Category Archives: Web Design and Development

Scrolling in Web Design

Scrolling Best Practices

Long scrolling, parallax effects and similar mechanisms are still relatively new to the realm of design (~4 years) , but still some rudimentary trial-and-error has produced some fundamental best practices.

Summarized from Web Design Trends 2015 & 2016, here are some everyday tips for successfully implementing long scrolling.

  1. Don’t be afraid to alternate long with short scroll. Let the content dictate the scroll length, not the other way around. It’s totally fine (and quite popular) to use a short-scroll homepage and long-scroll landing pages (like Products, Tour, etc.).
  1. Consider sticky navigation, such as that used by Free Range Designs, so that users can always “get back” quickly or bounce from element to element in the scroll.
  2. Suggest scrolling with design elements or tools so that every user can quickly see how the site works. Arrows, animated buttons or similar user interface tools are fun and easy ways to help the user determine what to do next. Some sites even include a small button with instructions like “Scroll for More” or “Get Started” to help navigate a site with unconventional techniques.
  1. Make clear distinctions between scrolling clicks or taps and other calls-to-action so that your website gets the desired interaction.
  1. Do some research and look at how users are interacting with the scroll. In Google Analytics, for example, you can open the “In Page Analytics” tab to see how many people click below the fold. Based on the data, you can then tweak the design as necessary.
  1. Don’t go overboard. Long scrolling does not mean 500 pages of continuous content – a long scroll can also be simple. Tell your story and then stop. Don’t force it. Deca, below, uses a scroll that is only a few pages long.

Focus on your user goals and accept that even infinite scrolling sites are not truly endless. When creating longer-scrolling sites, understand that users still require a sense of orientation (their current location) and navigation (other possible paths).

  1. Include visual cues that help orient users in the scroll, such as the helmet icons used in the left hand side for “The Seven Types of Motorcycle Rider” site below.

Scrolling can be a double-edged sword, so stick to its recommended usage to avoid it doing more harm than good.

Tips on the Best Web Designer

1.The work shows off responsive design

It’s still surprising how many times responsive designs don’t make it into a web designer portfolio. It’s hard to say if a designer is capable of delivering responsive design if it’s not there. It could be omitted by mistake or because they have never done it. You can’t tell if it’s not there. Now, this guide refers to a web designer.

The web is a flexible medium that works on the tiniest devices and their tiny screens to larger devices and their larger screens. It’s important for any website to have a good responsive design. At this point in time, there is no excuse in not at least including a screenshot of the responsive design as part of a project’s case study.

Jenny Johannesson shows off the responsive design in her portfolio. Her case study on Internet.org starts off with working on the project with a mobile first approach. That’s huge! It’s actually quite impressive too. In her case study, mobile devices aren’t even an afterthought. They are a central part of her project and how she approached it.

Additional, the portfolio of Toy Fight includes a case study for Outpost. As part of the case study, the agency includes a section for mobile design. They explain that the approach towards mobile design was well fitting for mobile just as it was for the desktop design of Outpost’s website.

2.The work includes research

Every web design project should start with some sort of research. Research allows you to start the project in the right direction, on the right foot. There are so many different ways to go about research. There is no single method of getting insight.

Research can include things such as user interviews, AB testing, analytics and metrics, heat maps, heuristic evaluations, personas and scenarios, surveys, or usability studies, among many other.

Netta Marshall includes a quick blurb on how research impacts a project she worked on for Tally. She explains how the research was conducted – through Craigslist volunteers – and how many iterations her testing produced – 2 full redesigns. Although she doesn’t go into too much detail here, it’s clear that Netta doesn’t design something willy nilly. There is a process that she follows and it impacts the product she is trying to build.

3.The work shows off good communication skills of the web designer

More or less, design is about communication. A lot of what designers do is communicating with their clients or bosses and then again with the target audience of the website. It’s important to show good communication skills within a web designer’s portfolio.

A web designer’s job is never only just the final UI design. That’s the just the pretty end-product. A great web designer will walk their audience through their case studies. They will communicate their projects, their part in it and their process, among a whole lot of different information.

