Once Again, Established Businesses Get Angry At 'Free' Competition

from the welcome-to-the-world dept

It’s no secret that established businesses or organizations get upset when they see any form of “free” competition — even when it’s utilizing a new or different business model or social model. We’ve seen it with taxi cabs and with online mapping services among other things. And, now it’s apparently happening with a fun contest that the city of Portland decided to run. Josh alerts us to the fact that Portland decided to try to crowdsource the redesign of the city’s website. This sounds like a good idea, but the city’s professional designers apparently are freaking out. Of course, this ignores a few key points: first, the city still intends to hire a professional to implement the design, and most of these firms wouldn’t have received the business anyway. Besides, what better way to get the actual implementation business than submitting a design idea themselves? The real problem is that these design pros think they have a monopoly on design. There’s no doubt that, being professionals, they’re likely going to be better at it, but that doesn’t mean they get to stop others from jumping in and submitting design ideas. Rather than fighting against the tide, they ought to learn how to surf.

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Comments on “Once Again, Established Businesses Get Angry At 'Free' Competition”

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tom (user link) says:

Most Graphic Designers do not know how to make a website - still

I’m not a graphic designer but i have been making websites professionally since i bought a teach yourself HTML in 1998. I have often found that the worst websites – flash, bad or no standard navigation, graphics heavy, no H1 etc headings, no idea of SEO – are designed by the most expensive Media/Advertising Agency/Graphic Designers. These Professionals still think, even now, that an interative magazine makes a website. Only 2 weeks ago i had to make a site from an agency’s designs: 6 pages, each completely different and almost impossible to build in html. So in my view Portland are quite right – the professionals STILL make awful sites, sites that massage the ego of the designers and owners with no thought to the users.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Re: Most Graphic Designers do not know how to make a website - still

I second this comment.

I remember the days in which we were told to KISS websites for those with 14.4/56k modem speeds.

Yet, today, it’s acceptable to have a “Please wait. We didn’t create this website properly, so now it has to load…” messages?

Not to me. That’s poor design, regardless how well the page looks. “Professionals” have long forgotten the primary rule for building a website: CONTENT. COMES. FIRST.

Good job, Portland! I don’t blame the city for doing this. Now, let’s just hope they don’t hire one of these “professionals” which turns it into a crap filled, eye candy website.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: both of you are wrong

The issue is anyone can take up the “professional tag” and it is hard to separate the real ones from the fake ones. What leads me to believe that these professionals are the fake ones that the above two are complaining about is that these designers don’t want to know what the public wants. That just screams that they just make up their own stuff with no regard to how it is used or what the users want. I find that getting such a large input from the prospective customers is damn near impossible when going into building a user interface/website and typically you have to do a lot of backtracking and revising AFTER you make something and THEN get the feedback on what they actually want.

The Cenobyte (profile) says:

Most professional web designers suck

We know this because most web sites suck and most of them are built by someone that was paid to do it (IE a professional).

I have worked professionally for years as a System Eng, and for the most part the web sites on my servers suck, and they are all designed by people that make a living doing it. (IE professional). I know there are great web designers out there that are professionals, it just that most professionals are not great web designers.

stevestephen (profile) says:


I agree with Liam.

That being said – I have personally found that it is not financially viable for all agencies have a web design team on staff and people like me get hired to build for them. And yes, there can be a drastic difference between the submitted design that may match a print campaign and what can actually be done. Many times, before I get the job, the client has already been promised the site will “look like this” based on a sketch from a print campaign with web as an unrepresented after-thought.

Everyone walks a fine line between giving the client what they want and what works in all browsers, loads fast, is easy to navigate, etc.

I have found very few non-professionals who have anything but a basic idea of browser compatibility, SEO, navigation, usability, etc. it really does take full-time attention to keep up. A professional(s) will have to be involved in the crowdsource redesign or the construction of the design. There are many factors to consider in a highly visible public site build. If not…let’s start a count-down to the first lawsuit over accessibility.

Adam (user link) says:

Re: There's a difference

It’s not that the designers don’t know the difference between web design and other types of design, it’s that *companies* don’t know the difference and have come to expect that one graphic designer should be an expert in every field. Half the time they expect us to be web developers and copywriters as well. That’s like expecting a violinist to be able to also play the tuba or stand up and become the conductor depending on the concert. If the theatre owner expects that, he shouldn’t be surprised when the concerts suck.

James says:

Only hacks won't support this

I do website design and development and I completely support this, largely because this is a public works/government agency.

Since any website would be paid for with tax dollars I’m for (within reason) anything that helps save that kind of spending.

A private company who’s earnings depend largely on a professional web prescence, should seriously considering hiring a professional.

Oscarr (profile) says:


Why is it that everyone has an opinion about what a good website design is? Remember to look at a site from multiple points of view…Why do companies have sites that you think suck? Because most likely they work: they get results; sell products; or present the intended information. Don’t judge till you know.

But I will grant you this: Currently, the majority of clients I am talking to want a $12,000.00 site but only have $1,200.00 to spend. Something has to give and usually design suffers – or – you get that simple navigation script instead of that full, intuitive, nav system you need – or – a 4 page package when you really need 12, etc..

Great Idea= opening the design up to the public. New ideas and innovation may come as a result.

Take this article we are all responding to with several grains of salt: Who are these firms and designers who are “freaking out”? I like Tech Dirt a lot but sometimes there are little snippets that are short on fact & high on insulting opinion intended to get folks all worked up!

ItsMe says:

You People are Stupid

This just sounds like a roundabout way of being cheap. The city is probably broke and can’t go to a professional.

I’m all for competition — “crowdsourcing” or other methods — but you have to remember that you get what you pay for. Yes, there are “pros” that are anything but. However, it doesn’t take much to weed them out. There are plenty of professional firms out there that can design AND code properly because A) They’re well trained and highly experienced; and B) they have different teams to handle the design and coding portion of the project. (Design and coding tend to happen on opposite sides of the brain and rarely do the two mix well. It’s emotion vs. logic, you see.)

I’m no fortune teller, but I can already tell you how this is going to end and it won’t be pretty.

Oscarr (profile) says:

Re: Re: You People are Stupid

One would hope that a city the size of Portland would employ a team (programmers & designers) to plan, design, & code the final design. There are many folks out there who can do both well and they are in high demand in the market place.

The worse sites I have ever seen are from programmers who write beautiful code and think that means they can also design or even place data or form fields in a logical or easy-for-the-user-to-follow manner – and – from the artist who who doesn’t understand how to make a design that works on the web, or even if it can or should be done.

It is a misconception that you are either one or the other but examples of this are many.

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