Designers split over website updates service
Tweaky has launched and immediately divided the web industry. The service calls itself the "marketplace for website customisation", and breaks down briefs into a series of tweaks, each of which cost a flat-rate of $25, with a money-back guarantee if the client is not satisfied. Co-founder and CEO Ned Dwyer told .net the aim was to make it easier for small businesses to make changes to websites: "The current models weren't working. I ran an agency for years [and] it didn't make financial sense to prioritise small jobs over much larger ones."
Dwyer said the service's tweaks are done by a "marketplace of hand-picked developers from around the world", mostly based in Australia, the UK and the USA. "We're finding it's attractive for developers and designers who are travelling. Because Tweaky handles the client relationship, the designer can stop in a café, do a couple of tweaks and move on."
Dwyer also reckoned that since Tweaky utilises "pretty savvy designers and developers," this wouldn't lead to cobbled-together websites, and he stated the company also doesn't see itself as a full redesign service. "We would see that small business owners would come to us after they have had a site designed by an agency or freelancer, to help them reduce the costs in making small changes," he went on. "We had one example of a customer who wanted to put a Pinterest button on his WordPress blog posts. An agency quoted him $350 with a two-week lead time. Tweaky did the whole project in less than 24 hours for $25 – and offered a 100 per cent money back guarantee."
Designer Geri Coady told us that while Tweaky could be useful to a busy blogger who wanted a few updates on a personal site, she feared some clients would use it to bypass a developer or web team they have a working relationship with, purely to save money. She was also concerned that "Tweaky puts creative direction entirely in the hands of the client, which is something we've been working so hard to push back on", and asked how much discussion takes place. "It's a pixel-pushing service," she concluded.
Clearleft managing director Andy Budd was also initially negative about the service, but had second thoughts: "My first reaction was that Tweaky is a terrible idea and another step towards the commoditisation of our industry. After thinking about it a bit, I changed my mind. The service is aimed at people who've inherited a website but don't have the internal skills to get it updated. As such, it's something that most design agencies and many freelancers wouldn't touch with a barge poll – too much hassle for too little reward."
A digital handyman
Budd likened the service more to the equivalent of digital handymen, willing to "put up a few shelves or fix a leaky tap in exchange for a few dollars", and suggested that if the service is efficient enough, it could "fill the gaps between projects for more experienced freelancers, while giving newbies an opportunity to cut their teeth on small commercial projects, with little risk to either party". Happy Cog founder Jeffrey Zeldman was also broadly positive when writing about the service. He also told us that "while the service will raise some designers' hackles, if an ex-client of mine needs someone to make their logo bigger, I'd rather they use a service like Tweaky than re-hire me".
Writer and lecturer Karl Hodge agreed with Zeldman, stating that "when you're waiting for the next bathroom installation, it does no harm to fix the odd leak", and he considered Tweaky's business model a reflection of how in post-industrial times we're increasingly moving towards pre-industrial models: "Tweaky is part of a continuum of piece-work sites, and is in some ways preferable to Amazon's Mechanical Turk or services like Fiverr." He said it's interesting web design has been largely immune from this for so long, because other creative enterprises have been "chopped up and thrown to the crowd already", but he was unconvinced it would eat into the core market of fully bespoke web design: "It would be a poor waste of time and resources to overhaul an enterprise website bit by bit by bit!"