Deciding to clone your competitor’s site sounds like a great idea. Find a site you like and make one that looks just like it. That way, you let someone else do all the research on demographics and content and you can just jump right into the mix with a proven successful site.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If you decide you want to mimic your competitors, the customers will see that. They will say to themselves, “That site is trying to copy the one I always go to”. A clone site usually doesn’t offer the customer anything new except an address to go to.
So why do people clone?
There is a certain draw to just mimic your competitor. They are already successful. It must be the right approach. Surely I can’t come up with something better. So off you go on a quest to have a site built that looks exactly like theirs. Forget about the time and effort put into their site to figure out what works. Just clone it and you are on the way to success. But just like two hardware stores side by side, or a row of car dealers that look the same, there are things like brand loyalty, resistance to change, and a lot of other considerations that I’m sure a psychologist or marketing person can explain as to why your beautiful site is a flop.
You be you
That’s the bottom line. If your customers are happy where they are, trying to look like your competitor is just going to turn them off. You need to present your site in a fresh way that will cause them to stop for a second and say, “Hey! that’s different. I’m going to have a look”. You approach the site from the eyes of your competition’s customer base. You have to give them a reason why they should move from their comfort zone.
It’s OK to borrow ideas and concepts
Face it. Most of the websites out there are very similar. That’s because things like menus and graphics are standard items on a site. Layouts are similar. There are many ways to present your information, but really, you are the first one that needs to like it. Look at different sites. Look outside your area of expertise, and find sites that are appealing to you. Then, when you are working with your web designer, give them a list of what you like. A good designer will see the pattern and be able to work with you to come up with a hybrid of all the things you like. That’s the kind of site that will draw attention. Although it’s a combination of different ideas and looks, it appears fresh and new. It’s something someone would want to look at.
What if it flops and doesn’t work?
That is the glory of the web. Anything can be changed. Using analytics, you can determine what works on the site and what doesn’t. Take the areas that aren’t working and tweak them to match the areas that are. The limits of what can be done are only in your thinking. Web design is a reflection of who you are and what you do. Keep true to what you like and you will never go wrong. But remember, friends don’t let friends clone.