OpenBC is a Hamburg, Germany based professional social networking site that is often compared to LinkedIN. They were founded in late 2003, are profitable, and boast nearly 2 million members and 275 million page views per month.
Six weeks ago they launched an open design challenge for the new personal profile page on OpenBC. The winner will not only have the privilege of seeing their design on hundreds of millions of monthly page views, but they will also be awarded €10,000. Each week the designs were scored by a panel of judges (I am one of the judges, along with Cal Henderson, Chris Shipley and Thomas Gad), as well as by a popular vote of anyone reviewing the sites.
143 design submissions were made in six weeks, and 3,642 votes were cast. The challenge is now in the final stages, with five finalists to be chosen from 19 weekly winners. Votes must be in by September 10, and the final winner will be chosen by one of the final five from the popular vote.
I like this approach to a redesign. Not only does OpenBC get some publicity from the contest, but they also get input from hundreds of designers for their new site. The fact that their users get to have input on the process, by voting, means they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and community with the site. And at the end of the day, the €10,000 prize isn’t much more than they would spend simply going out and hiring a designer directly.