Best Practices for Giving Attribution & Proper Credit

Best Practices for Giving Attribution & Proper Credit

As a creative and in general, a person who is extremely detail oriented, I noticed the smallest things all the time. This is especially true when it comes to design, especially web design. It’s really funny how some of the things I notice now, as a graphic and web designer, I never noticed as just someone who was browsing.

A while back, I wrote a post discussing authenticity and originality, because I kept seeing over and over many of my friends and counterparts dealing with people copying or stealing their material. I think its something that will continue to plague the creative community, unfortunately, because many people don’t even realize they’re doing it. The same goes for not giving proper attribution or credit when you have either used, modified, or customized someone’s idea or design.

Best Practices for Giving Attribution & Proper Credit |

All too often I see individual’s who will think they are giving the proper credit to the original creator of an idea, but they’re not.

Sometime’s, however, I see a blatant disregard or complete stealing of credit. For example, back in the day, I was browsing through my Bloglovin’, only to land on a site that was using a theme from a very well known blog theme builder and designer, and when I got to the footer of the site, I saw no credit given to the original theme builder.  Instead, the site footer actually said “Site Design by [Said Owner of Site]”.

It didn’t help that this individual does custom site design and that visitors of their site would assume that they did the actual design, development, and customization of the site themselves. This is extremely misleading and untruthful and violates the copyright of the original theme developer.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a premade theme and customizing it.

For instance, my site runs on the Genesis Framework and I use one of Studiopress’ premade child themes which I have customized to fit the needs of my site, branding, and style. In this sense, I have designed my site, yet I did not develop it which is why I did not include the word “develop” or the phrase “site design” in my site footer as you can see below.Best Practices for Giving Attribution & Proper Credit |

It may seem like semantics, but it really does matter, because when most people think of the term “site design” or “develop”, they have in mind the actual person who coded and developed the site, not the designer.

What exactly is a Developer?

A developer is someone who actually builds the theme, they code it from scratch or may even take a preexisting theme and build on to it (still doing extensive coding) and designs it.

The Solution

It’s something that can be so easily avoided, but I think that people want to make sure so bad that they’re included in the attribution for their site that they end up inadvertently (or purposely) comprising their integrity.

As with anything that you may modify or adapt from, whether it be a recipe or tutorial you should always give credit or note that it was adapted.  By not doing so, you risk copyright infringement and that’s not good at all.  This also goes for coding, for my fellow designers out there.  If you come across a code that someone is sharing, ensure you leave their attribution in the coding.  There’s absolutely no reason to remove it, even if you modified’ss still an adaptation and their code.

There is a major difference between a web developer and a web designer, and in giving the benefit of the doubt, a lot of people use them (incorrectly) interchangeably.

We’ve already covered what a developer does, so I’ll clarify what a designer does so that you’ll be one less person using the term incorrectly. First things first, a web designer can actually be the person that does the site design, in the sense that they may be the ones to create a mockup of it in Photoshop or Illustrator and then take it to a developer to code.

On the other hand, a web designer can be someone who customizes the website with your brand colors, icons, and sometimes content. They will work within the realm of code, but it’s usually in the capacity of making here and there changes, not overhauling the entire theme. This means that the individual made little to no changes to the coding, with the exception of the hex codes for colors. You haven’t added to or taken away from the theme, but have made it match your branding perfectly, i.e. customized.  – Catch my drift here?

A web designer may be the one that has the creative aesthetic, while a web developer is less concerned with aesthetics and more with UX (user experience).

Alright now that we cleared that up, let’s get back on subject. As I digress…

If you’ve purchased a premade theme and customized it yourself or had someone to do it, you don’t necessarily have to keep a backlink to their site in your footer. Although, some designers and developers do have it as a part of their terms of use that you do. If they don’t, great, but if you’re going to take away their attribution, don’t add your own to make it appear as if you designed the site. If having a backlink doesn’t bother you, you can customize the footer to say whatever you want it to say, but still, include a link to the original designer.

How to Give Proper Attribution & Credit

Here’s an example of good ways to do both of the aforementioned:

Without attribution:

“Copyright © 2015 Your Site Name

With attribution:

“Copyright © 2015 Your Site Name” “Site Design by Original Theme Developer” “Customized by You (or Whoever Did The Customization)

It’s as easy and simple as that. With the examples above, there’s no misleading as to who designed the site and both ways still protect your content on the site. I honestly don’t understand why someone would take credit for something that they didn’t create. Customizing is one thing, but development is another.

As a previous theme developer (don’t develop anymore, but I do still design), I can tell you that to build a theme from scratch or even do heavy customization of a premade theme takes a lot of work.

