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Discuss: Spec Work Results from Web Design Survey

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Back in November, we asked our readers and web designers all around the globe to participate in the 2011 Web Design Survey, hosted here on WebDesignTuts+. The response was pretty amazing..

Over 5,000 web designers responded and the majority completed the entire survey, sharing honest insights on how you work, how you design, and your feelings on issues in the industry. I spent the subsequent months pouring through the data, noting trends and patterns, and writing about what I found. The result was Web Design Confidential, a book being published by Rockable Press and available in e-book and print next week.

The most surprising result wasn't an over-arching trend, but the answer to one particular question: What's your opinion on "spec work"?

Knowing our community's strong and impassioned opinions on the matter, I expected negative responses to win by a large margin. The real and damaging effect of spec work has been well argued here and in other professional communities. But the results may surprise you:

Because it's a little tough to read in this graph, I'll repost the responses here in order of popularity. Participants could select any responses they agreed with:

  • I have no opinion on spec work. (37.3%)
  • I would participate in spec design competitions only in certain circumstances. (24.6%)
  • I would never participate in spec design competitions. (22.5%)
  • Not all design competitions are spec work. Some are OK contests. (15.1%)
  • Any contest or competition that asks you to design something to win it is spec work. (11.7%)
  • I would participate in spec design competitions. (11.0%)

Surprisingly, over a third of web designers reported having no real opinion on the hot topic of spec work. Only 22% of designers responded with the typical guideline I see in most spec debates: no spec design competition is ever acceptable. 11% said they would participate in such competitions. Nearly a quarter said they would participate in spec work competitions, given the right circumstances.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Why do you think this is? Lack of education about the impact of spec work? Different subsets of designers? General apathy?

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