Do you know that feeling when you want to watch a movie but instead spend two hours reading reviews? The same goes for choosing a design services platform. However, you’d have to spend days or even weeks trying to get to know its features and how it works.
Would you like a life hack? There is a way of fast-forwarding this process into several minutes. How come? Awesomic has already researched everything your business might need from such platforms.
This time, we’ll get a closer look at 99designs ― a service about which you can hear from YouTubers, bloggers, or even podcasters. In our 99designs review, we’ll get into its features, functionality, as well as pros and cons. But first, let’s start with the basics.
99designs is an Australian-based platform that helps its users connect with designers from all over the world. Since its funding in 2008, it has completed more than a million creative requests and worked with thousands of businesses.
From a designer’s point of view, 99designs is also a portfolio website. There, designers have accounts with their portfolios available to the public. This option helps employers approach designers by themselves based on the visuals they like.
On the other hand, the platform can be viewed as a marketplace. The customers, a.k.a. those who are in need of a design, offer their price for it and have designers submit their work. This happens in the form of a contest where only one designer wins and gets paid.
The platform entirely focuses on visual design services. You can find such categories of designs:
Overall, 99designs offers over 100 designer skill types. However, the platform doesn’t offer UI/UX design or any animation type. In such a situation, the platform suggests you try requesting it in a contest. Perhaps, there might be designers that specialize in your request. But there’s a logical question: is playing Russian roulette with your money and time such a good solution?
The 99designs pricing for services depends on the approach you use to hiring a designer. There are two possible choices. The first one is to find a designer through browsing portfolios and work with them 1-on-1. The other option is starting a contest and paying the fixed price for the winning concept.
If you prefer to select a designer based on their portfolio, browse them in the Find a designer section. There, you can also select the options of a designer like design category, language, or expertise level. Once you’ve found the designer whose work you like, you won’t see any prices mentioned on their account pages.
Instead, you’ll have to spend your time and effort to message them to find out the conditions and compensation they work for. Or you can go directly to offering a project and fill in a design brief. There, you’ll specify the price which you offer for the project. After that, all you need to do is wait for the reply from the designer.
What is more, the platform offers an approximate price range that helps you understand what number you should focus on in your brief. Here are some of such ranges suggested by 99designs:
It should be noted, though, that neither of these options is clear or time-efficient. You have to waste your time waiting for a reply, which might result in turning your offer down. Or you might receive an answer with a cosmic price.
If you don’t want to spend your time negotiating the price, you can run a design competition. This option is a lot clearer when it comes to pricing. You can choose one of four tiers depending on your budget. The price of these packages differs depending on the design type you choose.
For instance, in this 99designs review, we’ll take a look at one of the most popular request types ― logo design ― the prices for the tiers are the following:
For either of these prices, you can get from 30 to 90 design concepts. However, one designer can suggest several options, which means there could be 30 concepts, half of which are different versions of the same concept.
Another option for contest cost is suggesting your own price. The only restriction in this feature is that the price you offer can’t be lower than the cheapest tier. This option is going to benefit your design outcome if you move the price higher. But if you decide to save money, it might affect the designers’ willingness to participate or put effort into the work.
The feature of a design competition is the concept 99designs owes its launch to. Most platform users prefer this option. The reason for such popularity is that it allows you to get lots of creative concepts instead of only several, as in the case of working 1-on-1 with a designer.
So it’s only fair that in our 99designs review, we’ll tell you how the contest process itself happens. Let’s get a close look at the four stages it consists of with an example of a logo tournament:
When you decide to start a contest, the platform will first ask you to fill in a design brief. There, you need to select the visuals you like so that the designers know what direction to move towards.
Then, the algorithm will define the features of your brand style. But you can also adjust them to your liking.
After that, you need to select the color palette you’d like to see in your visuals. Also, you’ll enter the information about yourself as well as about the design you’d like to get. Finally, you can add some comments for the designers and attach a file if needed.
Once you’ve finished your design brief, you need to specify which tiers you want to select for your contest. Here’s what you can expect from each of them:
Note that the more expensive your package is, the bigger the prize for the winner will be. This, in turn, directly affects how motivated designers will be to present a quality concept. This feels almost like 99designs is pushing you towards choosing the more expensive tier. Because if you want to get a good value for your money, you might as well spend more.
When you get to the final stage of adjusting the settings of your contest, you’ll see that there are two types of competition you can run. The first one is a guaranteed contest. Choosing this option means a commitment to selecting a winner and paying them the prize money. In other words, you agree not to request a cashback even if you won’t get any designs that you like.
