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I'm working on a site that sells royalty-free Silverlight controls and illustrations. The experience is somewhat similar to what you'd see at iStockPhoto.com. From what I've observed, the term "royalty-free" is common among art & music. But my site will appeal to both designers and developers.

My question is, do you think enough people understand what royalty-free means to make a special point about it?

Should "royalty-free" be prominent in the design of the homepage? And if so, should I do anything to explain what it means?

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3 Answers

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I think you should include it prominently in the design, but also make it a point to answer that question, either via the first question in a FAQ, or somewhere else that's very clear.

For example on "Bob's Royalty-Free Widgets", I would see Royalty-Free as part of the logo/header, and then perhaps on the homepage, in the copy, the bolded question "What's Royalty-Free? " and then underneath, "Glad you asked! Royalty-free means blah blah blah [read more]"

That way you're pushing it as a selling point to the folks who already know what it is, but also making the advantage very clear for those that don't.

In general, I think most designers and developers have a pretty good idea of what royalty-free means. Devs are used to licensing concepts because they code they learn from, publish, and contribute to is generally under some license or another.

Some of how you handle the visual presentation depends on how you want the public perception of your company to feel. If you over-explain what royalty-free means, more experienced people may feel your primary customers are amateurs if have to go out of your way to explain it so much. So consider that when you make your decision, and try to find a solid balance. If you're trying to seem a little more upper-crust, include "royalty-free" in your logo/header (and for SEO, your title), and just make your FAQ clearly accessible. On the product pages themselves, you can re-emphasize royalty-free and what that means as well.

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All good points. One thing I've already done is I added a "licensing" section on the product page which briefly explains the royalty free license and provides a link to the EULA. But it'd probably be good to have this in an FAQ as well. And I'm leaning towards making "royalty-free" a prominent part of the design, as you said. Thanks. –  Steve Wortham Jun 20 '11 at 0:59
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I've never heard of a control library that wasn't royalty free in nature. You typically buy a developer license and you use it for whatever software you want to develop. I'm not sure stating royalty free would really be much of a selling point given that's mostly what the competition already sells.

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That was the one reason I thought that maybe I shouldn't make a big deal about it. Then again, now that I'm selling illustrations too royalty-free makes a little more sense. –  Steve Wortham Jun 20 '11 at 1:10
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royalty-free is a much more common term in the commercial art world. Though it's also becoming the norm as well (for better or worse). I'd stick with the term royalty-free for your artwork licensing. For your components/controls, if you use terms like 'developer licenses' that will likely make more sense to that market. –  DA01 Jun 20 '11 at 1:24
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Absolutely you need to explain what royalty-free means as it can mean different things in different contexts - no fees for one use, or low volume use, or non commercial use. And also royalty-free does not necessarily imply free from outset, so if there is a one-off payment but subsequent unlimited use without further fees, then that is also a popular misunderstanding when it comes to something being royalty free. The word free confuses.

Where any kind of copyright or ownership - or lack thereof is concerned you need to make any conditions or absence of conditions absolutely clear to your users so there is no question, doubt or ambiguity. I do think you need to make a special point of it as you should aim to dispell any doubt as early as possible in a vistor's browsing experience.

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Well, this guy proved everyone doesn't know what it means.... –  Mark0978 Jun 19 '11 at 23:36
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