For instance, with the Genesis Framework, the themes that Studiopress builds and sells are meant to be heavily customized and built upon. This is one reason why their themes have such awesome clean coding and aren’t bloated with unnecessary code. The themes being coded that way also protect the security of them, so sites that run

The themes being coded that way also protect the security of them, so sites that run Genesis themes have a little extra security than sites built by other developers. Additionally, Studiopress themes come with a license to develop, so this means that once you do purchase a theme from them directly (not a third party one, whether sold through them or not), you can make it your own and claim attribution. This is perfectly okay in most circumstances.

However, what is not okay is to purchase a theme from a third party developer of Genesis Framework themes, customize it, meaning change some colors and add your header (to be surface level about it) and claim that you designed that theme. Unless you’ve purchased a developer license from that third party developer, it is wrong to add your name to the attribution using the term “site design”, because you did not design the site.

So whether you’ve done this or not, or didn’t realize it was wrong, it is definitely something that must be kept in mind.  It’s especially important if you’re a fellow designer and happen to do custom site design for others.  Even more so, it’s important for them to know whether you are a developer/designer/builder,  or just someone that does theme customization.  There is a huge difference, and I think a lot of people don’t realize it.

I hope this gives you a bit more insight on the topic of attribution and how to properly give it.  It’s one of those things that’s so simple to mess up, but so simple to do or fix.  Think of it like when you didn’t cite your sources properly or at all in school, and your teacher took off for it.  People deserve to know the true source of where you got something and it’s also giving respect to the individual that created it.

Designers, developers, and those alike work hard, and to have someone claim my work as their own is not only hurtful but disrespectful.  Make sure you’re never in this position by crossing your “T’s” and dotting your “I‘s” when it comes to attribution.

Also, if you don’t know whether a designer requires attribution, ask!  Better safe than sorry and they will appreciate you for it.  Many won’t care if you don’t attribute as long as you don’t claim their work as your own, but of course, it’s always nice to attribute and link back as a courtesy.

<span class=Finding Your Own Style Avoiding the Copycat Effect" />

Finding Your Own Style Avoiding the Copycat Effect

Copying and unoriginality have been two topics that have honestly been addressed so much lately, that you can’t turn your head without hearing someone talk about their frustration with it. I’ve addressed it here on the blog several times, with writing helpful posts about community, competition, inspiration, and authenticity, but I strayed from calling it was it is:  The Copycat Effect (which I affectionately call it). One reason is because its one of those things that has an automatic negative connotation to it, no matter how to try to spin it. Whether intention or not, people simply don’t take very kind to being imitated.

Finding Your Own Style • Avoiding the CopyCat Effect

When you call someone a copycat straight up or let off just a little that you’re classifying them as such, its a pretty strong statement to make. Even more so, it can be seen as hypocritical, because nothing in the world is original and everyone is has been inspired by someone at some point. For example, when you think about celebrities, we constantly see them and can’t help to be influenced and inspired by their style, demeanor, and talent. Are we wrong for this? No, not necessarily, but our time could be better spent coming up with our own style and refining our own talent.

Superfan Syndrome

Is someone who’s a super fan of Beyonce or Taylor Swift, and love their style a copycat, because they go out an find the exact same (or similar) dress, shirt, or jewelry that they were in a video or at an appearance? No one says anything when it comes to those types of things, because I take it people are more comfortable with celebrities being copied than “regular people”. I take it that it’s because it feels less personal, since we don’t know these celebrities, in addition to there being unspoken rules about how the sole purpose of a celebrity; someone who promote things and influences people to buy them.

Many creatives feel as if its a personal attack whenever they see someone imitating them or doing something similar. I honestly don’t think that many of these “imitators” have any real malice in their heart, but are simply trying to learn and find their way. I take it more as they just don’t know where to start, because I’ve been in that position before.

Its like when we learn something in school, in that we are taught it the same in class, and reproduce it the same until we perfect it and add our own flavor to it. If anyone has every looked at a bunch of five year-old’s handwriting, they all pretty much look the same. However, by the time someone is about 7 or 8, they defined their own style of penmanship, that for the most part will get better over the years and be unique to them. Similar to fingerprints, no two people have the same handwriting. You can try as hard as you can to duplicate someone’s handwriting and it will never happen. Its the same thing with anything that is unique to us, including our creative skillset. No matter how much you try to copy someone, your results and theirs will always be completely different…even if they appear to be similar. Unless you’re literally sitting beside the person tracing their every move, their is no way you can duplicate their style exactly. Even if you were to do this, the odds are still extremely slim that the two pieces of work would be identical.

