I wonder which startup got rejected in their place.
This is something that's always perplexed me. Companies copy other companies' business models and compete for the same customers all the time, but that's considered fair game. But if a design is copied, shit hits the fan.
Frankly, I'd rather someone copy my design and go after a diff niche of customers than copy my product and come after my customers.
To the guys at Curebit - ignore this noise. The focus should be on creating an awesome product, getting paying customers and generating profits. You guys have an awesome product and deserve the funding. Congrats :)
P.S. You should remove the hotlinks tho. No need to use their bandwidth.
Second: if curebit used Highrise code verbatim in their product, I bet hell yes there would be tantrum about it.
Or are you saying that it should be ok to rip off someone's design and hotlink to their assets?
The concept of a CRM is not something you can "copy" because it simply exists. And most web-based software works in roughly the same way. So far, most 37signals products have very few truly unique features, because their focus is on simplicity and less software.
Accordingly, 37signals doesn't care if somebody launches a new CRM.
They also don't seem to care when live chat apps like Hipchat have one or two features that 37signals pioneered.
Stealing a design outright, on the other hand, is not growing or improving or adopting a concept (e.g. "contact management that tracks deals", "it should x when you y") but their actual IP.
Can you cite legislation within the US, or a successful civil suit?
We had a different homepage, were a/b testing different pages, came across the 37signals post and were like 'wow we should see how that converts!' We are big fans of rails and what 37signals is doing and did not really think through the implications of what we were doing. We just kind of thought about it as a fun test to run.
Clearly it was stupid. It was not meant to offend anyone and we are adding credit where due. (We'll take it down if DHH insists!)
Our new designer will take a crack at more than our homepage... we need all our UI "designed".. not redesigned, but designed - because we're primarily backend guys. Yes, this landing page variation was heavily inspired (read: blatantly ripped off) from Highrise -- because these are the peeps we aspire to, and they've done a lot of testing to figure out what works: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2991-behind-the-scenes-ab-tes...
We're running a "ghetto test" - this homepage variant does not even share a common CSS file with the rest of the code base. It's been live less than a week.
The idea was to just see how the conversion characteristics were before investing a lot of time into making a "real design" out of the lessons (prominent testimonial, light copy focused on value props). Hence the hot linking, inline styles, etc. It is personally my fault for not including a credit to Highrise for the design.. that credit is well deserved and will be added shortly - a big oversight on my part.. we launch some stuff fast (other things deliberately), and this was one of those fast things.
Lesson to us: add credits, and be more explicit what we're testing... ask permission instead of asking for forgiveness. In the meantime, please forgive us? :)
It is personally my fault for not including a credit to Highrise for the design
Lesson to us: add credits
Crediting someone for their property doesn't make stealing it ok. By default, stealing is wrong. Waiting for an objection and/or linking to the owner doesn't change that. This seems like a problematic worldview for a young company.
Also, please don't ask for upvotes or assume that others agree with you.
And, since you've admitted to stealing their site straight up - it might be "willful and deliberate", it could be considered a criminal act.
I'm no lawyer - but one probably wrote this: http://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/CopyrightBasics/penalties.html
You are still not planning on taking it down, just adding a credit to their site?
I personally would never use a service that has this level of integrity, I wouldn't trust any of my information with it.
You going to take that down also?
I had to really concentrate to see the difference.
The proper course is to apologize, take it down, and move on. Not make lame, half-assed excuses which just perpetuate the situation.
"Please note: What works for us may not work for you. Please do your own testing. Your conversion rates may suffer if you copy us."
As for duplicating the layout and taking the concepts, that's fair game in my opinion. The actual graphics should not be stolen and re-used.
However, I think something that is missing is a little more guidance. Other than the issues others have communicated, the web page showed that your company hasn't established, even in very raw form, it's own style that is best for its users. It's normal to reflect and be inspired by others designs. I would even recommend that you take screenshots of the design styles that speak to you. From that point though, the screen shots should be used as "internal" discussion materials that help your company find the essence of its own style. That style should always be taking what's best for your product/service and user base, into the style characteristics.
Once you've found your core style, express it and iterate over it using each iteration as a piece of more relavent inspiration to your style (37Signals recently released a cool video on their blog that demonstrates this process through their eyes). The results should make you proud enough to express and share it with your customers. Only at that point do you finally make it public. After that keep iterating over it. If you utilize external inspiration, make sure that you've iterated over it enough that your style doesn't feel like a knockoff. You should be able to identify this easily and odds are, if you've been going through all this it won't be. However, if you have concerns just take screen shots of your style and the screen shots of what externally inspired you,...show them to some people who don't work for your company and weren't involved with the design process. They should be able to 1) pick up on your style and 2) agree that it isn't a knockoff. Given the situation you are in, I would recommend this heavily to help give piece of mind.
I realize that you wanted to gain from the lessons learned from 37Signals internal design iteration process as well as other companies. However, if you note what I said above, it means they were focusing "also" on their product and their customers. Which means if you directly reflect your design from theirs, you weren't focusing enough on your customers. You might have intended to give your customers a great design experience, but without going through the process above, your website is considered not authentic...and as a result people focus on the their feeling of "this looks oddly familiar" instead of focusing on what your product can do for them.
Many, if not all of the people who have commented have gone through their own artistic design process to build one or more designs. And at times it can be "hell" (fun, but still) to create something that the designer feels is good enough to share/use. It is a compliment that someone is inspired by your design. But when it's closer to a knockoff it can make the designer feel like they sacrificed him/her-self for your free ride. If they intended for it to be given away, then the benefit you receive gives them whatever good feeling they were looking for. I'm sure you have, like many people, worked insane hours that took away from family, friends, and even yourself.
