This blog originally appeared on Whittington Consulting’s Online Results blog.
There are a number of legitimate ways to approach a website redesign. Many companies start with customer and website design trend research, as well as taking a look at how the technical side of website design has changed over the years.
But when the time comes to start a website redesign, there’s one more secret we want to clue you in on: you can learn an awful lot about your customer, your industry, and what your website redesign needs by looking at your competitor’s website.
This isn’t a suggestion for fly-by-night copying. Far from it, this is an opportunity to use your competitor’s website to help you narrow down your likes, dislikes, and insights and create a website that is even better than the one you have now.
Ready to analyze? Here are four questions you can ask yourself to glean valuable insights from your competitor’s website:
What do you like and dislike about your competitor’s website?
Many aspects of a website redesign shouldn’t be up to your opinion. After all, you want to meet the needs of your target audience, right?
Specific colors, frequency of blog posts, and placement of calls-to-action are targeted marketing tools that need to abide by the best practices of current marketing science.
However, some things are up for your discretion. And that can be a very powerful feeling… but only if you know what you like. Instead of making decisions based on a general theory of what you like and don’t like in website design, take a look at your competitor’s website to see it in real life and register your initial reaction.
Things you should pay attention to are particular color themes (your company style guide may define these for you, but you may have some leeway), helpful visitor features, styles of photos, styles and types of buttons, treatment of social media, and so on.
By perusing your competitor’s website, you can make a list of these details that rub you the right or wrong way and make educated decisions about your design options. What are the things that you know your competitor is doing right? Wrong?
What’s missing from your website now?
The second reason you should tour your competitor’s website before you move forward with a website redesign is that you often don’t know what you’re missing until you see it somewhere else. Viewing someone else’s ideas and approaches in a new context can help you identify things that you want to improve on your own website.
For example, you might be trying to get more email newsletter signups, and you noticed that your competitors seem to grow their lists without a problem. Go and find out what they’re doing and see if it sparks any ideas for you. Sign up for their newsletter. Evaluate where they list the signup opportunities, how they tout it on their website, and how frequently they send updates.
Don’t copy what they’re doing, but use their websites to get a feel for how other companies are doing it and to inspire new ideas for how you can use it, too. What things do you need to add to your website to make it a useful resource for your prospective customers?
What do your customers want and not want?
Your competitor’s website can act as your R&D if you pay careful attention. They have a similar target market, a similar product or service, and they might be constantly trying out new things.
Keep an eye on how their website changes over time for clues to how their website is working for them — and for their customer. Do you see any particular promotions that resonate with customers in the form of social media engagement and sales? Or do you see things that fall flat? These are all signs that these strategies might (or might not) work for you. What changes have you noticed with your competitor’s website over time? Why do you think those changes were made?
How does their site compare to yours?
Finally, you can get a customer’s first-person view of how your competitor’s website compares to yours by user testing your competitors’ websites for design ideas. This is a great (and legal) way to do a little espionage and find how your competitor’s website meets the needs of your customers in a way that yours doesn’t… Or vice versa.
In the end, you get high-quality intelligence about the performance both your website and your competitor’s, and you can use this information to inform your website redesign.
You can also use Grader.com to “grade” both your website and your competitor’s website. Using this free tool, you can compare your websites on a number of criteria and learn where your website might be deficient.
How do you think your ideal customer would react to your company website and your competitor’s website side by side?
Are you preparing for a website redesign? Do your competitive research and use these ideas to make sure your final website exceeds your customer’s needs… Using your competitor’s website for ideas!
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