It’s a fairly common practice when setting up a new site, or when updating an existing site, to choose a design which looks similar to a site you found online.
Often times that involves simply using a site for inspiration, but there is always the temptation to copy a site entirely, or to clone someone else’s design exactly.
There are so many copycat site designs on the web* that it would be pointless to criticize, but I do recommend that you be careful about the tools and services you use to clone a site. I’ve just used one such service, and it failed so completely that I would urge you to avoid it.
If you Google “copy website design” the top result in every search engine will be ThemeMatcher.com (or reviews/adverts for this service). This service claims to be able to copy any site’s design perfectly, and give you an “instant WP theme that matches your website”. It’s cheap, too; a standard license costs $47, and includes five revisions.
But is it any good?
From what I can tell, no.
I recently had the need to copy a site’s design, and so I gave ThemeMatcher.com a try. It only cost me $47, and it came with a money back guarantee, so I figured that it was a small risk.
Out of respect for the original site, I can’t show you the site I tried to copy. But I can show you what I got from ThemeMatcher.com:
As you can see, there’s nothing on the site – no header, footer, main content – anything. Furthermore, the design I bought doesn’t even offer basic layout features like a logo, header image, background, customizable CSS, or even the option to move the sidebar from one side of the screen to the other.
It’s essentially a blank slate, and could not be further from what was promised.
And that’s not all.
To make matters worse, this WP theme cannot be deleted. It is so poorly made that when I tried to remove it from my test site, an error message told me that “the requested theme does not exist”.
But hey, at least I have a theme and a promise that ThemeMatcher.com will fix the problems, right?
Well, no. It turns out that guarantee wasn’t even worth the electrons it was printed on.
I contacted ThemeMatcher.com when I first got the theme and complained. I sent them a screenshot of the theme they sold me and a link to the source site, and asked how we would go about fixing it.
That was two days ago. I have yet to hear from them, so today I activated my backup plan: I asked Paypal for a refund.
Update: Two days after I published this post, and four days after I asked for help from the service, ThemeMatcher.com sent me an email and told me that they had fixed the problems. They dinged me for two of the five included revisions and gave me this unusable mess:
That looks a little better, but it is still unusable.
In conclusion, ThemeMatcher.com did not deliver what it promised. The service is cheap, but you’ll just be throwing your money away so don’t bother. Instead, if you need to copy an existing website, hire an expert and pay them what they ask.
that expert cost you ten times as Themematcher.com as much but you will get a better design.
P.S. There are a lot more copycat designs out there than you may realize. To name one example, I know of six different WP themes (from different designers) which look almost identical to the theme used by Teleread.com. I have also found four different designs which, aside from a few CSS flourishes, look a lot like popehat.com. All of these themes are from different designers, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that at first glance.
P.P.S. There are a lot of copycat designs, and I don’t think you should use any of them. Some are so common that they will make your site look generic and one of the crowd. Ideally, the design of your site should be both professional _and_ unique, and a copycat design fails on the latter point.
image by ejimford