Learning From Competitors

Make Sure Your Grass is Greener

A competitive evaluation is a key part of planning a new website and is also a great exercise in examining current efforts. How do you conduct a competitive evaluation? Follow our guide:

 

Who are your competitors?

It’s important to distinguish between who you compete against vs. who your peers are. For example, pretty much every retail business competes against Amazon, but it’s not helpful to compare your site to Amazon. Because of their size and business strategy, what works for them won’t work for you. Identify competitors in your industry that are a comparable size and have a similar value proposition and use their sites as a benchmark.

 

What are they doing well?

Put yourself in your users’ shoes and attempt some common tasks – is the site informative and easy to navigate? Make note of impressive concepts and pages to use as inspiration for your own site. This includes things as simple as the types of imagery or language used, or more complex functionalities such as a store finder or a tool for helping customers configure a solution.

 

What are they doing poorly?

Serving as a good example isn’t the only way your competitors can inform your designs; you should also look for pain points. After identifying weaknesses, investigate how you can handle these aspects better on your own site. Often, bad UX is the result of technology or process limitations, so you may be able to sidestep a problem that was insurmountable for your competitors.

 

What is their content strategy?

Take stock of the information your competitors are sharing and how they organize it. You don’t need to crawl through the whole sitemap: start by auditing the main navigation and major landing pages, then dig deeper whenever you notice something interesting. Here are a few prompts to guide your evaluation:

  • Do they have valuable content that you don’t? The key word here is valuable content. Gaps in your sitemap compared to competitors may be a red flag, but make sure every page delivers value to users, there is no need to create useless pages simply to reach parity with your competitors.
  • Do you have unique content that they don’t? Unique content is not always necessary or good. Good unique content demonstrates what sets you above your competitors. Bad content is unique because your competitors already eliminated it after realizing it has no value.
  • What content do they feature on their homepage? The first page many new visitors see will be your homepage, so it’s essential that you get it right. Read our tips for creating an awesome homepage
  • What types of timely content do they share? Examples include News, Blog Posts, and Events. Sharing this kind of fresh content is a great way to stay on your users’ minds. Consider the content your competitors provide to users and how frequently their team generates it.
  • What’s their communication style? Pay special attention to word choice and tone for page titles, headings, and calls to action throughout your competitors’ sites. Do they speak formally or informally? Do they use technical jargon or layman’s terms? The rhetoric you use with your specific audience makes all the difference in persuading them to take action.

 

How does the site look and feel?

Often, industries have conventional color schemes or styles of design that naturally evolved from the types of people and products found in the industry. Using this shared visual language helps reinforce that you are a part of the industry community.

  • How are colors used? Usually, a site’s colors are dictated by the brand style guide; the color of your competitor’s logo is also probably the primary color on their website. Naturally, you don’t want to copy a competitor’s brand color. Instead, examine the role of color in the design: is the site mostly clean white with a few splashes of color? Are colors bright or muted? Is it a diverse palette or a single brand color? All these questions can help you identify a design that will fit your industry while also standing out from others in your space.
  • What type of imagery is used and how is it presented? Photography and graphics can make or break a design. Make note of the style of photography, subject of the images, and placement on your competitors’ sites. Ask yourself what message the images are conveying and if you want to evoke a similar feeling on your site.
  • Are there any other design flourishes? A polished design often includes icons, textures, and animation to help bring the site to life. While not crucial for usability, these little touches can help bring a design from good to great.
User-Centered Design