Have you ever fallen in love with the look or features of another website – but couldn’t figure out just how they did it?
As Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
If you want your website to be great, it doesn’t hurt to steal ideas and inspiration from others!
Of course that doesn’t mean blatantly copying someone else’s work.
But using the same themes and plugins and putting your own spin on them? That’s how it’s done. Why reinvent the wheel when what you need is already out there?
In this post you’ll learn how to spy on other websites to find out:
- Whether they’re using WordPress
- Which web hosting company they use
- What theme is powering their site
- What plugins they’re using
1. How to tell if a site is using WordPress
The first thing you’ll want to figure out is whether that site is using WordPress.
There are three ways you can do this:
A. Use WhatCMS.org
One quick tool you can use to check is a site called WhatCMS.org.
Just type in the name of the site, and it’ll let you know:
Sometimes it doesn’t work, though.
If it can’t tell, then you can use a few other tricks to find out.
B. Try to find the admin login screen
If it’s a WordPress site, then the owner needs a way to log in to their dashboard.
On a default installation of WordPress, the admin login can be found by appending “/wp-admin” to the URL (www.example.com/wp-admin). If you see a WordPress login page at that address, there’s your giveaway!
Of course, this doesn’t always work. Some security plugins change the default login URL to make it more difficult for hackers to find (such as www.example.com/get-inside). And sometimes WordPress is installed in a subdirectory (like www.example.com/blog/wp-admin) instead of the root domain.
C. Take a look at the source code
If that doesn’t work, try looking at the page source.
In the Chrome browser, you can right click anywhere on the page and select “View Page Source.”
Looking at the source code, if you see calls to the “wp-content” folder for any stylesheets or plugins, that’s a dead giveaway that the site runs on WordPress.
Try searching (Ctrl+F) for “wp-” and it’ll highlight any instances for you.
2. How to tell what web hosting company a site uses
When you find a super-speedy website out in the wilds of the web, you might want to know what host they’re using to get such fast loading times.
Of course, the web host isn’t the only factor in how fast a site is: there are also caching plugins, CDNs, and other ways to speed up your website. But web hosting is a big factor, and if you use a slow host it doesn’t matter what else you do to speed up your site – it’s still going to be slow.
My favorite tool for this is WhoIsHostingThis.com.
(Full disclosure: I also write for WhoIsHostingThis.com. I don’t receive anything for recommending them, though; I just think the tool is pretty handy.)
Just enter the URL on the front page and hit search:
And you’ll see who the host is.
It’s not always 100% accurate: sometimes it might show a wrong result if it’s a smaller hosting company that rents space in a larger data center, or a site using a CDN might throw it off.
But since they use multiple data sources to determine the host, it tends to be right more often than other similar tools.
3. How to tell what WordPress theme a site is using
Ever found a beautiful site and wanted to know what theme they’re using?
Maybe you want to use the same theme yourself, or find out what designer created it so you can hire them to develop a custom theme for you.
If so, you’re in luck! This one’s pretty easy.
A. Use the “What WordPress Theme Is That” tool
This is the simplest way. You can go to WhatWPThemeIsThat.com and enter the URL of the site in the search box:
And it will give you all the details:
You can see that WPSuperstars uses Paperback (edit: we have switched themes since this article was written).
It will also give you a list of detected plugins at the bottom:
You can see we use Thrive Leads among other plugins.
If it’s a custom theme, you’ll see a message like this:
B. View the source
If for some reason it can’t detect the theme, or you’d rather do it yourself, you can view the page source again.
Just search (Ctrl+F) for “theme” and you should see the theme’s stylesheet:
The name of the theme (Paperback, in this case) is in the subfolder right after the “themes” folder.
You can actually click on that link and get more info about the theme in the stylesheet:
This information is actually required at the top of the theme’s style.css document in order for the theme to work, so every theme should have it.
4. How to tell what plugins a site is using
You can also use WhatWPThemeIsThat.com to see what plugins it can detect on the page.
But that tool just gives you a list of plugins. It may not tell you exactly what the plugin is doing on the page.
Let’s say you find a site where you really like the look of the opt-in forms. But you look up the site using WhatWPThemeIsThat and it lists 2 or 3 different list building plugins. How do you know which plugin they’re using for that particular form?
Take this site as an example.
Say you want to find out what plugin we’re using for that nice minimalist opt-in form in the sidebar:
Using the Chrome browser, you can right click on the form to bring up the context menu and click on “Inspect”:
In a frame either on the bottom or side of the screen, you’ll see the code behind that element:
Don’t worry; you don’t have to understand all that code.
But taking a look at the ID or class names can really help us out.
For this <div> element that’s highlighted in blue on the right, you see a list of classes. The first class is “thrv-leads-widget.” Hey, it must be the Thrive Leads plugin at work!
If your results aren’t quite as obvious, you can try Googling the class names to see if anything matches. Often the results will include various support threads for the specific plugin being used.
It’s pretty easy to find out what’s behind the scenes with a few tricks up your sleeve. It’s helpful to know what CMS, themes, and plugins the site you admire is using.
Next time you find a site you like, take note of what plugins and themes they’re using! You never know when the knowledge might come in handy.