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Should You Hire a Developer to Build a Clone Website?

Do you have a brilliant business idea based on an existing, popular website? Perhaps you have an idea like Twitter, but with a twist? Or maybe you’ve figured out how to make an app like Zoom, but with special features for a specific industry?

There’s plenty of room for innovation, and your idea is probably sound. However, you’ll want to make sure you build a completely unique website from the ground up.

If you’re thinking about hiring a website developer to clone an existing web project, you might want to rethink your strategy. Creating a new idea based on an existing project is one thing, but creating a clone website comes with risks and downsides.

What is a clone website?

As the name suggests, a clone website is a copy of an existing website. The cloned elements can include everything, including the design. copy, features, and script.

Many software developers sell pre-made clone scripts that function at a basic level and look almost exactly like the original website. For example, you can find clone scripts for the following popular websites:

  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Kickstarter
  • Amazon Affiliate Store
  • Airbnb
  • Craigslist
  • Fiverr
  • Door Dash
  • Udemy, Lynda, and Coursera
  • Tripadvisor
  • Uber
  • Netflix
  • And more

These clone sites offer a familiar experience for users, but they’re unlikely to make your web project a success. To create a successful project, you have to build your business and your brand from the ground floor.

Cloned websites don’t guarantee success

If you’ve been thinking about launching a website or app based on an existing model, you could be onto something. After all, it’s not unheard of for new ideas to surpass old ideas. Websites and mobile applications are constantly evolving and it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a better idea.

While new brands can take the top spot in any industry with a similar website, it’s not guaranteed. Even though a tried and tested model already exists, you’re still going to be building your project – and business – from scratch.

Like every new business, you’ll need to work hard to make your project successful. For example, you’ll need to hire contractors or employees, form a corporation or LLC, open a business bank account, and potentially take out a business loan.

Once you have the basics covered, you’ll have to develop your product, market your product to the right audience, run PPC ads, perform SEO, and launch a cohesive marketing strategy. You’ll need to start collecting email addresses, send out newsletters, and publish some high-quality sales pages.

Launching a clone site isn’t enough – you have to build your business and brand.

A clone website can work if it’s unique

If you want to build a clone site, find a way to make it unique. If your idea doesn’t bring something new and innovative to the table, it probably won’t go anywhere. People will check you out and realize you’re just a copy of the original and they’ll be on their way.

Clone websites have a long history of failure. Back in the early 2000s, everyone wanted to clone popular websites like Myspace and Friendster and several clone sites were launched. However, no clone sites have ever achieved the same level of success as the original website.

That’s not to say that similar sites never achieve success. Obviously, Myspace and Friendster were both successful to a degree for a period of time before Facebook took over. However, none of these social media sites were clone websites.

Websites that take over an industry are similar, but provide a new and innovative experience. For example, Facebook overtook Myspace because it forced people to use their real name and gave them more control over privacy. That’s an overly simplistic explanation, but it’s true.

According to research conducted back in 2009, two-thirds of people said they would only use social media to connect with people they already know. That was hard to do on Myspace, since Myspace didn’t require users to display their real name. With most people not using their real name, you couldn’t just look people up and see if they had an account.

When Facebook emerged, people joined because they saw an immediate opportunity to connect with their friends and family. All anyone had to do was search for a name and they could find just about anyone.

Another reason Facebook overtook other social media platforms is because the algorithm factored in triadic closure, which became the foundation for friend suggestions.

Triadic closure, in the context of social media, is a principle that states when two people in a network have a common friend, that connection increases the probability of them all becoming friends in the future.

Using triadic closure, Facebook made it easy for people to find additional connections within their existing circle.

If your idea doesn’t bring something of similar value to an existing market, a clone website probably won’t be successful.

How to provide unique value to your market

If you’re determined to make your clone website idea work, you’ll need a plan to create unique value for your market. Here are some ideas:

1. Look for opportunities to solve problems

Poke around on the original website and make a list of everything you don’t like.

