I’ll put this out there right now, I don’t actually mind looking at unsolicited redesigns of big sites. In fact, I quite enjoy the insight into the designers mind that they provide sans-brief and more importantly, sans-commercial restraints or goals.

Unsolicited redesigns have been part of the design world for years with varying levels of write ups to accompany them and justify the designers thinking behind radically ripping apart a massive website because the team who work on it haven’t quite got it right for whatever reason and to point them in the right direction.

The latest eye catching redesign I’ve seen is this week is a colourful and extensive look at IMDB which raised some all too common questions.

A look at how IMDB would look without its familiar branding, no advertising and no promotion of premium membership offers.

Pondering an unsolicited redesign?

I still think you should go for it. At the very worst, you’re practicing using the tools of your trade – in many cases just getting a bit of a Photoshop practice or perhaps going a step further and making some HTML prototypes it’s still good to create and try new things.

Perhaps it’s a little naive to redesign the Apple store or IMDB from scratch and with zero insight into any user testing, commercial and stakeholder goals or any of the other dozens of key metrics a modern website relies on to measure its performance.

The rules of the unsolicited redesign

So you’ve decided Amazon or GlobalHyperCorp are wrong in their design direction and need your suggestions (even as a bit of fun) make sure your redesign passes these few simple checks if you want anything more than an empty “like” or “appreciate this” on community design sites.

1. Stay on brand

Not many companies will throw away an established brand and colour scheme at the same time as fully overhauling a website. Keep it familiar, quite a lot of large companies even publish their styleguides so consider using it for added brownie points.

2. Never ditch the adverts

Large websites running adverts all over them usually do so because they’re either ad-funded or the ads generate additional revenue. If you’re really looking for a challenge, you should not only be including all the current adverts on the page/s you’re redesigning but you might even want to suggest ways to better display them or even include more without making users eyes bleed.

3. Research your target first

If you’re about to tear a new one for a massive internet presence and make your work anything more than simple and pointless eye candy, do some research just as you would if it were a real project. You won’t be able to build a full working brief that your unsolicited redesign can “solve” but if you’re smart you can find out a little bit about how your target company work by looking at things like job listings within the organisation. For example, a UX designer job at IMDB would make you responsible for, among other tasks, enforcing and maintaining brand guidelines (see 1.) and designing solutions that meet user and business goals (See 2).

4. Use real content

Unless you’re redesigning a social network for supermodels, the average person in an avatar placeholder doesn’t look like they’re off to London Fashion Week to model for £20k a day and most people don’t have friends who only ever work on macs in hipster coffee shops. Bear in mind how your redesign will look when real content is actually added.

Human feedback

The other side of the unsolicited redesign is the human element. You’re talking about the work others have done without being party to the reasons they’ve done it so tread carefully with what you say. I think designers should feel able to contact each other and provide suggestions, observations or feedback about things but you have an obligation to your fellow professionals to make sure you do so in the most constructive and considerate manner possible.

James Young

Written by James Young

I'm always looking for interesting work opportunities, if you'd like to work together please get in touch.

Join me on Twitter & Dribbble.