“Get hundreds of variants and pay only for the one you like”. Such and similar slogans use platforms where you can post a task and invite designers to work on it for free. Only the winning design gets a cash prize. Such websites are extremely popular among business owners on tight budgets because of the pricing (For example, 99 Designs charge $299 for the cheapest package, which allows to choose from ~30 designs). Another important factor is the simplicity: you get a plethora of options with minimum time and effort.

Nonetheless, crowdsourced design competitions have a number of drawbacks. Do they outweigh the benefits? Let’s see.     

Problem #1. The final product

Judging by the tasks, unexperienced clients do not always understand the difference between web design and programming. Therefore, many offers include technical requirements. Designers respond with fancy layouts, and business owners mistake them for ready-made websites. In reality, design contests are all about graphics, which still needs programming. But there is nobody there who can consult customers about that.  

Problem #2. Copyright

If you expect from designers to add different graph elements but don’t provide them, prepare yourself for plagiarism and piracy. Since the contestants work on a speculative basis (only the winner actually gets paid), it is highly unlikely anyone will buy legal copies of images and photos for the client before he or she gets a payment guarantee.

Problem #3. The risk of overpaying

Though it seems a paradox, crowdsourced contests often turn to be a waste of money. Let's give an example, The Loupe usually spends 20 hours to develop web design for a website. Do you think anyone will work for so long on spec? And the quality of submissions for “design contests” proves that. Most of them are hastily concocted templates, not original designs. Such a quickie styling is not worth the price you are willing to pay.


Problem #4. The lack of expertise

A design competition will surely grant you plenty of options. But is it a blessing or a curse? Considering that well-paid offers receive up to 100 submissions, choosing the best one would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. A piece of professional advice could help, but the process doesn’t include expert consultation. No human support – just cold machinery.


The score

So, the results of our brief research suggest that design contests are cheap but unprofitable, quick but quickie, productive but perplexing, and, what is most important, such competitions cannot provide you with a working website. Unlike The Loupe. However, the choice is always yours.