  • What bothers you about the user interface?
  • Is the main menu difficult to use?
  • Is the typography annoying?
  • Is the layout frustrating?
  • Are there glitches in the functionality?
  • Is the user interface difficult to use?
  • Do the colors hurt your eyes?
  • Is it hard to manage your account?
  • Is the checkout process frustrating?
  • Is the shopping cart easy to use?

Use your list of problems as a template for your project. Aim to produce a final product that resolves all of the problems listed. If you can’t come up with your own list, or to get more ideas, search Reddit and other social media platforms for complaints.

Sometimes, resolving small inconveniences is enough to motivate people to use a different application.

2. Make a list of what’s missing from the original website

What can you add to your clone site to make the entire experience more complete? For example, say you’re building a Wikipedia clone and there’s not much more you can do to make the site unique. Start thinking about what you can add to make the user experience better.

For instance, for a Wikipedia clone site, you might want to add the following elements:

  • Automatically replace dead links with links from the Wayback Machine
  • Make the comparison screen easier to use
  • Add numerical sorting in categories
  • Add a Pageview Stats tool
  • Create a user watchlist
  • Add a feature to allow users to score the article’s accuracy to help people determine legitimacy
  • Encourage experts to contribute
  • Require editors to use their real name and reward people who provide reliable information

Each of these features would drastically improve the experience of a crowdsourced online encyclopedia. However, you’d still have a hard time competing with the original Wikipedia, which brings up the next point.

3. Get as niche as possible

Sticking with the Wikipedia clone example, get as niche as possible with your target market. It’s not feasible to overtake Wikipedia as the most popular online encyclopedia, and there can be no second fiddle. However, you can create an online encyclopedia for a specific industry.

For example, you can create an online encyclopedia for everything related to baseball, coffee, or your favorite dog breed. Whatever you choose, make it as niche as possible and you’ll find a strong following.

4. Offer resources nobody else does

Whatever website you’re cloning, find a way to provide a mass amount of resources that no other website provides. This won’t be appropriate for every clone site, however. For example, if you want to launch a Twitter clone, people won’t visit your website to learn information. Social media websites are for interacting, not learning.

However, you could find a way to create a hybrid of social media and education. If you launched a Twitter clone that suggested articles based on keywords, you might be able to provide immense value to people.

Still, you’d need to target a niche audience that wants information.

The risks of clone sites

Even when you’re willing to put in the time and do the work, clone sites amplify your risk of getting sued.

Just because a software developer creates a clone script from scratch doesn’t mean it’s legal to use. Software developers can create amazing programs and features, but they can’t copy someone else’s work. Even creating a copy of someone’s work without accessing their proprietary code can be considered copyright infringement.

Copyright law covers more than just code. You can get in trouble for copying someone’s design elements and general features if those features are part of the design. You also risk violating patent laws by copying features.

Clone sites might violate copyright and patent laws

If a business has patented certain features, including specific aspects of their website’s functionality, it could be illegal to copy those features even by creating your own version from scratch. This applies no matter how small or how standard a feature might seem.

Companies sue over copied features all the time. For instance, in June 2020 a Swedish tech company called Neonode Inc. sued Samsung and Apple for copying their swipe technology.

Neonode accused both tech giants of infringing multiple patents that covered multiple swiping features, including swipe-to-unlock, swipe typing, and more. Neonode later sued Apple again for further infringement for creating a swipe-to-unlock feature. As of October 2021, this lawsuit is still pending.

In 2016, Apple sued Samsung for patent infringement over Apple’s touchscreen patents, including their slide-to-unlock patent. This lawsuit was thrown out.

Anytime you copy someone else’s work, even when you create your own version from scratch, you risk violating their patent.

Need a clone website? We can make you something better!

If you want to create a clone of your favorite website, we can help. Our website design & development team has decades of experience creating custom websites for people with brilliant ideas.

We don’t have to clone an existing site to help you launch your project. We can create something better that meets all of your needs and more.

If you want to bring your idea to life, contact us today and tell us about your project. We’d love to help you launch the internet’s next big sensation.

Ryan Nead

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