Plagiarism is, of course, frowned upon on the web, just as it is in any other circle, but there are times when imitation is your best friend.

When a new client comes to us with a completely blank sheet, requesting a website, I will often ask “what are your favorite websites?”. It’s much easier to see what works well on other websites than it is to envisage, out of a blue sky, what might work for your own, especially if, as so often happens, you are just too close to it.

Often the same websites are mentioned time and time again: Amazon, eBay, the BBC, the Guardian… and often, I’ll be surprised by some website I’ve never heard of because it is one of the client’s competitors, perhaps in a specialized field.

Now, of course, I’m not pretending that I am going to build you the next eBay. Looking at these giants of sites can be overwhelming, and my next question – WHY do you like them so much? – can be a daunting one to answer, beyond ‘they work’.

It’s worth taking the time to find two or three elements from your favorite sites that you would like to replicate on your own. Click on the sites for a while, and this time, think not as a customer, but as an interested observer. Just how does Amazon keep you adding more goods to your basket (you’ll find two or three ways on every page)? What is it about eBay that makes it so easy to sift through thousands of goods for sale – and could you utilize a cut-down version of that yourself, if you have multiple items to sell? How do the BBC and the Guardian both retain an air of authority, and provide such readable copy?

Don’t worry if you’re not sure about all the answers. Just providing the questions will give us a very firm basis for our initial plans – and of course, it’s up to us to know most of the answers. You know your business, and we know the web – and together, we can make you the website that you need.