Not Wasting Time & Addressing Your WHY

There is really no purpose in spending so much time trying to be like someone, because they appear to be popular or successful. What worked for them probably won’t work for you, because we all have different faits and paths that our lives are supposed to go on. A lot of people’s success comes from being in the right place at the right and luck. Its just how it is! It may not be in the cards for you to do what they’re doing, because you have another path to travel. If you’re having to copy someone to do something you want to do, you should probably ask yourself if you really should be doing it. When we’re meant to do things, they come naturally without us needing to constantly look to the outside for lots of guidance or inspiration. This is the time when you really have to address your WHY.  

Are you doing things because:

1. You see others doing it? – If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?

2. Your only motive is to make money? – you have to have more of reason than this

3. You’re jealous or envious? – never gets anyone anywhere

If you answered yes to any of the above, you most likely need to rethink whatever you’re doing or trying to do.  

Do things because:

1. You’re passionate about them. – your main driving force

2. You truly believe in them – this is a good space to start

3. You want to share. – an even better place to start

4. It makes you feel good and have a since of accomplishment. – can be viewed as a good or bad thing, mostly good though

5. You can do them without a lot of push and pull. – there should be little resistance at hand

If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, the best place to find help is from a coach or mentor. The time you spend copying someone could be better spent consulting with an authority on what you’re trying to do. In addition, as perfect and successful as people make themselves look these days, most of the time they really aren’t. Making yourself look better than what you are is just another tool people use to attract, so as a business owner many are just faking the funk. Its nothing wrong with this, but unless you see someone’s financial statements, you really don’t know how successful (financially that is) that they are.


No smart business owner, especially a freelancer is going to put themselves out there are as a complete failure, even if they’re failing. While it may look like they have all the clients in the world and a huge following, you don’t know what is really going on behind the scenes. They could be an emotional wreck, have a disorganized business, or have connections to resources that you would never have access to. So all that time you’re spending copying them, you don’t know what it is that has really made them so “successful”. You have to understand that many are using the content marketing tactic of storytelling and its nothing new, or anything wrong with it. The disclosing of their failures, showing your their process, and giving you insight into their business is being done for a specific reason, to connect and build trust, but in a limited capacity. There is always a legitimate reason behind people do things; nothing is done by mistake or happenstance in the world of business.

You will never have the same story, process, or insight as someone else. All you can do is learn from them and apply the principles of what they share to your business if they are actually applicable to it. The thing is, if you don’t know where to start, how will you know how to apply said principles? Catch my drift here?

When you start from a place of authenticity, you have a clear idea in mind of your goals and mission. You also know if a particular practice or principle will be applicable to your business or not. The last thing you will need to do is look to others for inspiration, therefore positioning yourself as original and focused. Your confidence will show through when you’re being original and focused which further results in you producing your best work.

Listen to more about this topic on the
 Branded Bliss Podcast!

Have you ever fallen victim to the copycat effect? – What are some of the ways you foster originality and authenticity in your brand?

Need help finding a place to start, addressing your why, or creating an authentic brand? I’d love to help!  Reach out to me today to see how. 🙂

Should You Offer Revisions of Your Design Work?

Should You Offer Revisions of Your Design Work?

If you do any type of creative work, you may run into an issue of being asked to do a revisions, or even multiple ones. There are many schools of thought on whether you should offer revisions of your design work or not. Some creatives feel as if their work should be appreciated as is, while others don’t mind doing as many revisions as it takes to fully to satisfy the client.

We live in a customer service based world, where much of our reputations are based on what people say about us. With social media and the efficiency of communication these days, unhappy clients can easily say things about us that can negativity effect our brand. How do we insure that the integrity of our work is maintained and appreciated, all while keeping clients happy? Its a thin balance to strike, but something that must be considered and a part of your contract prior agreeing to client work.


Define & State Your Terms Via Contract

The safest way to approach revisions is to have your terms for them clearly defined and stated in your contract. As a business owner, you have to protect yourself and the integrity of your work, and having a contract is a surefire way. Additionally, when clients know that they’ve agreed to a certain amount of revisions in signing the contract, they are more likely to think long and hard about the details of the creative work you are doing for them. I’ve made the mistake in the past of trusting clients too much, not even thinking I needed a contract, and being caught up on doing multiple (and when I say multiple I mean MULTIPLE!) revisions. Revisions can be a huge time suck, and if clients think they have unlimited revisions, they can definitely take advantage of you.

