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    I think that you are, like so many others, trying desperately hard (& I admire this) to be good at web design and development because these are extremely popular and attractive careers with potentially outstanding prospects. However, that’s the problem, you are trying to break into a career now which if anything is becoming badly diluted and saturated. I think too many people are trying to “make a go” at web design, and I think too many try to do everything for themselves from scratch. The problem with that is you don’t learn those conventions of design (which cc630 talks about), you’re just diving right in at the deep end and trying to run before you can walk.

    Walk first. Then run. I studied product design at University, and whilst it’s a slightly different area of design, I learned all the conventions. I was then able to twist them for myself to apply my own originality.

    However, if I hadn’t have done my degree and learnt so much about design, I feel my work now would be on a similar level to yours. I am not saying you have to do a degree but I think you should first, before you make websites, learn more about design in a broader sense, study the conventions and practises, learn all about “Total Design”, learn how to draw a QFD, trust me in the long run it will stand you in good stead, you need a foundation to build upon

    Good luck.


    I’m not sure if I’m exactly at liberty to talk about myself, but…

    I’ve been studying design for years. I’m not a newbie, I’ve always been fascinated by design in general. And believe that I have a firm understanding of good design.

    It’s just, you can “understand” it to infinity, but that’s not going to make the first websites I make good.

    My problem here is, I have been working on everything individually, not together. I have probably made less than 10 overall sites. The rest where to learn CSS/HTML. I’ve done tons of graphic design in Gimp, but it was only to learn Gimp.

    And I’m aware that my designs suck. I wouldn’t say they are horrible. But I know they aren’t as good as some that are out there.



    Trey, another thought…one theme I think I’ve picked up from your responses here is that you have a design background but the technical details (html/css, etc) are holding you up. May I suggest that you try creating some mock-ups, either with software you’re familiar with (ie Photoshop if you use that a lot, or whatever else) or, possibly better yet, with pen(s) and paper. That way you can really focus on the design without worrying about how to float this and clear that and which font to use, etc. Once you have a design you feel good about, then you can set out to code it. That way the design drives the coding rather than vice versa.

    Don’t know if it’s a good idea, but thought I’d throw it out there. :)



    You’ll get it. You’ve got some of it. A lot of people don’t have that much. To post in a forum is to open yourself up to criticism. Lose your defenses. You’re here to learn. Again, LOSE YOUR DEFENSES. I’m not going to repeat everyone here by saying “learn how to design”. I’m going to say Learn How to Brand. Your retro site was fun, a bit out of my taste, but it definitely reminded me of those videogames I’d play as a child. That is a brand. It’s a narrow focus, sure, say for a client who has 80’s dance nights at his bar, but it’s something.
    My advice is to build a portfolio. The easiest way I can think to do that is to put yourself for hire IMMEDIATELY on And then design. And design. And do not stop. Do not be satisfied with less than 100% of your effort.
    You got this. Just get it slowly.


    I’ve been following this post, and from the outset thought it was 1. a wind-up or 2. a social network marketing experiment/ploy. Makes funny reading and each re-design kind of reminded me of this hilarious blog post.

    Sorry Trey if I’m wrong! Anyway most of the advice here is good stuff, you do need to go (spend a long time) looking at some inspiring examples and reading though (of which which there are thousands out there on dedicated sites as per recommends above. I’m on a similar road with coding problems currently. Just don’t give up!


    99designs is the worst thing you could possibly do. Don’t lower yourself to that level.

    You might as well give up altogether if you go down that route.


    Why? It’s a good way to have real clients, and use real briefings. You gain a lot of experience just by designing, so what is the issue?


    You really think it’s a good idea to spend hours, days, weeks, making logos and websites for people, when you are competing for the “prize”? This guy could end up spending months putting together work and not getting ANYTHING for his efforts. You can’t use any of it for a portfolio either, unless it’s work that’s actually being used. “Oh yeah, I made this website, but the client picked somebody elses”. Doesn’t work.

    There are far better, respectful ways of gaining clients. You work hard, first off by putting together small projects for friends and family. You won’t get loads of dollar, but they’ll probably buy you a case of beer or whatever. Then the more you do, and the better the get, the more likely people will then pass your name on and you benefit from word of mouth. Then with your experience, you can start to charge a bit, and build up a portfolio.

    Websites like 99designs encourage speculative work, and spec work is a horrible disease among the design community which should be eradicated as soon as possible.

    Please, whatever level you are at, don’t lower yourself to “competing” for work like a bunch of dogs.

    I worked hard freelance from the bottom and built myself up and I now have a full time job as a developer/designer. Did I have to gain my experience on 99designs? Abso-effing-lutely not, I can’t think of anything more degrading or worse. I don’t believe for a second anybody serious about their profession as a designer or developer would ever step foot on that website.


    It is about experience, not gaining clients. You don’t have to compete the prize, see it as a bonus. You could just use the briefing and not even submit the design.

    Experience is key, and gaining experience from a good briefing is in my opinion better then gaining it from a local store owner who doesn’t know what he wants.

    And why would you not be able to use designs that didn’t got picked? They show what you can do. And you don’t have to say on your portfolio that it is from a design contest. Just say it is a redesign. As long as it looks good, no one cares.


    Learning how to deal with clients is an essential part. If you go on 99designs and you don’t win, which you more than likely never will, you’ll never get that contact with the client. You’ll never have meetings, emails, telephone conversations. No matter how “difficult” the local store owner is, I’d rather deal with him then some mickey mouse scooby who just want’s to take advantage of me over a spec competition site like 99designs.

    I actually wrote an article on my distaste for spec work, and why, on Speckyboy. Feel free to look it up to see more of my reasons why I am absolutely against spec work.


    I must admit I’d not heard off 99designs so went to have a look. It seems to do much to protect the client (and therefore it’s own business model and profit) and little for the designers. My initial suspicion would be that clients go on there, have hundreds of designs created to their brief, then ‘not like’ any of them and get their money back, walking off with an idea for free to go create themselves? (or is there something to prevent that? well might be.) In other words it does on face of it seem to mean endless hours of designing for very little chance of income for their efforts.

    Great for a designer in answering briefs to practice skills as a hobby, not so great for sustainable income. Just my two frankfurters.


    I think the 99 design suggestion is for the guy to craft his skills and work work work work in order to perfect them, not in order to make a living out of it. That’s how I interpret the comment and I think it’s a valid approach. Just don’t stick there for TOO long!!!


    I signed up for the site. But I’m not sure its a great idea…

    If I’m going to be doing a bunch of work that isn’t going to get used, why should I even bother trying to give it to somebody? I think it would be best just to design sites in my own time. Rather than competing for a ‘prize’



    How about something like This?

    Keep in mind, its just a proof of concept, the big grey box will have a website in it once I’m done. And I will play around with the colors and shadowing. The text isn’t final and the mockup is NOT done. I see where I’m going to improve it, I’m just looking for a bit of feedback in the meantime.



    Huge improvement, keep working at it.

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