I hope humility, honesty, and hard work guide your company to a design that you can be proud of.
Good luck and I hope this all helps.
I do have to say, based on the evidence that DHH keeps unearthing, it does not seem like your company has put forth the immediate effort needed to represent that your company is taking to heart what is being said by DHH and others. That unfortunately is effectively like a strike 2. First for the action, and secondly for the inaction. Yes the inaction is both in relation to PR and actual outcome of change.
For the future viability of your company, you might consider immediately removing all content and styles even remotely considered to be "borrowed" (by any definition)...even if it means your websites are bland and almost blank. That however only closes the door on any indiscretions. Going through the challenges of repentance and acquiring forgiveness, is something only your company's heart can achieve. Seeking guidance would also probably be a good idea to get you through this current PR issue.
On your twitter pic it shows that you wish to stop sopa. In a recent case, GoDaddy had their own PR problem that cost them dearly. Given that your company is a start up, even with $1.2M in funding, appropriately negative PR like this can cost the company it's life.
*PS: 37Signals has 2 good books to read. I believe "Rework" even has some comments regarding when you screw up as a company. However, since it is the authors themselves to which your company has afflicted....
I hope your company is able to make the right choices.
YC gives you money, but they apparently do not provide you with advisors, handlers, lawyers or PR people who will intervene to stop you from making such a boneheaded, potentially explosive move, nor step in and help you figure out how to gracefully recover from a mistake.
Seriously? Credit where credit is due? Ha ha, it was stupid, we stole your design AND your assets, hee, aren't we a trip, funding, something something, TechCrunch, split testing makes it alllll better.
When they invite you to their program or (better yet) get you more funding, it probably feels like a mandate. Which makes things so much worse without guidance.
But the part about stealing someone else's work and passing it off as your own obviously had some thought put into it. One could only imagine what other parts of your app were repurposed from third parties.
Does anyone else find it strange that the article claims they have 1000 customers, and minimum pricing of $50/month, but they raised $1.2M? Why bother raising money if you are already close to a run-rate of $1M? My guess is they have closer to 1000 signups, not active 1000 customers.
I'd like to hear this story; is it a curebit founder? Or maybe a CL freelancer they hired...
It's possible they are experimenting with the 37signals design to see if it has legs, then will release a more original incarnation?
Linking to someone else's assets, however, is just wrong.
They could have gone with a headset hottie instead (http://www.headsethotties.com/).
Initially, I was excited to check them out because their referral rates look a lot better than mine. Then as I paused to consider what was really going on, brought on by the design controversy, I realize that there was a strong likelihood that these rates couldn't be all that solid because as an MVP, their sample size is probably immaterially small.
I wouldn't say that I'm writing Curebit off, but it will be a while before I'm excited about them again...
As for no harm done, I don't agree with that. A lot of 37signals audience and marketing is through their audience that loves to hear what they say about design amongst other things. Having a cutting edge marketing website and blogging about it helps to generate interest in what they do. For someone that didn't know 37signals is the original designer of that style of site, no credit would go to them. The guy from Curebit even stated that he was planning to write up a blog about how the testing goes... why should they get the credit and pageviews for reviewing the a/b testing on someones elses design?
Go read @allangrant recent twitter posts and see if you still feel sympathetic.
You see people on HN saying it's okay to download a tv show; you don't see anyone saying it's okay to burn that show to dvd and sell it many times.
Ultimately though, this forum compromises many viewpoints. While there will be trends, consistency when dealing with large numbers of folks seems unrealistic (but again, I don't think having issues with contemporary IP law and being against using another site's design in a commercial product demonstrates a consistency issue. It's more of a "dude, not cool" thing to me.).
In regard to the lack of detriment, certainly at least one representative of 37Signals is unhappy with it. If it were my design, I'd prefer that my efforts remain tied solely to my products given the time and money spent on them since I think there is marketing and branding value in developing a reasonably unique look and feel even if the products themselves are not direct competitors. Do I recognize that designs will inspire other designs? Certainly. The line between a copied design and inspired one is blurry. Would I personally give more leeway to someone who was just experimenting for a non-commercial, personal project? Probably. This, however, was a commercial entity that just received a big check for their (and 37signals') efforts. That said, if I were an employee of curebit, I'd probably have felt uncomfortable with the approach they took regardless of any legal implications that may exist. It would just kinda feel wrong, ya know?
Anyway, my initial reaction was along the lines of "well, that was stupid of them" and progressed to "WTF is wrong with this guy?" due to Allan's tweets in response to dhh. Some of his tweets have almost felt like he was trolling for controversy/publicity. Regardless, I really think he should simply stop tweeting at this point and let further public responses come from someone better equipped to NOT dig themselves deeper.
I think it's more of an issue that calls into serious question their integrity, motivations and skills. It's pretty hard to start a company out of an incubator with community support when you'e signaled that you've no ethical regard for the very community that supports you.
Furthermore these guys have raised 1.2 million dollars. To think that someone in this position would raise that amount in capital and pull this kind of bullshit is offensive. This is a black eye for the valley.
So maybe it’s time to take one of these Fridays off and just copy something."
(PS: Even your email template is exact ripoff from Groupon ... i think you guys can do better than this.)
(Suggestion: Could you please add "Contacts" connector on top of your email widget ... now i have to type in emails one by one for inviting friends)