4. the web designer and artist or a problem solver

Yes, websites created with a talented web design will be beautiful. But that’s not why people or business need them. Websites are a way to solve business problems such as increasing sales, clicks, or sign ups. Different projects will have different problems and different measurements of success.

Actually, a web designer who is a good communication will make this distinction easy for you to see. They will clearly communicate their problem-solving skills.The case study on the redesign of the Met from Fantasy explains a few different problems their redesign tackled. The design focused on helping users find exhibitions, plan a visit and even support the Met through donations. Unfortunately, their case study does not go into too many details of each problem. But, it is still a clear indication that the agency takes business objectives seriously.

 

 

Reviews for Web Designers

A great UX review can do wonders for any website. By looking over the entire design you can learn what’s working, what’s not, and maybe find solutions that can increase the UX and ultimately increase revenues.

But learning how to conduct a review is the first step to solving problems and creating a better experience. In this guide I’ll cover the basics of a UX review and how you can get started running your own.

This does require some background in UX design but it also relies on basic principles of making great websites. If you’re willing to learn and put in some elbow grease then a UX review of your own website can be a great opportunity for growth.

Conducting a Review

The goal of a UX review is to comb over an entire site and find spots for improvement. These spots could be obvious or they could be small, but you should aim to improve the site as a whole.

You should always aim to study objective trends and find statistics that back up your ideas. Designers aren’t always the most quant-oriented people but it’s a necessity in a good UX review.

Try to avoid vague opinions or how things feel to you personally. Instead gather user feedback and study traffic trends to gather ideas for where problems could be and why they’re happening.

Each technique offers a different perspective for studying the same website. UX reviews can try to improve everything or focus on one specific task like high bounce rates, signup rates, or time on page.

If you’re working on a personal project then you can set the metrics yourself. But client projects require collaboration because you’ll need to know what the company wants to improve.

The initial stage of a UX review is about information gathering moreso than anything else. Once you have enough raw data you’ll begin to see patterns, and these patterns can lead to insights for solving the tasks you’re faced with.

 Planning Specific Goals

It’s easy to keep asking yourself questions and never really coming to detailed conclusions. But with specific goals you’ll be forced to study certain metrics and try to solve for very specific end results.

Think about the goals you need to aim for and what they mean. A high bounce rate means people leave the first page they enter. But are they on that page for a while? If yes, then they’re probably finding the information they need and leaving.

But what if it’s a landing page? Then people are leaving because they’re not interested. But why? Maybe they just don’t see the CTA button to sign up, or maybe they don’t understand what the page is for.

The planning phase goes beyond just goal setting. You’ll need to look into a few points:

  • What is the problem(or problems)?
  • Why do these problems exist? What is the cause?
  • What is the end result you’re looking for?
  • How can you move from the current state to one that solves these problems?

By repeating these steps over and over you’ll find new problems, look for new solutions, and leave yourself a big ground for testing. There’s never a fully completed project so there’s always room for more optimization.

Another step is creating believable personas that can fit into your target audience.

These are like marketing segments that may visit your website and be looking for a certain experience. And these general demographics can have very different goals that you need to support. UX designers go so far as to find custom CC photos for personas because they can make a difference.

Web Design Trends 2017

1. Gradients

Missing from the design landscape for a few years, gradients are making a major comeback. But the look of the color blurring technique has shifted.

The most popular usage is a two color gradient overlay on photos. (This technique can look absolutely amazing!) It’s a great option to switch up your look or to make a less-than-interesting photo a little more intriguing. You can also use a gradient background to draw the eye when you don’t have other imagery to work with.

2. Video with Sound

People are becoming more accustomed to watching videos – from short bits of YouTube to movies – on their devices. Websites can mimic this cinematic experience as well with a full-on video with sound display on the homepage. (It does not have to be auto-play to be effective.)

