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I have issues with my website layout and I am thinking, I should clone one and modify it according to my needs? Is it a good idea? Is it something common in designing new websites?

Note that I am willing to pay to redign it but it is hard to find the right person.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

As with Bruno's answer, copying exact templates is related to copyright laws.

However, looking at a site that you like and reverse-engineering certain elements of it is perfectly legal. If a customer doesn't know exactly what they want their site to look at, I have them go out and look for sites with designs they like and send me the link. After that I use techniques from their site on the one I'm building.

It's not stealing if you don't make an exact replica. Using concepts (Such as this banner here, navigation looks like this, side bar with these elements there, etc.) from another site is common in the web design world.

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Well, as far the issue of opyrights is concerned. If you clone a site and leave it as clone, that definitely is illegal and a clone. But I think for the most part, ppl do clone site and then modify them, change layout, add a few things, remove certain. I am not sure if that would still be called cloning (in my book it does, because you just copied everything) but I think it is common in industry. Most designer ask, send me a link to site that you like and I think they do practice cloning techniques. But I am not sure. Someone else is welcome to comment on this too. – slow diver Mar 23 '12 at 20:50

If it's about cloning someone else's site, it's probably not a good idea. A lot of templates out there have specific licenses (e.g. Creative Commons). Some of them may allow you to produce derivative work, although there may be conditions attached (e.g. commercial or not). The absence of an explicit license doesn't imply it's in the public domain.

(I had initially misunderstood the question and though it was about cloning your website.)

It's quite common in the development process of any software product (not just web-sites) to have a development environment, a test environment and a production environment.

To a degree, these could be considered as clones of one another at various points in time in your development life-cycle.

Taking a clone of your current production web-site to modify locally, and perhaps deploy it on a test environment sounds would be in line with such (good) development practices.

Using a revision control system to track you changes would of course be beneficial, as it would allow you to track which changes you've made between the various versions of your "clones". Depending on your familiarity with such tools, you might want to look into Git or Mercurial, for example.

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Thanks but I really mean clone as in piracy. You clone site ABC (not yours) and make it site XYZ (yours) and change it to your needs. – slow diver Mar 22 '12 at 21:09

Create a "compare" tool to display differences between files. When I did this I had a table that showed which file is newer, both file sizes and if available who was the last person to modify it.

After cloning the site some changes will still happen on the original site -- they need to be ported onto your dev site.

Releasing changes from dev onto live can be annoying. If multiple files are affected for a certain release then make sure you port all of those files.

When you have multiple files per change and you have multiple changes -- then you may end up having overlapping modifications. Example:

  1. Change A involves files f1 and f2
  2. Change B involves files f2 and f3

To port either one of those changes you have to either split file f2 of release both changes at the same time.

If you project is small enough you could utilize a version control system. I tried but failed at this.

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I'd say a DVCS like Git or Mercurial addresses exactly the deployment problems you mention. They can work for both small and large projects. Just wondering what made you move away from version control, any specific problem w.r.t. to web development or perhaps lack of experience with such tools in general (the learning curve can be quite difficult)? – Bruno Mar 22 '12 at 20:34
I was only familiar with SVN, and my project is very big. I probably could have succeeded but I decided it wasn't worth it. I'm not familiar with Mercurial, but if all DVCS' are alike, then you're absolutely right. – Mikhail Mar 22 '12 at 20:51
Ah, I can imagine SVN isn't ideal for this. I've been using Git for a few years so, once you've gone beyond the learning curve, it's hard to go back to the likes of SVN/CVS. Git and Mercurial can handle large projects of course (e.g. Linux kernel or OpenJDK), website code (HTML, PHP, ...) are no different as far as these tools are concerned. For small sites, GitHub Pages is a fairly good application of Git for this (mainly used for GitHub projects documentation). – Bruno Mar 22 '12 at 21:12

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