There is a HUGE problem in our industry that no one will talk about directly but I will because it breaks my heart to watch.



Especially design. Good design is rare in the business development industry and exceptional design is even harder to find. It makes me sad to know that when a industry leader invests in a beautiful design, they can expect to be copied by everyone else.


It is natural to look to leaders in your industry as an example of what your brand should look and feel like. In fact, it is a part of the process of creating a grown up brand. When I first learned how to design, I did a lot of copying. I didn’t know what else to do. I had no examples and I didn’t know where to start.


But here is the deal: if you steal another brand’s colors, design or aesthetics, you will never ever rise to the level of that brand.


In fact, you will NEVER be seen as a peer.


While you think no one notices that you have THE SAME colors, design elements and layout of a site everyone knows, we TOTALLY do.   I repeat: EVERYONE KNOWS IT.


And it’s bad karma, baby. Your brand deserves more than that. YOU deserve more than to be the shadow of another brand.


Challenge yourself. Challenge your designer to get it right.


Branding is not easy. It takes a LONG time to get right. Those redesigns you see? They can take MONTHS.  I am working on a site redesign that is taking me FOREVER. It is supposed to take forever. Your brand is important. And you have to make sure you have the clarity to do it. It is so easy to look at a site  (even mine) and want  it but KNOW that it takes people a while to get there. Most sites who get these redesigns aren’t even READY for a new site.


Another thing you HAVE to realize: a website isn’t a brand. A website is an illustration of  a brand’s values, beliefs and target market. You can’t just grab a piece of it and go. We think of a website as the beginning and the end of a business. You can have an unforgettable website without fancy branding and you can have a forgettable business even with a slick site.


Especially if the site isn’t you. Especially if your brand isn’t ready for it. Have you ever been to a site that looked good but you couldn’t connect with it at all? Or maybe you didn’t even care?


It’s like listening to a song and having a random song start playing in the middle. It’s just awkward.


Take the time to educate yourself about what design is, what branding means and KNOW what you want.


My goal for this post is to give you other options. DESIGN is amazing. There are so many colors, textures, layouts and website models you can explore and learn from. There is SO much out there. Let’s not limit ourselves to the same sites over and over again. I created a list of sites and resources that are my go-to places for design inspiration. Keep in mind, these sites are all created by professionals who have THE SAME goals you have for your own brand. They want to represent the brand’s purpose in the best way possible. I have also included some of my favorite places to go for typography inspiration and art too.


When you go to these sites, keep these questions in mind:

What vibe am I REALLY resonating with?

What color schemes do I like?

What design elements do I really dig?

How do they add freshness to typical design elements (opt-in forms, contact forms, blogs)?

What do I REALLY like about this?


The super list:


I created a pinterest too.


I want to leave you with one more thing:

Ask yourself this: If you really want the same success of your idols, do you really think you can do that when you steal their stuff? Imagine it would be like to position yourself alongside someone like Marie or Danielle as a peer and not an imitation. Think about being respected for your unique (and awesome) contribution. Imagine being seen as an equal. Aspire to have more and do greater.


If you want some in-depth help on this, check out my new offering. I work with my clients 1-on-1 to figure out their web layouts and other essential brand elements. No copying allowed 🙂



How do you feel about this? As someone who isn’t a designer, do you find it difficult to tell your designer what you want without copying? I am working on something now that will help non-designer develop a brand point-of-view 🙂



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18 thoughts on “Is your copycat design making you forgettable? + my favorite design sites (for inspiration)

  1. Amen! I cringe every time I spot something that was “inspired” by another site. As a former web designer I often had to talk people out of outright copying a design, colors, or other elements of popular web sites. Thanks for writing about this Shenee, it’s important. It’s so important because people need to develop their own brand and vision for their online presence.

    Posted on July 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm
  2. Gorgeous post, Shenee, and SO right. As a designer, I really get sad when I see “inspired by” sites, because design has limitless potential and there is so much potential to show off the unique glory that is YOU. Love this, and can’t wait to check out some of the design inspiration. 

    Posted on July 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm
  3. Now we just have to be careful not to all copy the sites that you just posted for inspiration!! 😉  It’s a slippery slope either way. 
    Big love! 

    Posted on July 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm
    1.  @AmberMcCue Indeed! Although I would MUCH rather folks copy these other sites (with more variety) than the same 2 over and over again. 

      Posted on July 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm
  4. Shenee, you’re so beautifully brilliant – I love this reminder to let our OWN amazingness SHINE…through our business, brand, and everything that we do!

    Posted on July 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm
    1.  @Sabrina at MyMiBoSo thanks LADY! And it is SO true and SO difficult at first.

      Posted on July 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  5. Really great and timely post Shenee! I’ve seen a lot of this lately and it’s ashame for the entreprenuer because instead of
    me focusing on THAT person, I’m immediately reminded of someone else — the person they were “inspired” by.  Not good!