Proceed with caution. Include an option to toggle sound off and on, because not all users will appreciate it. The content needs to be so stellar that users will demand sound as part of the experience. (This is a trend that can be tough to pull off but can work beautifully if you have the right video and sound content combination.)

3. Super Simple Homepages

More designs will start to strip away the type heavy homepage styles that have been popular for a while. More designers are opting for design that feature only a word or two on the first screen of the design.

And before you worry about SEO, these pages are often packed with plenty of information below the scroll. This is a great example of how user habits are changing web design as a whole. Thanks to plenty of scrolling on mobile websites, users are scrolling more on websites regardless of device. This makes it easier to design a light, airy hero area and pack the design with content on the scroll.

Here’s the trick: Just make sure to give users enough in this simple design to make them want more so that they will engage in scrolling behaviors.

4. More Tactile Design

Web design is rooted in physical things. It started with Material Design and the development of more tactile planes and layering of objects. This interface trend is expanding to the visuals as well.

Designers are much more rooted in reality. This includes images, rather than illustrations, and plenty of elements that feel like the user can reach out and touch them. The images are more natural as well, featuring elements that are made from materials found in nature and crafted into usable objects.

5. Neutral Color Palettes

Tactile principles will carry over into color palettes as well. While the last two years have been some of the most colorful we have seen in web design that is going to shift to a more natural, neutral set of hues.

Look for more greens, beiges and muted tones in projects. Color palettes will be derived from the natural world and have less of a bold, bright, almost-neon look to them.

6. Wearables Influence the Web

Small design will influence everything else. Very much in the way a mobile-first design mentality has impacted the way all websites work, a wearable-first approach will most specifically impact app design. (You’ll want your app to work on a phone or a watch, right?)

This influence will likely change the look and complexity of some mobile apps. We might see larger typography and more minimal styles emerge. With so many users opting to buy wearables of some sort and wanting those interactions to replicate on other devices, this method of design is destined to happen sooner rather than later.

Features That are Missing from Web Design

1. Web Design That’s not Unique to Your Industry & Brand

Your web design is the first impression a visitor will have about the business. This page should not only be reflective of your industry, products or services, but it should stand out from competition and reflect your company culture. The Following should be considered:

  • Design should attract and imprint in the memory of your visitors to create “awareness”
  • Content should create a narrative to ‘tell your story’ through the website.

Make sure that your web design is unique and recognizable. Distinct visual approach & style, typography and interactive design elements play a big role in this department. All this creates the first impression in your visitor’s head and is crucial for the next interaction with your website.

A great example of this aspects is the creative WordPress theme TheGem recently released on Themeforest marketplace. This theme understands the need for individuality, creativity, awareness and interaction, offering many industry specific unique design concepts . When going through the demo pages of this theme you will see how different industry stories can be told in an attractive visual way, involving the user in interaction and remaining in his/her memory.

2. No Trending UX and UI Features

Even though your page visitor might not be able to pinpoint the exact reason why don’t find your website appealing, their subconscious will pick up that your page is sub-standard. Trending features within design can take a variety of forms, but for the last few years, these features are taking the front seat for UX and UI.

  • Scroll Jacking is where the user’s scrolling is directed to an exact vertical point on the screen, such as the top of the next content container. It’s replaced native scrolling and is more targeted. Here are some examples for that:
    1. Design for Your Satisfaction
    2. Lookbook
    3. Brilliance of Perfectio
    4. Material Design and Flat 2.0: As Google launched their new style language, Material Design, the designers got an opportunity to evolve minimalistic flat design principles in something more attractive, combining it with some old yet pretty features of skeuomorphic design (for instance through layering). This is aimed at making designs appear more realistic and appealing to the visitor. You can check some examples of creative flat 2.0 realisation on this pa

3. Your Web Page Is Not Working Well on Mobile

48% users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn’t working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. (Source: MarginMedia.com) Not having a responsive website is almost as good as not having a website at all. Businesses need to have responsive web design in order to give them online credibility. As Noetiforce explains; ‘Responsive Web Design is the DNA of modern web applications’.

