designing a platform with discovery at the center

Designing for community

99designs started ten years ago as a design contest marketplace, where a client submits a brief for a pool of freelancers to pitch their concepts. As the business matured, the company grew to become a creative platform that directly connects creators with clients across the globe.

This new positioning came with two challenges:
• highlight the quality of our community of creators;
• foster their relationship with the clients they met in our platform.

The initiatives related to how we expose and connect our creator community at 99designs brought some complex challenges that required a holistic (and realistic) approach to bring consistency across the platform, from how we display assets to defining relationship indicators between clients and creators. This case study covers some projects from this massive undertaking.

Empowering the plurality and quality of our creative community

The first step to expose the creators and their work in our platform was to give them a proper portfolio. A key differentiator for our platform is that all portfolio pieces were real projects with real clients.

In our research, we learned that creators were missing better customization of their profiles so they could adequately show their style and promote it outside of our platform as well. We designed an interface pattern that would be used to display their work across the platform, giving them tools to customize their portfolio and setting some standards to make it easier for clients to browse and visualize their profiles.

Early sketches, investigations, and content audit to explore solutions for client-creator relationship

Highlighting the best designs

The work selected by the creators to be featured their portfolios were then showcased in an inspiration gallery page, Discover. Creators, clients, and even 99designs employees could find and get inspired by the fantastic work done on the platform. This was crucial to change not only their perception of our community but also their behavior. Right after launch, the Discover page become an essential tool for finding and promoting our designers and to show the quality of their work to new clients.

Exploring patterns, behaviors, and flows to create a consistent experience across the platform

Nurturing existing relationships trumps creating new ones

From on our interviews with clients, we learned that they prefer to wait for their favorite creators to be available than just start working with a new one: they already know each other, their brand guidelines, how they communicate, how they work and their style. Focusing on their existing relationships would be not only beneficial for clients and designers, but also for increasing stickiness of and lifetime value for the business. With that in mind, our challenge was to create dashboards for them to quickly find and contact their favorite creators and manage their projects.

Dashboards to manage projects, designers, and find inspiration

This new mindset and product positioned 99designs to become a trusted global creative platform, while also unlocking the opportunity for new business through partnerships and APIs built over the product created.

I've been working on this team for five years now as a Product Design Lead. I've hired and have been working with an awesome Associate Product Designer for the past year on this core project.


99designs 2014-

Moip 2011-14
Brazil, acquired by Wirecard

Locaweb 2010-11

AgenciaClick 2009-10
Brazil, acquired by Isobar

Yahoo! 2007