    Posted on July 24, 2012 at 9:06 pm
    1.  @Tanzie Johnson it is the instinct! for sure! I see the site and I am like “oh, wonder if I missed a post over on that site.”

      Posted on July 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  6. Love this post.  I’ve just recently rebranded and telling my graphics designer what I wanted and offering suggestions he came back with something that was nothing like what I’d suggested but even better.  His input has allowed me to create a website that is a reflection of my authentic self.  I love looking at other people’s site to get a feel of who they are and have used that to inspire and encourage me to let my own self shine!

    Posted on July 25, 2012 at 7:52 am
    1.  @TabithaJayne that is the AMAZINGNESS of a great designer. If you let them be creative, they can do awesome things

      Posted on July 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm
  7. I’ve just discovered your work Shenee–I think you and your site are awesome! Love the straight, tough love talk.
    My own experience of branding parallels my own personal journey as a solo-entrepreneur.  My website has all along and continues to be a reflection of me and who I am becoming.  So, when you copy others, you’re essentially denying and jipping your own voice and identity to shine through and emerge.  Seeing my website evolve has at times been painful to watch because it’s never been the “bigger” version of myself that I really want to come through.  But I’ve learned to make peace with it’s imperfections and let it and ME evolve.
    Thanks for the inspiring blog! 

    Posted on July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm
  8. Thanks Shenee,
    I am one of those people who does not “get” design so thanks for the resources, they are awesome! Just simple things like knowing which colour goes well with another helps me enormously and seeing how the professionals (including yourself) do it is so useful.

    Posted on July 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm
  9. Shenee, I LOVE your digital space!  😉  Thanks for writing this – hot topic right now.  As an assertiveness coach, one of the big things we discuss is the difference in confidence and entitlement.  I’m w/ @Zsofi up there that I get sad when I see people not only copying, but blatantly thinking there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and that they are entitled to use as much of the design elements they see as possible.  In talking w/ several copywriters, designers, and indie-preneurs over the past 2 weeks regarding this issue, they all say exactly the same thing.  It’s the elements that come together that create the brand and the brand messaging.  Something I learned from Danielle LaPorte – “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.”  To me, it’s like getting up and getting dressed – if you question if it’s too tight, too short, or not appropriate for work, it’s a no.  If you have to constantly defend, write for permission, and there’s even a SHRED of doubt about your elements being a copy, changes need to be made.  🙂  Can’t wait to review your design inspirations!  Great post! 

    Posted on July 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm
    1.  @iamtamisha  “if you question if it’s too tight, too short, or not appropriate for work, it’s a no.”
      This is so helpful, thank you.  For clothes and for life.  I’m always amazing at how many times we need to learn this lesson.  I used to facilitate Cuddle Parties and one of the rules is “if you’re a maybe say no”. Hell yes is even better. 🙂

      Posted on August 17, 2012 at 4:17 am
      1. @CeciliaSpace absolutely. We are all in this thing to change lives I hope and always a work in progress. I know I am! Thanks for the mention.

        Posted on August 17, 2012 at 4:25 am
  10. This is so true! I forget who I learned this from but for a while when I was first starting my business I’d beat mysef up for not being where or not having as great of designs as some people I looked up to online. Then someone said, if you want to be the best, you can’t do what the best is doing now, now that they’ve succeeded , you have to do what they did to start. With that said, I follow and admire people who let their individuality shine through – copycat design is just the opposite. We ALL have to start somewhere – and looking/feeling/speaking exactly like the big shots is not the way to go. There’s a huge difference between pulling from people’s ideas for inspiration and stealing their design elements! Well said Shenee!! 🙂

    Posted on July 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm
  11. Shenee, this is so touching to a person that is a non website person. And am looking to create a site this is a true reflection of self. 🙂

    Posted on July 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm
  12. I just found you today Shenee and I just love your brashy, sassy, so you style.  Thank you for being yourself.  I have a confession to make…  I am designer phobic.  I have started the branding/rebranding/design process so many times and I have never, ever, followed through.  I’m not sure what my fear is.  I could say that it’s about the money, but I’m totally willing to spend it on other things.  
    I am afraid that it will look like somebody else and not me.  I’m clear on not wanting to copy, but it’s hard to imagine what “my website” could look like.  I’m afraid of the commitment.  It feels like a tattoo, and I’m pretty clear that I better love my logo/brand as much as something I would willingly ink on my body for the rest of my life, because it feels that permanent.  Maybe I’m taking it too seriously…  In the meantime, I have a website I’m frankly embarrassed of and no clear branding to speak of.  I mean, I have me, and I’m pretty cool, but the more me I become, the more the way I present myself to the world feels off. 

    Posted on August 17, 2012 at 4:40 am