The Great Copy Debate

by Andy Brudtkuhl on March 1, 2010

There was a great post from Search Engine Land last week called “It’s A Fatal Mistake To Copy Successful Web Sites“…

Someone asked, “Why don’t we all just copy” I replied, “Never, ever copy what Amazon does.” The audience responded with surprise, thinking I was not a fan of Amazon.

Not true. The reason you don’t want to copy a successful site like Amazon is that their website requirements are not likely to be the same as your site requirements. Their users may have different characteristics than your site visitors. Their customers’ needs may be completely different. You don’t have the user, traffic analysis and usability testing data they’ve collected over the years that they use as a base for their user interface, information architecture and content delivery.

Now this goes in the exact opposite direction when we said “You Should Copy E-Commerce Design“.

However – I think we are both right. In the context Kim speaks about in her argument why you should not copy is the varying degree of requirements. Obviously Amazon has a unique audience that demands specific requirements that Amazon has thoughtfully researched and implemented over the last ten years. We don’t recommend that you try (why would you?) to copy Amazon’s information architecture or to layout your site in the same exact fashion.

But when it comes down to function, usability, and conversion – why not copy them? They’ve been doing research for the last 10 years on e-commerce usability and conversion optimization. Most small businesses running e-commerce don’t have an analytics research staff – let alone the data to even begin. So why not copy the color of their buttons, or their “Add To Cart” text, or even their shopping cart layout.


One of the taglines we have at 48Web is – “We’ve done the research so you don’t have to“…

In the case of Amazon – they’ve done the research so why not copy them?

Let us know what you think in the comments or jump into the forums!