What to Do When Someone Steals Your Website

I know the old adage says “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, but let’s face it: when you pour your heart and soul into your website, discovering that your design or content has been hijacked by someone else just sucks.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a past client who was in shock that someone had stolen her very unique and memorable website design and was using it on their site. I felt the blow in the stomach right there with her.

First thing she wanted to know: “What do I do?”

She had invested a lot of time in her website, working with one of my favorite designers to partner with who created a beautiful design for her site, which my team and I had then developed into a really stunning website. It captured the client’s vibrancy and really allowed her to stand out in her market.

But there was her very unique design, with someone else’s photos and text. In some ways, I imagine it’s like you’re back in high school and that paper you poured your soul into for English class is being praised by the teacher — but somehow, someone switched the cover page and put their name on your paper. F— that.

Luckily, the client had me and my team at her back and I went into full investigative mode (seriously, I think in a different life I would have been a CIA agent). What I discovered was traces of the original coding we did for her theme everywhere. I counseled the client to contact the imitator’s hosting service (I had found that information for her as well) and provided her with a clear explanation for the host, so it would be easy to see how the code was stolen from her site. Hours later, the site was taken down.

First Important Lesson: Don’t panic if something like this happens to you. There are ways to address the issue, and having skilled talent in your corner can make a huge difference.

Second Important Lesson: Unless you stop sharing your website and content with the world, shit like this can happen. You’re making a big dent in the universe by being yourself and telling your stories. You can be proactive in a situation like this, but it’s not necessary to go into revenge mode. Address the issue, and remember karma typically takes care of the rest.

Third Important Lesson: Have integrity yourself and make sure the people you surround yourself with have integrity as well – that’s everyone from the people you hire for your team, to the fellow business owners or bloggers you speak to regularly, to collaborators and massage therapists and trainers…everyone in your life. Integrity is key to expansion. Consider it the law of attraction or just plain human psychology, but when you surround yourself with people who are aligned with your big, bright future, you will accomplish more. You will expand rather than contract if something bad happens. You will act wisely and with heart.

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credits

Created with Sketch.

Michelle Viljoen

(website design) is a graphic designer and brand consultant who specializes in creating and developing brands. Her core focuses are logo development, website design and brand direction.

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.