Despite being risky, this contest option encourages more designers to participate and get more creative, as 99designs claims. Moreover, it says that on average, you’ll receive 50% more design concepts.
On the other hand, if you'd like to choose another option, you’ll have to additionally pay $59 as it is in the case of a logo design competition. This option is called a private contest. The point of it is to keep the competition visible only on 99designs. It won’t be seen on Google or other search engine results. Moreover, private contests require designers to sign an NDA.
Finally, you need to choose how long the contest will last. Note that the faster result you’d like, the more expensive it’ll be. Here are the options:
Now that our 99designs review got to the main stage of the competition, you will have a question: how and how long will it take? To find this out, we’ll turn to how the platform itself explains this process. Let’s take a look at a time frame of a 7-days contest:
During the first four days of the contest, designers submit their concepts. The majority of the concepts will appear by the end of this period. In these four days you can rate the designs and give feedback to get more concepts in this time frame.
You have up to four days more to choose no more than sixdesigners whose concepts might become the final design. You can do this right away, but the platform gives you the option to wait for all of the submissions. Once you’ve selected the finalists, the contest becomes guaranteed.
99designs give you three more days to work with the finalists on improving their concepts. You can provide them with your feedback and revise the designs until they are perfect.
At this point, designers can’t submit any more concepts. You will have 14 days to decide who’s the winner. During this time, you can have counsel with colleagues or simply run a poll.
The designer has five more days to finalize the files and transfer the copyright to you. You can also ask for some minor changes in the design.
So how long does running a contest take? If we take the maximum length of each stage, it’ll take you up to 30 days to get a design. However, some design types like app or website design take longer to create, which means the time frame will also increase. But there is no information about it mentioned on the platform, so we can only guess the numbers.
As you can see, 99designs is quite an ambiguous platform that definitely has good and bad sides. So what kind of 99designs review would it be if it didn’t summarize the main pros and cons of the platform? Read them and decide for yourself what your verdict is.
What is the first thing you go searching about before making any decision? Yes, reviews and recommendations. No worries, as we did it for you. For that, we dived deep into user reviews on Trustpilot. There, 99designs is rated 3.9 out of 5 based on 909 reviews.
Definitely, most of them are highly positive. However, 26% are poor (4%) and bad (22%), which means every fourth user who left their review on the website is unsatisfied with 99designs.
The wide range of designers to choose from is what platform users like the most. That’s why the contest format of cooperating is their favorite one. With its help, they have access to several dozens or even hundreds of designers. As a result, it gives users so many design variants that it might be challenging to choose the best one.
Users highlight how easy the whole process is as well as navigating the website of the platform. However, there is always room for improvement. For example, in his 99designs review, Chris suggests creating a mobile app as an alternative to the website.
According to 99designs reviews, the customer support does its best to deal with users’ problems. They share their stories about not being happy with what they got from designers but receiving help from managers. For instance, George was offered another chance to run a contest and even some good tips on how to succeed in that.
Yes, you can find hundreds of designers on 99designs, but there is no guarantee that all or even most of them are real experts. A lot of users complain about the level of designers’ professionalism and even more. In the 99designs review below, you can see Bob claiming that his designer even doesn’t speak English.
This con is a logical consequence of the previous one: unprofessional designers create non-original content. By choosing 99designs, you always have to be ready to check if designs suggested to you haven't been used by some other businesses before. Moreover, you could not even get your money back.
The culmination of this disadvantageous trilogy is the possibility of losing your money, time, and resources for nothing. Some users shared their stories when designers tried to get some free money without providing them with any results. For example, Christopher Hawkins got nothing but a cheque for $500 after waiting for his designs for six weeks.
All in all, 99designs is a 2-in-1 platform that is beneficial to both business owners and designers. It gives you an opportunity to choose a designer yourself based on their portfolio. Also, with its help, you can get a large pool of candidates by running a contest. For designers, it’s a good opportunity to show their best skills to win in a competition.
But if you’re looking for a service that saves your time and helps you spend your money wisely, you might have found the wrong address. You also need to become a project manager that controls all of the designing stages by choosing this platform. Moreover, you might end up with an unqualified designer. As this 99designs review shows, the platform is a gamble where you have a high risk of not winning.
However, if you value stable and quality results, you might choose flat-rate design services like Awesomic. There, you don’t need to guess if any of the professionals will notice your request among others. Neither do you have to worry about the time frame or communication, as unlimited iterations and Slack integration will ensure you get the desired result.