much more

I will be sharing everything I’ve learnt along the way in my career as a web designer spanning over 7 years, working on a range of projects from startups to brands with millions of users. Of course, I’ll also be sharing everything I learn in the future. There’s always something new to learn regardless of experience. As you know the web is a fast moving industry.

A New Approach

One thing that will change going forward, is there will be less of a focus on technical tutorials than before and a shift to articles helping you get the most out of the actual design work. The articles will be more thoughtful, although I will be creating tutorials directly related to design (not HTML and CSS) now and again for good measure.

I’m inspired by the likes of James ClearPaul JarvisJustin Jackson and Sean McCabe. I’ll be trying to make my content as consistently good as those guys but focused on web design.

To give you an example of what I mean, here are the first few articles of the new Inspect Element, each with a short extract:

The Overnight Design Test

I use the overnight design test regularly, sometimes multiple times a week and it really helps me to gain enough clarity to move ahead faster with my work than if I didn’t use it, allowing me to get more done and at a standard I am happy with. You should try it too.

The Benefits of Being Able to Explain Every Design Decision You Make

Ultimately, they want to know your work is going to help their company make money as well as help them achieve other goals. You need to demonstrate that through your design decisions. You build up trust when you can explain everything you do and that trust is what helps reduce the risk of hiring you.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

You will almost certainly discover a better and more efficient way of designing and building websites as a result of experimenting.

Design by Writing

Sure, there is value in experimenting as you go as I’ve written about before and I still had to experiment with the design but if you can experiment with thoughts and turn them into words, you can save time. There’s the added benefit of feeling like a design genius when everything falls into place when you start the design work.

Inspect Element Redesign (v5.0)

To reflect this new way of thinking here at Inspect Element, I’ve redesigned the site with a very strong focus on readability. The design is much cleaner and I’ve optimised the typography to propel readability to the main focus.

Goodbye Ads

I was initially focused on readability in the previous design but I let other aspects get in the way too much over time. That won’t happen again. For example, there will never be another ad on Inspect Element ever again.

Even though only one ad was viewable at a time, I want it to be completely ad free to respect you, the audience. It’s about respect but it’s also about quality too. Ads undermine the value I’m trying to deliver by 1) distracting your attention from the information trying to help you and 2) giving out the wrong message about the quality of the site. I don’t want a crappy looking ad or an ad from a product I don’t know anything about or even don’t approve of, appearing on Inspect Element. It would also be too much work for me if I went looking for ads or sponsors I approve of for not much gain, taking valuable time away from providing value.

Fresh Visual Design

If you’d have told me I would be using pink and purple (a result of the gradient from blue to pink) in the new design before I finished, I would have laughed! Pink and purple are my two least favourite colours in the world and I could never imagine using them on a personal project but I decided to experiment in order to create something fresh and different and I’m pleasantly surprised by the results.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the new design.

Free Photos for your Design Work

Some of you may know I’m a keen photographer in my spare time. I share my best images on my blog, Caught in a Lens and you can follow me on Instagram to see photos I take on a more regular basis.

As I’m not really giving you any helpful advice this week, I thought I would do something slightly different and let you have over 50 of my photos for free (to use however you like) for your design work.

Download the photos

They are free under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which basically means you can use them for commercial purposes with attribution.

Some of them were taken with iPhones but still more than good enough to use. The rest were taken with my Canon 600D and more recent ones with my 6D and all are highest res possible. Some of them are some of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken and some of them I haven’t even have the chance to share yet, so you’ll be seeing them first.


Here are just some of the photos included in the free download:

Use them for your design work for yourself or your clients, in blog posts, in marketing material, for anything in fact. Feel free to even print them and hang them on the wall. Some of these photos were hanging on our walls printed on canvas before we moved out to go travel the world for a year (we’re currently in Japan).

Please let me know if you do use any photos as I would love to see how you use them. If you find them useful, let me know and I will release more free photos as I continue to travel round the world over the next year.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.