If you are starting to design your website, start with the mobile version first, before you expand your creative power on the desktop version. You shouldn’t worry about possible design limitations of such approach – just take a look at amazing designed creative WordPress Themes on Themeforest; many of them, like TheGem, were created with the mobile-first approach in mind.

Through studying the trends of modern web design, we can deduct what works well online, and what doesn’t. This article is aimed at taking a look at where your website might be lacking. Although we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover; we do it anyway. With the focus on great UX and UI, you can ensure that the users will be buying in on your product and services because of high quality design, trending features, a great user interface, brilliant functionality and a page that performs at the speed of light.

4. No Search Functionality

In this digital age, web users want their needs met immediately. A split second can change their minds, and not being able to navigate or search for what they want on your page, will drive them to the competitors. A Search bar is of utmost importance whether it’s to search for blog content for a certain keyword, or a product or service on the page. Again, it’s about making the interaction and engagement with your page as easy and seamless as possible.

 

Practices of Hotel Website Design

Is an integral part of any website design and there is no doubt about that. However if there’s a single industry where user experience matters more than anything else is, of course, hospitality.

Hospitality is all about meeting and exceeding guest expectations and providing stellar guest experience from the very first touch point till the last.

And in the digital era that we live in, hotel website is quite often where the guest experience with a hotel starts. At least that’s what every hotel brand strives for: direct bookings. So as a hotel owner you want to make sure the user experience of your website is as good as the guest experience in the hotel itself.

To do so you need to understand why travelers visit your website in the first place. What are the main traveler intentions? Once you know the answer to this question, you will be able to meet traveler expectations with a matching, user-friendly website.

As a designer you will need a little bit more insights into hospitality industry and traveler behavior analysis to come up with a well-thought user experience flow that actually converts.

According to a study conducted by Google, on average 60% of travelers are turning to search engines first vs. hotel website for online trip planning.

 Generally, these are the main guest intentions when visiting a hotel website.

Now let’s see how exactly we can design the user experience to cater to those needs.

1. Optimize Booking Flow for Conversions

This should be your mantra. Nothing else matters, not your aesthetics or taste, not even user’s taste. You might think this is not how user experience should work, but as long as the website converts well, you are doing the right thing. And that said there is no success formula for a hotel website.

However, there are some best practices you should consider.

FIrstly, the booking window should always be in a visible spot and be clear with less design and more usability.

Secondly, users need to be able to compare room types, rate types easily to make decisions quickly. We need to help them decide by clearly articulating rate differences and providing a good amount of visuals for room types.

2. Think Mobile First

There is no need to explain the importance of having a mobile ready website. But we should stress the benefits of thinking mobile first, which means designing for mobile screens first and then taking it all the way to the biggest screens possible.

This is especially important for travel industry where users make purchase/booking decisions on the go and there is a sense of urgency, which means you need to design for maximum usability rather than maximum functionality. Although it is best to provide the same functionality to mobile users as to the web users, but if you can’t, you might want to provide a link to view the full website.

3. Visual is Key

When it comes to hotel bookings, users crave high quality photos of every single corner of your hotel, including hotel grounds, indoor, exterior, all of the facilities and especially room photos. One of the reasons users check multiple websites before booking is to find the most accurate information about the hotel, better quality photos, videos to make a more informed decision.

As a part of flawless hotel user experience, it is important to create a visually compelling website. Keep in mind though that visually heavy website tend to load slowly which is a huge issue for mobile users.  According to Kissmetrics, “40% of people will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.”

So be sure to implement all of the techniques for faster loading.

These will make the user feel the difference when booking with a hotel directly.

4. Top It With Credibility and Social Proof

One of the most important factors affecting customer buying decisions is social proof, which comes in so many different forms: testimonials, reviews, video blogs, social following, etc. Hotel guests are no exception. In fact, according to Tripadvisor, “77% of travelers always reference reviews before booking travel accommodation”. But the tricky part here is the source of the reviews.

Design Tips for Responsive Websites

Most web designers know about mobile-first design and how it has dramatically affected responsive design. But there is another technique that may be less popular but can solve problems in a clearer fashion.

