Apple, Amazon, Facebook and other big name websites are copied every day. They’re extremely successful, so it’s no surprise, but that doesn’t mean their design, interaction or content will yield the same success for your project. In fact, you’ll have almost no chance in matching their success since they’ve already done it.

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

Pablo Picasso was essentially saying that by copying, the best-case scenario is getting the same.  The objective is to do it better. That does NOT mean just going to 5 different websites and mashing their features together. By analyzing a website’s design, user interface or code, and figuring out why it’s effective, you’ll be able to use that technique and make it your own.


PanelFly has clearly been designed with Apple in mind. The large “hero” shot presents their product and quickly describes it. Extra features that are not crucial to the user are presented horizontally, so they’re easily glanced over or scanned from left to right. Their bold, colorful design suits their industry.

Established vs Start up

As a new company or website, your message and actions will no doubt be different than those of a well-established company.

Almost everyone knows what Photoshop is, so it makes sense for Adobe’s Photoshop page to use more space in pointing out features instead of an explanation of what it does. Mint, on the other hand, is still a relative newcomer, and therefore needs to dedicate much more space to explaining its service and providing testimonials with press logos to convince users they’re the real deal.

Target your audience and your goals

Different users and goals call for different design.

Amazon sells everything to everyone, so their pages are very open and accommodate all sorts of user entered information. Threadless sells t-shirts to a younger, “fun” demographic, which is very apparent in their design and photography choices as well as their emphasis on the shirt itself. Threadless is very successful, largely because they created a site that is unique to them and their goals.

Why it Matters

By specifically designing a website with the business goals, strategy, and potential users in mind, you’ll create a better experience and drive more conversions. Obviously there’s still nothing wrong with drawing inspiration and “loosely” copying styles or rough layout from other great websites; but only do it when it’s effective for the website being designed.

Comments
  • I agree with the fact that a website that is a design copy of a successful one, will not automatically yield the same success and business results. I don’t even know why people think that. There must be a winning concept and a good marketing strategy behind it. And what is the merit when you copy a website, wouldn’t you rather have people say “wow, that’s an original and well thought design”. This post was really interesting. You pointed out some interesting things. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • I do understand the wishful thinking of matching the success of the big boys by simply copying their design… heck I wish I could just copy Amazon and become a bazillionair too. What it comes down to is copying is easier than “stealing”. Sometimes it’s tough to go the extra mile and really try to come up with a design or interaction that’s effective for the client, but it’s worth doing to get better results for the client and more importantly improve your own skills.

      You’re right that I would rather people say my design is “original”, but to be honest, I’m more interested if the design was effective for the client. If certain aspects of your design are similar to an established site, it’s totally fine. It’s not always necessary to re-invent the wheel, but it’s important to at least take a second to see if you can do it better.