Designing a Beautiful Website Using 99Designs

Posted by Joanna Conti on October 03, 2014 in Website Design


In today’s internet age, having a compelling website is integral to the success of most companies.  It’s your calling card, and you want it to wow potential customers.

Two distinct skills are required to develop a unique and powerful website – creating a stunning design and writing the code that makes the website work.  While there are certainly gifted developers who can do both, they’re rare.  I’ve been happiest with the results when I had a graphic designer create a beautiful design and hired an experienced coder to build the actual site.

If you work with one graphic designer, you will typically need to choose one of the two of three designs she creates.  I’ve found this very limiting.  While I have no artistic talent myself, I know what I like when I see it and I prefer to choose from a wide variety of designs.  The solution that has worked best for me is to hold a design contest on a site like 99designs.

While design contests are time-consuming to do correctly, I’ve never ended a contest without a design I absolutely love.  If you follow these rules, you should be able to choose between the finished designs of at least a dozen designers.  I’ve had as many as 27 designers submitting website entries:

  • Write a thorough design specification.  Start by thinking through what unique types of website pages you’re going to need such as a home page, a blog page, and perhaps an inner page.  Then define the elements that need to be on each of these types of pages, specify how you want folks to navigate between the pages, and write the copy for an example of each type of page.
  • Invite designers whose work you like to join the contest.  For my most recent design contest, I invited designers who had won previous contests of mine as well as other designers whose portfolios included the type of clean, elegant designs I prefer.
  • Guarantee the payment.  Not only is this an inexpensive way to increase the number of participating designers, but asking artists to create something for you and then not awarding the prize money to any of them is patently unfair.
  • Give detailed, thoughtful feedback on every design, particularly at the beginning of the contest.  It is rare that someone nails what you’re looking for on the first try.  I’ve found that my contests are usually won by artists who joined the contest early on, even if their first designs were pretty far off.  Keep an open mind, look for elements of their designs you like, and be specific about what you don’t like.

In the design contest for, I spent $1,100 for the contest itself and $100 to purchase four stock photographs.  The biggest cost to me was the time I invested working with the designers.  I spent 6 hours creating and revising the website design specifications and 18 hours over the course of nine days giving feedback on designs. 

While this may seem like a lot of effort and expense, design matters.  I expect our stunning, powerful website to interest potential clients in our services for years to come and pay for itself over and over