With a desktop-first approach you can build all the features you want and create them to the highest specs. Then as you test on smaller devices you’ll focus on keeping the interface light while supporting as many “high-end” features as possible.

This workflow is quite different but starting from the desktop can be better for web designers who create feature-rich designs.

Technically “desktop-first” was the traditional way that everyone made websites up until the responsive era.

Nowadays many people talk about mobile first but there are good reasons to stick with the desktop approach. I often prefer starting with the desktop design when I know my site will have tons of detailed features on larger screens.

Here are some benefits of the desktop-first ideologies.

  • You get to see all major features at once
  • It lets you imagine all the largest possibilities for your design first
  • It’s the best strategy if your audience mostly uses desktops/laptops

When you think of modern websites like Twitter you think mobile. But they do have lots of extra features that come along with the desktop experience. These desktop users clearly get a heightened UX which is just as important as any other device.

Granted there’s no denying that mobile is important. Just recently mobile use surpassed desktop so it’s definitely here to stay.

But feature-rich websites often depend on a strong desktop design.

This is perhaps the biggest benefit of a desktop-first layout. You get to see the site as it should look with all the bells & whistles. These extras can(and should) be removed for smaller screens as you test and find certain features just don’t carry over well.

Another way to look at this is through the simplicity of mobile-first design. When you create with mobile first you’re inherently starting with the simplest features, then adding extras for larger screens. But it’s real easy to forget features or just lack proper planning to decide where they should go or how they should function.

With a mobile-first approach it’s easy to consider dynamic features more like an afterthought. But with a desktop-first approach you’re treating these features as the primary display method, then choosing to remove them as needed.

There is no perfect choice so I recommend trying both to see what you prefer. If you’re like me and really adore the rich desktop experience then you’ll probably prefer starting there and working smaller.

Supporting All Browsers

The trickiest part of desktop-first design is handling browser support.

Just a decade or two ago the only market was desktops & laptops. The smartphone revolution changed all of that with tons of mobile browsers for iOS, Android, and other proprietary devices like Blackberry.

Most older browsers lacked support for modern desktop elements like canvas, audio/video, and dynamic inputs. But a lot has changed in recent years.

Nowadays it’s reasonable for all mobile browsers to basically support the same features as desktop browsers. Modern browsers also render most elements the same way so you won’t deal with rendering issues of the past.

The biggest differences are not in HTML/CSS support, but rather in touch-based support.

Mobile screens are much smaller and they also need to be tapped with a finger. Computer mice are more precise compared to a human finger, not to mention desktop screens are far more spacious and easier to look at.

When moving from desktop to mobile it’s crucial to consider how the different browsers work, what they support, and how to handle the user’s touch-based input.

A few good rules to consider while scaling down your desktop-first design:

  • Make tappable elements larger
  • Increase body text size so links are easier to tap
  • Add JavaScript libraries that support swipe motions

You can always check HTML5 specs for all browsers to see which elements are supported on which browsers. But for the most part touch inputs are a universal thing, so desktop-first is a great solution if you pay attention to the mobile experience too.

And you can find tons of free resources like TouchSwipe that add support for touch & swipe gestures to all websites.

You can use JavaScript to check the browser’s dimensions or the operating system like iOS or Win Mobile. With this info you can load extra stylesheets and create a totally different experience with touch/swipe events that only apply to mobile users.

Start with a list of features you know you’ll want on your website. Organize all the newer CSS3 properties, the newer HTML5 elements, and anything that might be iffy with browser support.

Then look up all the browsers you want to support to consider how you can handle fallbacks and polyfills. As time passes older browsers will phase out and browser support will get easier. This makes an even stronger case for desktop-first design because the rendering engines will be close to identical across the board.

To learn more and dig deeper into mobile interactions check out these related guides:

  • Multi-touch Web Development
  • Support Comparisons Between All Mobile Browsers
  • How to deal with :hover on touch screen device

Web designer or developer,

If you’re a web designer or developer, it’s always smart to keep up with the latest website building trends. That doesn’t mean that you have to be caught up in the “innovation” rat race.  Even though innovative work, ideas, and technologies are what many clients are asking for.

