Build a better website by discovering what technologies other sites use. If you see an impressive site, see how it is built and then use the same things on your own site. Learn from the best!
When you see a great website, do you ever wonder how it is built? What technologies lie behind it? Does it use WordPress or something else? Which plugins and other items does it use?
If only we knew what web technologies other sites we using, it could give us ideas to improve our own blog or website. If we see a great slider showing an image gallery on a site while browsing the web, wouldn’t it be nice if we could see which plugin it is and then add it to our own site?
We don’t want to copy other websites exactly, of course, and we want our own unique place on the web, but what differs between websites is not the technology, but the content and the way it is presented. WordPress, plugins and themes all have numerous configuration options, so even if we know exactly which ones another site is using, it would not make our site identical. We can still make an original website, but with better tech.
There are over 55,000 WordPress plugins and it is hard to know which ones to use on your site. Sometimes people write articles listing their favorite plugins and these are enormously helpful. Apart from a few common ones, I always seem to use different plugins to the ones people list. However, it is fascinating to see what people use and articles like these give you ideas on what to use for your own site.
How can we find out what theme and plugins other websites are built with? One way is to look at the source code of the page. Right click a page and most browsers have an option on the menu to show the source code. However, reading web page source code is not easy and even when you can, it is slow and tedious work.
It is much easier and quicker to use either a Chrome or Edge browser extension or a website tool that shows exactly what other sites use. Here are some examples.
BuiltWith Technology Profiler
BuiltWith Technology Profiler is a free Chrome and Edge browser extension that adds an icon to the toolbar to the right of the address box in the browser. Click it and it displays a panel that lists everything it can discover about the site. Alternatively, you can visit the BuiltWith website and enter the website to analyze there.
The panel that is displayed is very comprehensive and probably shows more information than many people need. It can be a bit overwhelming. Look at that scrollbar, you can see there is is a lot more information available than in the screenshot.
It contains a lot of details that are valuable, such as analytics and tracking and widgets. The list of widgets is the most useful and it shows the plugins that a site uses. There is information about access from mobile phones, advertising, web server and more.
Although the information is detailed, I think most people would find a simpler extension more useful. This is more of a geek tool. BuiltWith does not show the theme, but it does show a lot of other technical stuff that not everyone is interested in. Try it and see if it suits you.
Wappalyzer is another free extension for Chrome and Edge and it adds a toolbar icon to the browser. Click it and it reveals a much simple drop-down panel containing details about the website that it can discover.
This is good for non-technical people that simply want to know what technologies and other things a website is built with. The information is presented in the clearest way possible and it is just what you need when browsing the web, looking at other sites for ideas.
You can see the content management system, CDN, advertising, analytics and more. It does not tell you what theme a site is using and it does not list all the plugins. It seems lacking in that area, but it shows a lot of other information. You will probably want to use it with another extension that shows more theme and plugin information.
WhatRuns is another extension for Chrome and Edge browsers and as usual it adds an icon to the toolbar in the browser. Click it when viewing any website and it displays a drop-down panel with information on the technologies used to build the site.
Unfortunately, the information provided about websites is not always correct and it sometimes it seemed to be confused. The screenshot shows that it thinks this website is built with WordPress 4.7.3 for example. It is not, it is the latest version of WordPress.
On the plus side, most of the information is correct and it displayed the WordPress theme used and many of the plugins installed on the site. The panel displays information in a simple and easily readable form and despite the occasional mistake, it is still very useful.
Gochyu Theme Detector
Gochyu Theme Detector is a free website tool that can identify the theme that a site is using and the plugins that are installed. Just go to the site and enter the URL of the site you want to investigate.
Dismiss the popup ad and wait a few seconds and the results are displayed. It tells you the theme name, the version number and the author. It also shows a rating or score, the number of downloads and when it was last updated. I don’t know whether the downloads is right, it seemed high to me, but it’s not important. It attempts to find the web hosting company, but it’s a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it just says Cloudflare or something similar.
It also shows a list of detected plugins and while it may not show every single one of them, it does show a lot. The information is very useful and there is a button that takes you to the plugin page on the WordPress.org website. If you see a plugin you like, you can easily add it to your site.
This is a useful free service that is worth bookmarking for when you want to investigate a website.
Scan WP is another free website tool that attempts to detect the theme and plugins used by a website. It is also available as a Chrome and Edge browser extension (Scan WP extension). It focuses on WordPress and after entering the URL of the site you want to analyze, it displays the theme title, hosting provider and shows a thumbnail image of the URL. The plugins used by the site are detected and listed.
There is some additional useful information lower down the results page if you use the website and it shows the top themes and plugins detected and you can view the top 50 themes and plugins. Below that are the top page builders and top ecommerce plugins. The top two themes are Divi and Astra and the top two plugins are Yoats and Contact Form 7. It is interesting reading.
WordPress Theme Detector and Plugin Detector
WordPress Theme Detector and Plugin Detector extension for Chrome and Edge browsers is a useful tool to have in your browser if you are often curious about what technologies a website uses. Click the icon in the browser’s toolbar and in a few seconds, the website theme is displayed, often with a thumbnail image and details about the theme itself, like the version URL of the theme developer or seller. The number of other websites using that theme is displayed.
Below the theme information is a list of plugins used by the site and it seems to detect a good number. It will not show everything, but it is still a good list and you can see whether the plugins are free or paid, some information about each one and so on. Plugins can be clicked to see more information about them and this is very useful extension.
I like this extension a lot because of the simple, but useful information is displays about WordPress themes and plugins. Use it alongside a more technical plugin.
How accurate are they?
From testing my own websites it is clear that the information displayed by these Chrome extensions is mostly accurate, but not always. They tell you a lot about the content management system, the plugins, themes, advertising, tracking and more, but they do not tell you everything.
One problem with them is that they only show information for the current page. If a plugin is not used on a page and is not referred to, it is invisible. For example, if a forms plugin is used on a site, but there is no form on the page, it may not be detectable. Try a few pages on the website to see what plugins are used, more plugins may be revealed on other pages with different content.
These tools only show plugins referred to on the front end of the website and they do not show what is in the back end because they do not have access. For example, none of them show the backup plugin used by the site because it is not visible to visitors. Only admins have access to it.
If you try these tools on sites while browsing the web, you sometimes see very little information is revealed. It is possible they are using custom designed websites, plugins and themes, but it is also possible to hide quite a lot of information in the source code of a web page.
The amount of information shown by these tools varies from site to site and they may miss some things, however they are still very useful.