As an individual business, you want to stand out, right? Of course, it might be daunting to wade through the large crowd of other businesses in your niche to come out ahead, but how are you doing it? Is your business modeled after another, even your mentor or others in your niche that you admire?
If so, stop! Your business should reflect you, not some other person out there. That goes to your business model, your business cards, and especially…. your website. I find it disheartening to see so many businesses with similar designs. It might be due to inspiration or even lack of investment (or ability to invest), but a business is important. If you start one, you need to invest in it.
Of course, with WordPress powering more than 15% of the Internet at the end of 2011, many businesses are sporting themes that are similar because they were cheap, even for premium themes and frameworks. Its not that purchasing and using them are bad, but not customizing them for your particular business, especially for branding purposes, can hurt you.
So, how can you break out of accidentally being another copycat?
While you can definitely get ideas of what is working in your niche, think about what you are all about. Hiring a designer to put together a clone of another site defeats the purpose of stepping out as a brand and sometimes can create negative flack between yourself and the site you copy. While imitating might be know as the best way to flatter others, it confuses your followers and clients, especially if they follow the other business you have copied. And in some cases, you may need to be careful when you copy another’s design as they may have licensing or trademarks in place that could put you in a load of legal hot water.
There are millions of sites, but always ways to make a unique design, even with already available frameworks. Child theming can work wonders in making you stand out. If you are not a web designer or developer, you need to make sure that who you hire is flexible in designing for your tastes. Both the designer and yourself will need to think outside the box.
While some designers may be really talented, never leave your website’s design and development to 100% creative reign. Your opinion matters as it is your website that you will have to be proud of using and showing off to others. Your designer, even if they say they care, really is just being paid to produce a product for you in exchange for money. You would not tell your hairdresser to cut and style your hair however they want, right? If you did, you might end up with a hairstyle you are miserably stuck with for the next few months. In the case of websites, you have the same result if you do not become active about your site’s design and development. And… above all, you waste time and money spent investing in your business.
So, make sure your website’s design is about you and not one of your competitors in your niche. Be yourself, not a copycat.