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UpWork – How oDesk FAILED!

UpWork – How oDesk FAILED!

Every so often we all come across some good intention taking a turn for the worst. Sometimes the failure is outside of the control off the decision makers.  But a lot of the time it is simply due to incompetence, lack of talent, lack of foresight and the overall lack of care to the end-user – Total disrespect IMHO.

I feel that the recent oDesk to UpWork conversion is an example of something that went terribly wrong. I understand that the intention of the company was to reinvent itself, provide the end user with a refreshed look and feel, and enhance the overall user experience. But unfortunately it seems as though incompetence is the only thing that it revealed in my eyes – the eyes of a business owner.

First off let me say that I’ve grown to love oDesk. It is a fantastic service that allows me to do more than I ever was able to on my own. It allows my company to utilise talent from all over the world in a distributed fashion and overall I’d say that I’ve had a somewhat positive experience.

Enter UpWork…

What were you guys thinking!!!

Let me elaborate on the good and bad.

The good.

User Interface

The UI is actually a pretty good attempt. I like the new fonts. They really look crips on an HD or Retina display. I also like the new icons. Well done on that.


I like that you can now see a list of previous jobs when looking at past and current hires. It helps, especially when you are trying to figure out what they are capable of without having to look at their profile again.


The new reporting section is really good. For my purposes, it helps manage my teams and projects quite well and it looks pretty nice with some good graphics. Kudos to you.


I quite like the fact that you can mark as read/unread. Don’t recall it being there previously but it’s good that it’s there. There is a lot of negative feedback about messaging but I like it.


The bad.

No public Beta – A disrespectful move

I may be mistaken but I’ve not seen a public beta version of the site. For a site that is hugely dependent on their clients and contractors for their existence, I would have thought that a nice thing to do is to give everyone a bit of a heads up for a few reasons.

  1. To get some feedback from the community about a potential overhaul. Not everyone would have agreed or liked the new look and feel but they would have received a good impression of whether they were heading in the right direction or not. This lack of communication is quite disrespectful. I’ve not seen any hint of this change coming and I’m a fairly frequent user.
  2. To actually get users familiar with the new interface, even if they were not going to listen to public opinion. Especially because oDesk / UpWork is actually a business critical tool used by a lot of companies and contractors alike. Some malfunction (and things did go wrong) would only be bad for business – and it was!
  3. They would have had ‘Free’ testers. People would have used the new site and provided very useful info regarding accuracy and testing of all functionality. Remember, your end user will interpret or use a tool in many more ways than you ever imagined. So no amount of in-house testing can compare to unleashing this to the public. Most major companies does this, so why not give it a try the next time you attempt a bit change like this.

The Name. Oh the HORROR!

What were they thinking!! oDesk was a fantastic name. I asked myself : ‘What would cause a company to make decision like changing your name to something like UpWork?’ I have a few ideas why

  • Incompetence. Someone up top called the shots and thought it was a good idea and no on dared to challenge them. I’ve not seem a poll to ask their user base if it was a good idea. Maybe I’ve missed it – I definitely could have missed it if they did one.
  • Perhaps they are in legal dispute over the name. Possibly infringing a trademark or something. This is pure speculation but I can imaging that would be a good reason to change a name.
  • Perhaps they were acquired secretly. Currently they have merged with Elance so I’m not sure what is going on? I’ve noticed a trend with mergers and acquisitions in the past. Initially nothing changes and everyone is promised that nothing will change. But that promise generally lasts about 6 months to a year. In come the business advisors, in come the optimisers and in a struggle for internal power, people tend to do irrational things. Like change from a fantastic name to something like UpWork.

The look and feel

I kind of understand where they wanted to go with this. They wanted a clean flat and minimal look and I think that they accomplished that to some extent – not that the last design was bad. It was quite good actually. But it seems like nobody looked at it before deploying it. Unfortunately, for a large company, a few small mistakes are the only things that people see.

Where is the contrast?

The Menu

ODesk Upwork Menu

The highlight (FREELANCERS) is in a lightish green which actually hurts the eyes. They could easily have gone for a similar green that they had previously, or even use the same colour as used in JOBS.

oDesk UpWork Company Logo

Not all companies have a round logo and when reduced to this smaller size is kinda useless for branding. Well, for my company at the very least. Time to change my Logo.

The Upwork Logo

This is just my subjective opinion, but it simply looks silly to me. Not much else to say. I’m not that creative so honestly, I can’t even suggest something to help them. Not that they would take my advice anyways.


This part really annoys me:

This is the Teams dropdown. I think that they totally forgot to change this as it is not a common feature to all accounts. You have to specifically ask them to enable it for you. So to the UpWorker Business team, if you are listening, add this to your list of things to bring inline with the new look and feel.


The site is still TERRIBLY slow. I’ve got a pretty good connection and am based in the UK. I’m not sure where their servers are but here is their Pingdom score for just their homepage.

And their Google PageSpeed Insights

These are free tools that they could have used. Take into account that this is just the homepage. Some of the other pages on the site take a good few seconds to load. IMHO, anything more than 500ms is too long and annoying.



The workdiary lag still exists. I would really like to see my contractors updates sooner rather than later. I’m not sure what the exact lag is but it seems substantial. So this is something that could be improved upon.

Another very bad thing that happened is that contractors lost money during the upgrade. This was kinda good for clients but not morally right. If you are a client, I would check with your freelancers if they lost hours and reimburse them. From what I’ve read, it was not an isolated incident and this is totally appalling!! I do hope that UpWork rectified this.

Here is a snippet from some comments I was reading.

User #1

User #2

User #3


So you can see that it is not just an isolated incident.


The public Jobs Board

There is still a 3 hour lag on the public jobs board. I think that this should be brought down to near realtime just like their Elance counterparts. It can do nothing but help. But I think that they want more subscribers so using this as an incentive to sign up I guess.


So what are others saying?

Well, others are saying such negative things that oDesk / UpWork decided to crush their comments and instead redirect people to another discussion platform.


Then there’s 32 pages (as of writing this) of feedback on their forum. Mostly negative.

Here are some of my top picks from that list


Pick #1

Pick #2

Pick #3


I’ve picked out just a few negative comments. There were some positives but not that many. Have a read through if you want.

To me this is very bad publicity for a very public organisation.

I’ve learnt a lot from this and a lot of my values have been reaffirmed by their transition and by the user comments.

It’s simply this:

If you put the end user (your client) first and keep them informed, working with them to make the best possible decisions, at the best possible bang for your buck, then you are doing nothing but increasing your probability for success.

I’d like to hear your view on this migration and also if you have thoughts on how this should have been handled. Hopefully the folks and UpWork are listening.

For now, it still helps me get stuff done. So would recommend them. It just astonishes me that they could have done this the way they did.



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  • Cherrie Hub

    Hi, great article… I wish I knew oDesk before it switched to UpWork… Personally, I find the website practical to use as it is and didn’t have any issues so far. But switching from one interface to another always takes time to adapt. What I wish is for them to have more better paying clients lol…