There’s no need to chase after the newest and shiniest innovative technics. They can be a never-ending waste of your time and money. A simpler solution is to take advantage of innovative concepts and designs offered by others. You will find 10 examples of that described below.

All the Innovation You’ll Need is But a Single Click Away

Be Theme is the largest WordPress theme ever, and a Top Five ThemeForest best seller. Be’s 260+ pre-built websites make it easy for you to do quality work, and do it fast.

So, where does the innovative part come in? It’s build right into each of these professionally-designed pre-built websites. They come with a 1-click installer, so these innovative designs are yours at a touch of a button. This cool 40 second video shows you how easy it all is.

It’s a win-win situation for every type of client you’re likely to encounter.

Here, For Example, are the Most Common Types of Clients You’ll Easily Win Over with Be

ThemeYour eLearning clients will be delighted with your ability to produce such an innovative and easy to work with website for their eLearning platform, in such a short period of time. It’s responsive as well, which should make your client’s students happy and always eager to come back for more.

For Clients in the Interior Design & Architecture Business

nterior design or architecture clients often have trouble finding website designers/developers who truly understand their businesses. That won’t be the case if you use this pre-built website to show them a prototype of what you can do for them

For Clients in the Travel and Lodging Industry

Be Hotel2 is designed to impress your clients in the travel and lodging industry. These are clients who expect a great deal, and this is THE pre-built website that allows you to make that happen. Perfectly structured, and with the focus on images, you can easily command a premium fee with this pre-built website.

Consistency in Web Design

There’s tremendous value in consistency of digital interfaces. People browsing the web encounter dozens of websites that all have different styles, yet most feature very similar page elements.

Most designers don’t even think about these features. Page headers, navigation menus, body copy, CTA buttons, the list seems endless.

By designing with consistency you’ll learn how to create interfaces that encourage typical user behaviors. Your layouts will build trust and teach users repeatable patterns that help them work through your site much quicker.

Design For User Expectations

Most users expect websites to work a certain way. It should scroll vertically, links should be clickable, and the navigation should be visible right from the first page load.

How you design these expectations is completely up to you. But when you’re designing for consistency you want to keep a clear uniform design across the entire layout.

This site has many portals linking to their forums, their eCommerce shop, and their online help guides. All of these pages have the same design and the same navigation to keep them consistent with the entire site.

Users don’t want to think. They just want to act and get results. Consistent design helps this happen.

Do the thinking for your user to understand what they need. How would you design a blog page to encourage reading? What about an ecommerce shop to encourage checkouts?

Think about these questions yourself and apply them to your web projects. Which elements should be consistent on every page? This line of thinking always leads to solutions.

The homepage of Sketch is very consistent with certain user behaviors and expectations. The page has two CTAs: one for downloading a demo and one for buying the program.

But not everyone who visits the site wants either of those options. The top nav becomes the obvious next step.

Someone new to the site might care about features or how Sketch works. But an existing user might want to look into extensions or get support.

Intuitive Navigation

Users should understand a lot about your site just from the header. This area should explain what the site does and what it’s about, not to mention the top navigation links.

A well-designed navigation isn’t enough. You’ll also want great copy to sell the pages and let visitors know exactly what’s on your site.

Nav text can be restyled in my ways including font size, writing style, and interface elements like hamburger menus for responsive navigations. The key is to stay consistent and keep these links easy to use

When you browse through any of the top categories you’ll get a sub-menu directly underneath. This can work like a breadcrumbs bar or sub-categories based on the primary link.

The consistent style and multi-link menus are great for big sites and blogs. As users get familiar with those links they’ll have an easier time browsing through content.

Repeat Layout Styles

This technique breeds consistency and it can work on multi-page sites or singular landing pages.

The goal is to re-use similar elements all throughout the page, but with different content & graphics.

