CMXtraneous: Dreamweaver

Right on the edge of useful

The line between web design

Posted Friday, June 29, 2007 1:17:04 PM by Zoe Gillenwater

Zoe Gillenwater

There's no black and white distinction between what constitutes plagiarism and what doesn't. Sometimes its obvious, but often it's not clear if a new piece has crossed over the murky line. This includes design plagiarism.

An outside organization asked my employer for permission to use one of our web site designs for their own site that they wanted to create. I'm the designer of the site in question. We've explained to the organization that they may use the HTML and CSS from our site if they put a credit to me as the original author of the CSS inside the code — after all, markup is not really something you can copyright, especially the simple, no frills stuff I used on this small site.

But we've having trouble getting them to understand that though they can be influenced by the design, as any designer can, they can't blatantly copy it. They can have a similar layout and look, but they can't use the same images or content. This organization definitely wants to work with whatever guidelines we give them — they don't want to violate our copyright or step on our toes at all — but they don't appear to understand the distinction yet. I can't blame them.

How do you distinguish between sites that just have a similar style or layout and sites that are copies? I remember my art teacher in high school always telling us that we had to make our art at least 30 percent different from whatever source file we were using as inspiration (usually a National Geographic photo, since we had a whole floor to ceiling cabinet of old issues). I have no idea where she got this 30 percent figure from, and I still don't really know how I would evaluate if something was 10 percent different versus 40 percent different.

I gave the person who requested our design this guideline to tell if his design was plagiarizing or not: Once your design is different enough that someone could conceivably believe you created it without ever having seen our design, you should be safe. If someone came across your design and accused you of copying our design, could you reasonably defend your work by saying you'd never seen our site before, that it's just a coincidence?

By this, I don't mean to imply that if someone saw both designs they would have to be able to see no similarities, but rather that there could be some possibility the two designs were created independently. They could think it's possible that one used the other as a starting point, as long as they could also accept the possibility of the opposite.

Do you think this guideline holds water? Is it too loose? Too restrictive? Do you have a more precise way you determine what is just inspiration and what is copying, in terms of web design? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.

Category tags: Designing for the Web, Dreamweaver

reCAPTCHA - Simple and Accessible

Posted Saturday, June 16, 2007 10:50:13 AM by Stephanie


For anyone who knows me well, the most shocking part of this post is that I actually, finally, put my own web site up. Yes, after 2 years of "Coming Soon," I've actually launched my site focued on training, speaking and coding. One of the things I learned (which I knew, taught, but obviously wasn't practicing) is--let the content dictate the design. Oh my word--I had three designers work on the site over the past two years before I realized I should practice what I preach and let the content, semantically marked up, determine the design. So much better than trying to force the content into your preconceived design notion--at least when you'd like to accomplish something. Special thanks to Carolyn Wood (editor-in-chief of Digital Web and owner of Pixelingo) for all her hard work with me on this (and for continually kicking my butt)!

Meanwhile, something I found in the process of creating this site, I wanted to share with you guys. Due to the spam I receive on my blog and the form on my old site, I really wanted to make it more difficult for the bots. However, I'm also very concerned about accessibility with the current CAPTCHA products I'm aware of. Enter reCAPTCHA. This one actually gives the user the ability to interact with the CAPTCHA by viewing the image and typing it in--even with JavaScript turned of. And if they prefer, they can have the challenge spoken. I've not had the ability to have a non-sighted user test it, but it seemed to work well for me when listening to it. Best of all, it's free!

They have one other product which I'm also using -- Mailhide. You enter the email and they generate some code that you put into your page (I doctored mine a touch) and, in the same way, it forces the user to solve a reCAPTCHA challenge to get your email. Of course, I'm sure nothing is foolproof, but having a little protection is better than nothing at all. Have a look!

Category tags: Accessibility, Dreamweaver, JavaScript

Goin' on a Safari...

Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 2:46:46 PM by Big John

Big John

A web buddy has just hipped me to This.

See that item down in the left corner? Safari now has a shiny new version number, and it works on the PC too. So old Stevie has entered the PC Browser Wars, eh? That should stir the pot a bit.

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, Community MX, CSS, Designing for the Web, Dreamweaver, JavaScript, Mac, Mobile, Web Business