Contest to redesign our public website!

If you’ve ever seen our public website, you may have notice that it… (cough) blows. We’d like to fix that but, well, we don’t exactly have an impressive track record of award-winning web design. We’re also chronically short on available time. Thus, we’ve decided to throw a redesign out there as a contest for anyone who thinks they can do a better job. (And if you don’t think you can do a better job, please consider self-esteem classes.)

I am very confident that a better website exists. One that remains true to our design philosophy, accurately represents the feel of us, and yet doesn’t look as though it was produced by infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters. The trick is finding it. For this contest, we’ve picked three pages: the main page, the signup page, and the public FAQ. The winning designer will receive up to $1000 cash, payable by credit card, PayPal, NearlyFreeSpeech.NET bandwidth account credit, or, if they live in the US, company check.

To mediate the contest, we’re using To meet their requirements, we’ve had to break the project up a little bit and submit just the design/layout (not the HTML/CSS coding), with a prize of $600. If the winning designer wants to produce the type of HTML/CSS we need, we’ve got an additional $400 for that. In addition to the cash payment, we’ll credit the winner here on our blog and in our public FAQ, which is where we send people when they ask us for referrals to web designers.

If you’re a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET member who likes to design websites, we urge you to get involved. There’s no charge for participating on as a designer and it takes just a minute to get set up.

If you’re a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET member who may not like to design websites but who does have strong opinions, feel free to review the contest, entries, and comments, and post feedback about the submitted designs and your thoughts about priorities in the contest thread on our forum. We’ll review your feedback and pass it on to the entrants where appropriate, as well as including your thoughts and feelings in our decision making process.

One of the things I dig about 99Designs is how open everything is. Whether you’re participating or not, you can check it out and see every design submitted, every comment made, and every bit of feedback. I found 99Designs while exploring venues to recruit a PHP programmer. We’ve been kicking around the idea of a contest for awhile, but when I found this I said, “Why wouldn’t we do this? Why wouldn’t we do this right now?” The only drawback I’ve found is that the period seems a bit short, the contest is currently slated to end somewhere around Wednesday night. But I’m going to see if I can get them to extend it at least through the end of this week.

The contest is open to anyone, but I’d sure like to see a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET member win this. (NearlyFreeSpeech.NET members will not receive preference; you can only win it by being the best, which is exactly what my experience has consistently proven you all to be.)


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  1. I personally think that the current site is awesome. I prefer the minimal, informative layout that you guys currently have, and I think it would be a shame to see that change.

    Comment by Jon Simons — April 7, 2008 #

  2. We won’t give up what makes the site awesome, or what makes it us. However, there are some good reasons to make changes, like the need for us to be able to cram a lot more information into the site. Information, for example, about new and improved hosting services…

    I think it can be minimal, usable and informative while still being a little more visual appealing. Actually, I’d like to see the new site make it even easier to find information.

    Check out the first design entry that was submitted; so far I’m encouraged.

    Comment by jdw — April 7, 2008 #

  3. I have to agree with Jon Simons.

    Comment by Stephan Sokolow — April 7, 2008 #

  4. …and in response to jdw’s reply (posted while I was writing my first), I just think that switching to something more rounded/smooth/pastel than the current design takes away some of the appeal.

    The current design feels minimalistic and technical. Eye-pleasing, yet with a roughness to it that reassures you that NFSN prefers to focus it’s time on making a service that speaks for itself… rather than fiddling with the site design.

    Comment by Stephan Sokolow — April 7, 2008 #

  5. I think it’s a misconception that design is not important. I really feel like our current design is holding us back from adding content, because navigation would become untenable. It’s not all about pastel colors (eww) and rounded edges.

    It’s also the case that I’d like discussion of the contest and aesthetics to take place on the member forum, which is not moderated, because I anticipate a lot of response and back-and-forth. To that end, I’m going to lock comments on this blog post so people don’t have to check two places.

    Link to Forum Post

    Comment by jdw — April 7, 2008 #

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