Creating a website is one of those tasks that is often approached with great enthusiasm.. until it’s time to actually start.
For a web designer, staring at a blank screen can be just as daunting as any writer staring at a blank page.
Seeking inspiration, you’ll often fire up your browser and start surfing the web, scrolling down page after page, waiting for inspiration to strike.
Once it does, what do you do? When you finally stumble upon a site you love, how do you create a comparable masterpiece, without stepping on anyone’s toes?
There are a couple of ways to pay homage to your “muse”, without getting stuck in a sticky copyright spot.
Copying the files
While it may seem simple to just copy the HTML and CSS that your browser downloaded and modify it to suit your needs, it may end up being more trouble than it's worth. Capturing all of the files could involve hours of tracing through the header of the page, or trying to save every call on the network tab of your developer tools.
There are, of course, tools you can use to simplify this process.
Applications like HTTrack give users the ability to download entire websites, mirroring the directory structure, files, and images that would be present on the server. You can then view the code and update your own as desired. This allows you to view the actual HTML and CSS used by the site you wish to copy, before testing locally and offline. This is the closest way to actually “copy” a website.
However, there are a couple of downsides to this method.
When copying the actual code in this manner, you also have to be more careful to avoid making a direct copy, which could put you in violation of copyright. Typically, as long as the content is unique and some changes were made to fit your needs, you’ll be safe. However, this small risk is something to be aware of, if you use this method.
Copying the design
Another means by which you can draw inspiration from the work of another designer is using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website creator.
Designers see the finished product of other designers and then let that work inspire, as they create their own. If you’re not an expert web developer who is able to see the website and understand how it came to be, these applications give you the tools to do it yourself.
Website builders like PageCloud give their users the ability to create sites with a drag and drop interfaces. In this way, you can mirror the page you like, while the generated code underneath is unique. Working with your page editor on one side of your screen, with the page you’re trying to emulate on the other, you can design your page, based on any page you like.
The best part about site builders is that they allow inexperienced users to really stretch, creatively speaking.
When starting out, many people don’t understand the importance of web design and its impact on SEO. Once they do, they realize it can be very difficult work.
Using an existing website as a template is not only a tried-and-true method that is used quite often, but it’s also a good way to start when creating your own. After all, how you create your design isn’t as important as the design itself, as that’s what ultimately reaches (and hopefully converts) your potential customers.