They say imitation…

is flattery. But I’m not sure what I think about this recently discovered copy. It’s obviously a work-in-progress. Remnants of my content still poke through in places. I don’t know how long it will stay up, but I’ve taken a screenshot [.gif, 43 KB] or two [.gif, 27 KB] to save for my own entertainment, if nothing else. I’m completely in support of tearing apart a site to see how it’s put together. But I’m a little surprised at the level of detail to which this aspiring Dane has copied and reproduced every single convention, workaround, color, image, and CSS file.

[thumbnail screenshot of a familiar design, .gif, 43 KB] I know this happens all the time. During my time at Wired, we were sent several links each year representing commercial businesses that had copied one of our designs almost to the pixel. True flattery that they thought our design was appealing enough to make their own. HTML comment tags and JavaScript function names hadn’t even been changed or removed to protect the innocent.

If were nothing more than a personal blog or a side hobby, I wouldn’t consider paying much attention to this new discovery. I would probably just shrug it off as I emailed around the IP address to a few close friends for our own amusement. But this is my baby. My business. My profession. A site I designed and built by hand from scratch. Earned knowledge gained through experience and lots of trial and error. So the issue merits a little more exploration and even publicity.

What does he intend to do with this version of his site? Who knows? If it’s merely reverse engineering for the sake of learning, more power to him. But why go through the trouble of changing so much of the content, including every <meta> tag in the source code? I didn’t realize the uniqueness of my collective design decisions until I saw them replicated verbatim in another setting.

As designers and creatives, we constantly draw on inspiration from the work of others. I recently praised Hillman Curtis for a talk he gave at the I/O Conference in Miami on the same subject of finding inspiration from peers, competitors, or designers who did it before we knew how. But overt plagiarism without adding further value or creativity? C’mon… don’t take the easy way out. Trump me. Do something better to show where I fell short.


2:30 pm | After exchanging several emails with the very friendly lad, I’ve voluntarily removed traces of his current domain and real name from the screenshots below. Earlier this morning, I removed a link which pointed to his personal (non-public) web server where the work-in-progress was hosted. He has assured me he was in the middle of making changes, and hadn’t quite figured out all the CSS yet, so content was the first and easiest thing he could change.

The point of this post was not to draw too much attention to the lad responsible for the “reproduction”, and certainly not to encourage anyone to flame/shame the guy. He was merely seeking physical inspiration and using it as a starting point for his own work. I just happened to catch his work at an unfortunate time. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with it in the future — maybe I can learn something from him. After all, I can’t criticize his taste in the site design he started from…

About the author

Designer, advisor, father. Previously led design teams at Twitter, Google, and Wired. Giants fan. Deutsche lernen. Wanna-be runner.

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