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I thought this was probably already posted, but didn't know how to phrase it in order to search it. I was hoping the automatic duplicate search would turn up something, but nothing came up on the topic. So here goes:

Some freelance web designers often "sign" a design or otherwise indicate authorship on them (I'll use the term "to sign" for that action, so we are clear). Not only does it entice future business, but it serves the main purpose of providing a simple way for a viewer to identify the designer should they wish to do so.

A popular form of identification is probably adding a note to the footer, such as "Made by Jon Allard" or "A design by Foobar Productions" with a link. I have also thought of including an HTML comment in the source code.

Now those means are sure useful for the designer and the soon-to-be new client, but the impact of those means on the brand being represented on the website is real. There might be some perceived lack of professionalism in those notices, both on the part of the client/website and the freelancer/designers.

Is there an commonly accepted practice on that regard, and if not, what is a viable way of indicating authorship of a web design without significantly hurting the client or freelancer's brands?

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Closers are asked to motivate their action. This question is complete, practical and answerable, and relates to "websites under [my] control". –  jonallard Aug 23 '12 at 6:28
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closed as off topic by Su', John Conde Aug 22 '12 at 11:27

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My personal opinion is that it's OK, assuming:

  1. You explicitly get the client's permission beforehand. I think it's presumptuous and unprofessional to just put your name on a design that has been commissioned by a paying client. That design and website is their property. You may have a clause in the contract that allows you to put the design in your portfolio or own marketing materials without needing their permission, but you shouldn't just inject your own marketing into the design itself.
  2. If you make the "signature" a backlink, it should be a nofollow link, as it's not a genuinely organic backlink that represents an endorsement of your page by the site owner.
  3. If you do insert a signature, it should be the last thing to draw a visitor's attention. If your signature is really loud and grabs attention away from the main content, then you're negatively impacting the UX of the site.
  4. Treat this as what it is—advertising for your business / a paid link. So perhaps offer the client a discount for allowing you to slap your logo on the footer of every page on their site, and maybe offer them a referral commission for any business they send your way via those links.

Other ways to subtly claim authorship:

  • a humans.txt
  • including credit in a header comment
  • including your name in the header comment of CSS or JS files
  • putting your name in an appropriately named meta tag (I would use something like designer or developer rather than dc.creator or dc.contributor or author)
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I personally don't add them on client websites. In web design contracts you should outline this and let the client know that it's optional and you'll only do it with their connect. You could also add it into meta information see this question

Standard way to mention website's developer

One way isn't any better than another, though a text link can pass a little link juice but a web designer link on a roofers website in the footer doesn't hold much value to Google since they recognize it as not relevant, below the fold and way out of place.

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