By repeating certain styles you’re creating a theme on the site and building comfort with users. Consistency breeds familiarity and this is what you should be going for.

Notice the repeated patterns on the Webflow homepage that alternate between colors and different design styles.

Each section features a screenshot of the app listed alongside main site content. This style is beautiful and it’s one of the cleaner ways to craft a consistent design.

Note this style is predominantly found on the Webflow homepage but it could be repeated elsewhere. That’s why consistent elements are easier to use across the whole site.

But aside from page elements you can also repeat styles in your design. Take a look at Algolia for one example.

This site uses heavy diagonal lines between page sections along with darker background colors. Headers all have a small underline and the text all follows a similar size & thickness.

If you dig deeper into the site you’ll notice the box shadow effect is replicated throughout. This is a small touch but it’s one of the easiest ways to build visual consistency.

Try not to get too lost in repetitive page elements.

Instead think about how you can make the interface easier to use and what that might entail. Most of the time you clone what you’ve already done and keep using those patterns.

Keep Branding Consistent

You also need to consider page colors, textures, typefaces, padding, and icons/elements related to the brand. There are no right or wrong ways to brand, just some ways that work better for some websites.

MailChimp does this by repeating their branded monkey friend everywhere. The site has a fixed top navigation which includes this logo on every page.

But you’ll also notice similar typeface designs and colors with similar text styles. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but some designers underestimate how much this can impact branding.

 

Protect Design Work on the Internet

As a web/graphic designer, it can be disheartening and frustrating to see your work published without ever receiving the notoriety from it. Those images and designs are your babies and they deserve proper respect and attribution, not to mention stealing them is a direct violation of copyright law.

What do you do when you notice someone stealing your work?

Fighting copyright issues can turn into a huge mess. Thankfully, simple communication can thwart a potential battle, especially if the offender was unaware of copyright laws. However, in other more serious cases, designers will simply throw in the towel due to a lack of money and resources to fight.

Protect Your Work

Do you have a team of legal experts ready to prosecute people who steal your work?

Unless you have the budget of Amazon.com, this is not a likely scenario. Most freelance web designers do not have thousands of dollars to spend on legal assistance should anyone steal their content, so they must devise ways to protect their work and prevent it from misuse.

There are many actions you can take to protect your work online. While not all will be 100% successful, they will definitely tip the scales in your favor.

Consider posting a notice of copyright or “all rights reserved” on your website where visitors can see it along with a statement describing the illegal nature of stealing your work. It may not stop every perpetrator, but it will notify those who are unaware of copyright laws about stealing content and also scare others into submission. It’s similar to posting an alarm sign in front of your house to deter thieves from entering. Even if you don’t have an actual alarm system, the thought of possibly getting caught is enough to deter them.

 Watermarks are a good deterrent and can prevent people from stealing your images. Designers typically do not like changing the look of their designs with watermarks, but many feel they are the best deterrent to theft. Some resort to a small signature and website logo on the bottom of the design as well.

1. Do you want to allow people to use your work for commercial purposes?

The definitions for commercial vs. non-commercial are still somewhat confusing. The technical term for “commercial” involves using images for the purpose of selling or to gain profit. Non-commercial refers to using images for personal use and not to gain profit.

The definition becomes ambiguous when a publisher wants to use an image for his blog that includes advertisements. Is the image used to draw in revenue? Some would say “yes” since it is part of the blog and the blog contains advertisements, which relates to commercial usage. Others would argue that the image isn’t directly involved in any for-profit activity and is, therefore, noncommercial usage. The jury is still out on this one and Creative Commons is actively taking surveys on the subject to further define the terms.

If you do not want your images used by companies seeking to gain profit from them, stick to the non-commercial licenses.

2. Do you want to allow people to create derivative works?

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

The derivative work is a piece created from the original. If you want to maintain your original graphic and keep the image unchanged as it is copied, choose the NoDerivs licenses.

Creative Commons has this helpful License Chooser which will also supply you with code to put on your website. Here are some tips you should know before licensing your work.