Shimone.info – A crowdSPRING Success Story

Shimone Samuel

From early challenges to eventual success, my experience with crowdSPRING has also been educational and gratifying. The design of Shimone.info is more beautiful and unique than I could have imagined.

I look forward to explaining the code and technology which power Shimone.info, but for now I will describe my experience as a crowdSPRING Buyer.

Inspiration

Having spent several weeks attempting to redesign Shimone.info, I found myself arriving at a familiar conclusion: Not being a designer by trade, I’d spent far too much time working on something I would ultimately be unsatisfied with. Looking for alternatives, I discovered crowdSPRING after reading a post on Somewhat Frank titled crowdSPRING offers lots of design options.

crowdSPRING is a marketplace for creative services such as website and logo design, illustration and marketing collateral. The format works similar to an auction. “Buyers” offer a reward for “Creatives” who submit their bids as visual designs. The Creative with the winning entry (chosen by the Buyer) receives a cash reward in exchange for their completed work.

After reading Frank’s story, I joined crowdSPRING as a Buyer and submitted my first project: The Redesign of Shimone.info.

Writing the Creative Brief

Shimone.info is powered by SweetCron, an open-source aggregator of social network activity. In my Creative Brief I provided an overview of SweetCron, described the style of design I desired and noted its personal nature. I allowed for wild and creative ideas with a specification for out-of-the-box thinking. As a requirement I stated that the design must adhere to web standards and best practices. Finally, I linked to example customizations.

Design Proposals

I received proposals from only 8 designers even though crowdSPRING guarantees a project receive 25 entries. I mistook crowdSPRING’s guarantee to denote the numbers of participating designers, but later learned that if one designer submits 10 revisions they each count as an entry.

Out of the 27 entries I received;

  • 3 were terrible
  • 7 were mediocre
  • 2 were fair but ignored an important requirement from the creative brief.
  • 1 included a lengthy diatribe on the designer’s vision but nothing more than a singular background image and later, an apology for missing the project deadline.
  • 8 were submitted within 2 days of the project end date.
  • 2 (+ their revisions) were very beautiful and aesthetically pleasing—1 of which I chose as the winner.

Overall I felt the talent inclined toward designers who’d received no formal training. More than half the designers ignored (or failed to understand) requirements from the creative brief and several included design elements from “free download” sites.

Buyer & Creative Interaction

The first few entries I received were variations on my existing design customized with icons, backgrounds and other elements from “free download” blogs. I was disappointed by the lack of creativity and wondered if I’d offered too small a reward to entice more professional talent.

Thankfully, crowdSPRING’s recommended that I contact several designers at the start of the project, and eventually began receiving more suitable entries. After providing additional comments I received revisions from several designers. I will highlight 3 notable interactions and for privacy purposes refer to these as Designers A, B and C.

Designer A

Curiously, Designer A contacted me after I linked to their website in my creative brief. We discussed my design needs by email but it became clear they wanted to work outside the system. I explained the crowdSPRING process and how I’d already prepaid for a winning design. Designer A replied that due to their geography they could not receive funds sent by PayPal (the payment processor). After contacting crowdSPRING on Twitter I understood there were other payment methods available and the designer’s geography would not be a problem. I forwarded this information to Designer A but never received a reply.

Designer B

Design B was an early leading contender. I hadn’t received many entries and none were more creative. While the design wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it was a huge improvement and a stark contrast from other entries I’d received.

After reading the glowing response I left for Design C, Designer B contacted me asking if I’d found my winner. I answered honestly that Designer C took me by surprise and was now the leading contender.

The next day all entries and revisions submitted by Designer B disappeared from the project with the comment “Withdrawn: Client found his perfect design.” After seeing this, other designers followed suit.

I contacted Designer B privately and explained that although Design C was currently the top choice, 8 days remained in the project. This left plenty of time for other designers to submit entries that were possibly more creative.

Designer C

Designer C submitted the winning entry. The design was exactly what I was looking for and so perfectly suited to my tastes I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. My comments were received with professional courtesy and with a few tweaks I had a winning design. The wrap up phase went smoothly and later we discussed and revised some of the finer details by email. As a bonus, after the award-winning design of Shimone.info Designer C went on to win first one, then another and another crowdSPRING Creative award.

Lessons Learned

With the right creative brief and effective project management anyone can receive a beautiful and professional design from the crowdSPRING community. Apart from a strong creative brief, here are a few key points to remember:

Understand the difference between Standard and Pro

  • Pro projects start at $1000. Standard projects start at $150. This effectively divides the talent pool in two.
  • Personally I chose Standard and offered a $500 reward in the hopes of attracting designers from the Pro crowd willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a fun project.

Spend time on your creative brief

  • Download a copy of the Creative Brief and work on it offline
  • Make sure your Brief is complete before submitting your project
  • Write your Creative Brief detailed but concise
  • Be specific with any requirements

Browse the site for entries which match your aesthetic

Contact several designers and politely invite them to participate in your project. This will increase the likelihood of receiving entries you like.

Browse the Help Center, read the following entries:

  • Can I cancel a project after it has been posted? (no)
  • How does the guarantee work? (25 entries or full refund)
  • What does it cost to post a project? (15% commission)
  • How does crowdSPRING protect users’ intellectual property? (industry-leading tools)
  • Does crowdSPRING provide a contract for projects? (yes)
  • What if the Buyer and Creative have a disagreement? (contact crowdSPRING)
  • How do I update my project description? (you can’t)
  • Why do I have to pay when posting a project? (guarantees winning designer will be paid)
  • Can I change the end date of a project after it’s been posted? (no)

Read the Top 10 Tips for Buyers

Most of the points I’ve mentioned are included in crowdSPRING’s list of Top 10 Tips. In addition, pay special attention to the following:

  • Focus on the right details at the right time. Don’t get caught up in details before they become relevant.
  • Score all entries. Note crowdSPRING’s suggested scoring scale.
  • If you don’t like the design, make sure to score it lower. Don’t waste the creatives’ time by giving them false hope.
  • Consider the wrap-up process – focus on the concepts during the project and worry about execution and final tweaks during wrap-up

Final Thoughts

The visual design of Shimone.info is the product of a successful crowdSPRING Buyer experience. The process was not without its challenges but in the end, I developed a great relationship with a crowdSPRING Creative and we are both overjoyed with the results.

Recently I was contacted by both founders, thanking me and making themselves available for any questions or concerns. I appreciate the personal touch. With any company it’s the details that make all the difference.

Without hesitation I strongly recommended crowdSPRING for all your graphic design needs.

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