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The term crowdsourcing is often thought of as a group of people collaborating together to solve a common problem. Also known as speculative designing or spec designing, it has had a dramatic impact on the online business world. Websites such as 99designs and crowdSpring allow customers to post creative briefs on projects such as website designs or logos, and allows the creative community to submit their own works. The customer will then choose the best design out of the bunch, and the winning designer gets the prize (sometimes as little as $200). Crowdsourcing has allowed businesses to cut expenses and even in-house jobs by outsourcing the work on an as-needed basis. But is crowdsourcing beneficial as a whole to the marketplace?
Pros to Crowdsourcing
One of the obvious benefits to crowdsourcing is the cost savings to businesses. In the past few years there has been a major influx of tech start-ups and other small businesses looking to move quickly into the online space. There are as many as 80,000 freelance designers in the United States alone looking for any work they can get. Many of these designers are hungry to take on any work they can get because there is simply a lack of jobs in the graphic design field. Students fresh out of college with graphic design degrees have found themselves having to wait tables in order to pay the bills while searching for a design-related job. Simple laws of supply and demand economics dictate that if there’s a demand for a product or service at a reasonable price, there will always be somebody there to fill the gap and take on the work. With so many companies looking online for the cheapest price possible and so many designers looking to land their first major gig, it has driven down the cost of web development quite a bit. But does crowdsourcing provide a comparable product to that of which you’d get at a design firm? We’ll explore this more later.
Another benefit of crowdsourcing is that it allows the client to pick from a vast array of options. When you contract with a design firm to build your company’s website, you may only get a few options to pick from. When you crowdsource your design, however, you’ll potentially receive hundreds of different designs to sift through; all you’ll need to do is pick your favorite design and pay the designer the amount you offered for the work.
Cons to Crowdsourcing
The benefits of crowdsourcing are apparent, but its drawbacks are not so obvious. While your crowdsourced designs may save some cash, there’s no guarantee as to the quality of the work you’ll get. You may get lucky and find that a few talented workers chose to go out on a limb and give your project a shot, or you may find that nothing but second tier designers took on the job. If you don’t offer enough of an incentive for people to work on your project, you may get nothing but clip art and MS Paint-style designs. Anybody can buy a computer and some off-the-shelf software and throw something together. However, talent is what separates the designs that work and convert visitors into customers from the designs that do nothing for your business.
When you crowdsource design work, you don’t have the benefits of working with a skilled and dedicated team to build the right solution for your business. With crowdsourcing, you have to pick what is given to you; with a design firm, they’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure that you get exactly what you need. With a design firm, you’re much more likely to walk out with a well-planned product that boosts your business’ bottom line rather than getting some cut-rate design by somebody who hardly knows what they’re doing.
Other arguments against crowdsourcing spawn from designers and design agencies themselves. AIGA, the professional association for design, actively campaigns against crowdsourcing and speculative design work: “[The] AIGA strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project.” A group of designers also formed a protest group called No!Spec in an effort to sway their colleagues from attempting design contests. Killian Branding even came up with their own buzzword for crowdsourcing – crapsifting – which accurately describes many of these crowdsourced contests and products. Many argue that crowdsourcing lowers industry pricing as well as the overall quality of the design work.
Our Take on Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing isn’t for everybody. Sure, you may save a few bucks, but crowdsourcing simply can’t provide the same quality work you’d get by hiring a dedicated design firm. The quality of work provided by a firm can far exceed what you’d get in a design contest. What you’re really paying for is the strategic editing process you get with a firm. The consultations, creative meetings, and editing processes that are streamlined in design firms allow them to create the best product possible for your business. At the end of the day, if you’re looking to have an online presence or you’re looking to improve your existing site, be wary of crowdsourcing your web site. If you want it done right the first time, go with a design firm.