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Don’t copy competitors, design for your brand

July 5, 2016

Steve McKinney
Steve is CandidSky's lead designer and front-end developer. He makes things look great, and believes in building responsive websites with the core principles of usability and simplicity. You can follow him on .

It’s often tempting to take design inspiration from successful competitors but it’s never the best solution.

We hear it regularly: ‘We’re looking into a new website, we want it to be like [competitor]’ or ‘Our website isn’t performing as well as we need it to, [competitor] are doing great – can you build us one like theirs’?

Being inspired isn’t a crime, but copying another website based on little more than a hunch could be a big waste of time and money. Read on to find out why you should avoid the trap.

You can’t be sure it’s working…

It’s a fair assumption to think that if a competitor is successful then their website must also be a success. But without poring over their analytics and performance data it is impossible to tell. Even if the website is a huge success for your competitor, it does not guarantee it will be for your brand. There are other factors at play:

  • Different brand values
  • Different target audiences
  • Adoption of outdated trends
  • User experience could be improved
  • Technological advances


Your audience, your objectives, your website

No two businesses are the same. Each is made up of a collection of very different individuals, which means your company missions, values, visions, goals, systems, tools, data, objectives, audience etc. will be also be different. Getting the new website features, functions and aesthetics right for your brand is a very personal journey.

It takes a lot of research – mapping out user journeys and profiling your audience, delving into the minds of company employees to understand what your website means to them, looking at what has and hasn’t worked in the past and projecting what you want to happen in the future.

By copying design concepts from other brands the only bit of success you project is their image – none of the thought that led them to that image is inherited, nor the business processes that make another brand successful.

Your brand, your image, your user experience

Your digital landscape is often the first interaction a customer has with your brand. Increasingly consumers head straight to search engines to research your industry, not just your company. It’s highly likely they will look at a number of brand websites within your industry. It’s very easy to spot when a brand website has taken too much inspiration from a competitor’s site – your brand does not fit in their digital skin.

Brand is personal to every business. It’s a chance to express their own unique selling points to the world. Think of it in terms of fashion, which would you rather be: a business who sets trends or a business who imitates them? It’s exactly the same with brand design.

Imitation isn’t just a lazy approach, it can also make your brand aesthetics look awkward, unattractive and untrustworthy…


Final thought

Overall, copying never leads to the best results for business growth or marketing satisfaction. You never quite get that feeling you got when you first saw the website you took inspiration from. That’s why we always recommend following a structured methodical approach of research and understanding to shape your new website design.

Speak to your prospective or existing customers and staff. Analyse user behaviour on your original website. Rely a little more on your intuition and you will craft a far more effective and original conversion machine. It’s the only way to create a sleek user experience for your target audience whilst promoting your own unique brand identity.

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