This is one reason why I feel its essential that your contract contain a few keys things in regards to revisions to protect you from this happening as well:

1. Whether you offer revisions and under what circumstances that you do.

2. The number of revisions you will do for the project.

3. The amount of money you will charge for revisions.

4. The scope of what is included in the revisions you provide.

5. The timeframe for which you will accept revision requests.

You want to know prior to beginning a project that the client understands that this is not an opportunity for them to request multiple changes throughout the course of the project.  When you receive a project, the client needs to state to the best of their abilities their visions for it, expected results, and any other pertinent information that will allow you bring their idea to life.  Some people think that they can hire someone to create something that they don’t even have a clear vision for.  Its your job to work through this with them early on, so that both of you  can come to common ground on the project before you even start work.  You should be able to tell the client exactly what you will be doing and how you will approach the project.

Timeframes, Tweaks, & the Truth

At times, clients may not recognize that they are asking for multiple revisions, because they may feel that many of their requests are small things that just take a second to complete.  Truth be told, things rarely take a “second” to revise.  It never fails that on our end something will come up and will take us twice as long to get that revision done that we anticipated.  All the more reason that you should be properly and fairly compensated for your time to make those changes.  As a web designer and developer, I ran into this issue all too often and it was extremely frustrating.  Sometimes it really did take a “sec” to tweak something and other times it took much longer than expected, and doing that one change resulted in me getting behind on other projects.  Staying on track and using our time wisely is so important as creatives, and can make the difference between us running an efficient business or not.

So do I believe you should offer revisions?  Absolutely, but I feel you should definitely charge for them and lay out specific terms about them in all of your contracts for projects.  Even if you’re doing free work or work for a friend, you need to communicate the difference between a revision and a complete overhaul.  Many times, people get really confused thinking they are asking you for something small or a simple revision, when what in actuality they are asking you is for a completely new design.  I encourage you to not make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past, not protecting yourself, because clients will continue to take advantage of you.  The word gets out, and next thing you know potential clients are expecting the same treatment as previous clients, because its what they heard from them.  Its a hard and vicious cycle to break, so taking the time to include your terms on revisions can save you the headache.  Personally, I go ahead and include my revision terms on the information page for the services.  This way, potential clients can already know what they are before they even inquire about my services.

Here are some of the ways you can encourage clients to fully think about a project once you have agreed to take them on:

1. Provide them with a questionnaire or homework about the project.

2. Meet with them in person or via online conference to discuss the details of the project.

3. Ask them to provide you with what they are/have been inspired by for the project.

4. Keep the lines of communication open as you work on the project, so that they feel comfortable telling you about new ideas that may come up as you work on the project.

5. Show your clients progress on the project or provide proofs as you work on the project, so they can give you feedback on throughout the process.

By taking these steps you can mitigate having to make numerous changes upon or near completion of a project.  For one, you will have a clear idea of what the clients expects and they will be able to see or hear about things with the project as they are occurring.  You want to keep  your clients as updated as you can, in as much of real-time as possible.

There is nothing wrong with providing revisions for your work, but your time and skill level need to be respected.  The integrity of your work should be respected as well, and never comprised.  Throughout the course of the project, both the client and you should be able to get a vibe for how things are going and if they are going in a direction that is going to result in a successful product.  The client shouldn’t feel like they’ve have had to comprise heavily, nor should you.  The feelings about the overall project should be mutual and good.  As the person being hired to execute the project you should feel like you have a good grasp on it, and so should the client.  Having a clear picture makes the client and you more comfortable about taking it on, and that level of confidence is key in deterring the need to excessive revisions.

Doing Your Due Diligence

We should always strive to make our clients happy, but we have to do our due diligence ahead of time to insure our happiness.  When we can work without feeling that some doesn’t like or appreciate our work, we work at our best.  Your best is what you should always be striving to give your clients.  Its when we don’t have or haven’t been provided with a clear vision of the idea for project that we can not supply our clients with our best work.  Revisions should be few and far between, and its essential that you be able to decipher when its time for an overhaul if the project has gone in a direction in which the client isn’t happy with.

If you have done everything they have asked, and satisfaction still hasn’t been accomplished you need to be able to decide if the project should continue with you or end.  Unfortunately, there may be times when no matter how much we want a happy client (and the money), at the end of the day its just not going to happen.  The best you can do is be honest, offer a new course of action, or if need be a referral out to someone else.  Clients appreciate openness, honesty, and professionalism, so you should strive to have the relationship with them remain cordial, despite the project not going the direction you both thought it would.

How do you deal with design work revisions? – Do you have a set policy in place that you relay to your clients?