What If All Web Sites Displayed Their Makers?

Here’s a little thought experiment for you. What if, in the early days of the Web, it became a uniform, standard practice for websites to include metadata about their designers? Here’s one way it might have looked:


The designer’s name wouldn’t be visible on the site, but would be accessible to anybody who knew how to click ‘View Source’ in their browser. The most natural analogy that I can think of is tags on clothing. You can always ‘view source’ by flipping up someone’s tag to see if their shirt came from Mexx or Tommy Hilfiger.

I still occasionally see a design credit in the footer of a site, or in the CSS file, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

How would the world of web design be different? Here are my initial thoughts:

  • It would be incredibly useful for web designers for word of mouth promotion. If I see a site I like, I can find out who built it, and contact them to build my site.
  • There would be a greater general awareness of boutique designers, much the way there are boutique ad agencies today. There would be a certain cache for a company to be able to publicly advertise that their site was by, I don’t know, Jeffrey Zeldman. In short, more people might know who Jeffrey Zeldman is.
  • It might change the business of web design a little. Companies might hire more designers in-house, because they’re reluctant to admit that they outsourced the work. Or it might have made outsourcing the work all the more common.
  • The average web design would be a little better, and less cookie-cutter. If a designer puts their name on every site, they might be reluctant to use the same wire frames over and over again.
  • People could build cool tools and browser plug-ins to, for example, generate an ad hoc portfolio of all the sites by a particular designer.

I’m a mere hack of a web designer, and I only built my first site back in 1999. I wonder if this practice was more common in the early days of the web, and went the way of all time?

How do you think designer labels would impact the world of web design?


  1. Until my May 2007 redesign, I had this on all my pages:

    So a standard for that sort of thing existed, and I started using it back in 1997, but it never, as far as I know, became at all widespread.

  2. Sorry, I should have escaped the code, which would appear in the header section of each HTML page:

    <meta name=”generator” content=”BBEdit” />
    <meta name=”formatter” content=”Derek’s ten fingers: very old-school” />

  3. Not sure it was that common but was done, I think it vanished when the move to dynamic websites happened.

    The CMS platforms didn’t really allow for the customization of those meta fields (or any at the beginning), and that information was lost.

    Some of the reasons you mentioned above have kept that data out.

    Also, nowadays there are often a lot more people involved in putting websites together, even from just the design standpoint point, so maybe people are leaving it out so as not be incomplete.

  4. We always put our company name and website as comment in he beginning of the body. Not as fancy as a meta tag, but at least it’s there.

  5. I don’t allow my contractors to put their info in the website. I mean, the person writing the web copy doesn’t get there name in there. The person designing a brochure doesn’t get to put their name in.

  6. I wonder if something like a microformat would work as well – this would allow for sort of a trail of designing. In this world of many themes, I often see one theme that is modified significantly – it’d be nice to see a trail of that. It could then be styled to be invisible or show only the most recent, etc..

  7. I’d be happy to do it. But I can see Oracle saying screw it, if you want the advertising do the site for free (of course Oracle would never outsource their website design,which is why its so shite).

  8. It’s interesting that you’re pointing this out after you’ve moved to Malta, Darren.

    It’s quite common here for the major web design companies to include the credits in the site’s footer.

    I mean, just look at the government’s site

    It was a common practice in the early days to include the credits. The Maltese web scene hasn’t much evolved from those early days (no, no, I will refrain from giving you the link to the Public Broadcasting Services website, maybe)…

    Heck, the major web companies here still have no idea whatsoever on web standards, XHTML and table-less layout, for goodness’ sake!

  9. Ack. Some of those early sites I did I’d be rather embarrassed to admit to now. All tables, all the time.

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