Why I take issue with the build_off

Every few months I buy .Net. for the few hours I spend flipping through reading what’s relevant to me and skipping over what’s not there has always been one section which can make my blood boil over, temperature soar, and fists clench – the ‘build_off’.

I have never understood this section. Across on average 4 pages we’re presented a picture of a home page for a fictional site all nicely sized to somehow conveniently fit into the width of a magazine page with some nice callouts a brief intro and explanations of what each of these areas might be like if it were real.

I don’t know how long it takes for contributors to put together these quaint ideas, or how they are selected in the first place but I can’t help but feel this is and has always been completely against what we as an industry are so determined to move away from – showing shitty comps to shitty clients.

There are other sections which I take issue with, top lists for CMS which never shows or describes anything they’ve done with the CMS, CSS and Javascript that never show or explain what is significant, all get on my nerves, but these are not anywhere near as frustrating as the build_off.

The fact that the contributors are given a sufficiently loose brief ensuring that they produce wildly different page designs (because that’s all it is – it’s not a site) means that it is also impossible to compare them on any kind of contrast. For example, this month Kat Thompson, Rob Barwell & Natash McDiarmid were given the brief to “mock up a website design promoting an imaginary museum. Consider how to broadcast its brand values, integrate social media and get the most out of different devices.”

It’s impossible to meet this brief in reality. We don’t know what the brand values are so how can they promote them? We don’t know what social channels they currently use, how effective they are, whether they’re focussing on the right communication tools and they can’t produce something best suited for different devices because they’re only going to show a one-shot for a home page.

Taking part in the .Net build_off is like trying to win a project on a site like 99 designs, or people per hour; wooly loose brief with no context, no ability to talk to an actual person in order to get the data you need to make expert decisions and a backwards team that are going to waste time putting together a design in photoshop (or fireworks or something else – I really don’t care what you use) which you then have to encourage someone to imagine having “parralax scrolling image appears as endless as the real night sky”.

To add insult, there has been a recent introduction (it could have actually been there for years) of urls to see the pages in full which link to jpegs, the same jpeg you’ve looked at on the page only bigger. Well big whoop!

I’d like to suggest that people stop taking part until the concept changes so that you have to make a full site.

Published by

Andy Parker

User Experience Designer, headbanger, biker, skater, gamer from Brighton UK.