Browser plugins for developers were originally designed to aid designers and developers with runtime design debugging functionality, even helping iron our creases in varying browser standards. However, they also serve as a means for any tea leaf designer to inspect the minutiae of your design.
Fasthosts, a leading UK hosting provider noticed it has become embroiled in an ever increasing amount of battles over the origin of site designs.
While an old adage calls imitation the sincerest form of flattery, the notion doesn’t quite translate to the web. Because lifting a design and passing it off as one’s own qualifies as copyright infringement, more amoral designers will tend to tweak small elements of the original design to make it look new and different. Copyright holders who stumble across mutilated versions of their designs are likely to immediately look for a copyright notice, and they usually find what look like genuine claims to full copyright ownership.
On the flipside, trying to prove a design originated on your desktop can be incredibly difficult. Freelance design is abundant and the sheer volume of output makes it highly likely that independently designed sites will appear to be similar.
Many legitimate designers view the source code of well-designed websites, using plug-ins such as Firebug, but they will only take inspiration from these sites – not actual code. But remember: originality is a valued commodity on the internet, and it’s always better to build from the ground up to get the site perfect for your readership.