The importance of competitor analysis

Different industries have different website standards.

The expectations for web design work pretty similar to anything else across your business: you’re competing against people who do the same thing that you do.

Let’s break it down into what your business’s purpose is:

1. If you’re selling a product

Businesses who sell will also be using their website, to sell. So that’s the first common web design standard for businesses who are selling a product:

  • Online shopping: it wouldn’t have been possible 30 years ago. In fact, the first secure, online business transaction was done in 1994. Now, we’re lucky enough to have the online market readily available as a business expansion tool.

    If you’re a business selling products in a physical store and looking to build your own website, having an online purchase and payment option is almost a necessity.

  • Mobile optimization: because we shop on our phones, too. This crucial aspect to your web design means that customers can access and browse your website easily on their phones.

    It sounds trivial, but how to design a website that’s compatible on a mobile device is something you should either research thoroughly, or enlist some help for.

  • Securing your site: to give customers the trust to purchase your product. This means getting an SSL certificate to show your website is legitimate. It’s important for any website owner, also, and ensures your site is encrypted and secure.

    Your web design should also have server protection like Firewall, and have password protection requirements. All these aspects are necessary in providing your customers with a safe online shopping experience.

  • Customer reviews: for validation of your product. If your customer is shopping online based purely on pictures and descriptions, genuine customer reviews will help them get a better idea of the product.

    It’s now extremely common, and expected across reputable businesses. Customers want to hear what others say, because it helps them make a decision since they’re not physically viewing the product.

2. If you’re offering a service

  • Online portfolio: to view how your business performs. Customers will often use websites to learn about your service, and the services of other businesses in your industry – they’ll be making their decision on whether to go with you or not.

    This means that providing a portfolio will benefit your chances of attracting that customer, so use it to showcase your strengths. It’s widely used in the web design of businesses that advertise a service, and customers expect to see examples of your work.

  • Forms: to fill out and enquire online. If your service requires information from the customer, having the option to fill out a form and submit it online is a necessity.

    It often goes on the contact page with other information on how to get a hold of your company, but having online form submission is an industry standard to web design that utilizes the efficiency of the internet.

  • Blogs: offering insight to your industry. Many businesses that offer a service will pair their work with information for their audience.

    This is both a way to promote your business and to showcase your knowledge. It’s pretty common to build your own website with a blog incorporated that extends your customers learning experience within visiting your business’s website.

  • Email subscription: where customers can sign up to learn more and receive regular updates on your business. This feature to your online presence should also be advertised on your website, and offered to customers in a visible call to action.

    An email subscription is commonly used across businesses and companies – and since your website is online, it should promote the option to opt in.

3. If you’re educating on a topic

  • Subscription: offering the option to get updates on your posts. If your business is a blog or an educational platform, giving a subscription option will maintain relationships with your customers.

    It’s standard, and expected, to offer this option across a web design that aims to inform.

  • Membership: to gain access to further information. This is becoming more and more common across websites that teach and educate. It gives customers an option to read about your topic for free, or pay money to experience extra benefits.

    Across business that are well established with a large following, it’s very beneficial, and creates an exclusivity that validates the information you’re teaching.

  • Commenting, and Q&A: increasing the interactions with your customers. If you’re going to build your own website to inform an audience, your goals for moving forward will probably include some sort of business expansion.

    To expand your audience you’ll need to interact with them online – and this is what a website allows you to do. It’s very necessary in fulfilling the purpose of a website that informs and educates.

What you need to look for

The best way to get a good idea of what most people in your industry are doing is by competitor analysis and research.

If you’re a bike rental company, you should be looking at the websites of other businesses offering bikes for rent.

Use Google, and see what businesses pop up when you search keywords related to your product or service. They’re probably the ones who are doing it right.

Take a look at how their websites look, and what elements are recurring and consistent across them all.

It’s a good idea to also look out for the following components to their website, and the business’s online presence:

1. Social Media

A website generally has links to other social media platforms the business is active on. This is so customers have easy access to all the information they need about the product, service, or topic.

Most reputable businesses have a presence on social media – if nothing else, it’s used to validate their company.

But there are many online platforms that serve multiple purposes. Finding out what ones are most commonly used across your industry means you’ll get an understanding of where else you might need to expand.

Other widely used platforms you should look at include:

  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Take note of how large their following is, how frequently they’re active, and what they’re promoting.

2. Content

When we talk about content, we’re thinking about exactly what is on their website. This means images, videos, copy, and audio – we’ll delve into how to use them correctly, too.

But when researching the content on your competitors site’s, take special note of their copy and imagery.

Take the time to discover what parts of the business are stressed. In other words, the information that is repeated, and important to mention.

Look out for how their work is showcased:

  • What words are used to describe the business
  • Where they display imagery
  • What the images are

3. Sitemap

A sitemap, is basically the ‘contents page’ of your website – what pages your website includes. When planning to build your own website, you’ll need to get an idea of what pages you’re going to add from the beginning.

Whatever your business’s purpose is, learning what other pages similar companies use will help you learn how to break it up.

  • If you’re selling: look at how other businesses categorize their products
  • If you’re advertising: look at how other businesses showcase their service
  • If you’re educating: look at how other businesses group their topics

4. Design

Your web design is essentially, the interior of your house. There are certain elements that make your visitors feel comfortable – elements that are necessary for a house to host a guest.

A website works the same way. It’s important to get familiar with what sort of web design similar businesses use.

Most designs are simple and functionable, that get your message across clearly. When researching, also look out for:

  • Where logos are positioned
  • Where call-to-actions are placed
  • What the general style is

Knowing how an effective website looks and works, will help you create a great one.

Although it can be difficult to look at your own company without any bias, you have the advantage of being a customer to every other business.

So make sure you’re using that perspective wisely – to learn, and apply your findings to your own business’s web design.

Exceeding the standard

Why meet it, when you can beat it?

Knowing the standard of simple web design across your industry, is a crucial first step in creating your own.

It’s like a stepping stone – you can’t achieve a successful website without already knowing what they include and require.

And as stepping stones go, they lead you further down a path. This extended path however, doesn’t have a guideline.

It’s your own website’s design that is taken beyond the standard, and led by your personal flair and flavour.

But the only way to find your direction with this one, is to take a look at your business, and ask yourself one, crucial question: “What about my business is unique?”

The answer, is exactly what you will put into your website. Your unique qualities can shine through and take your website to the next level in the way you:

  • Deliver your copy
  • Present your images
  • Showcase your brand

When thinking about your business’s strengths, consider:

  • The values of your business
  • The nature of the people you employ
  • The standard of the products you sell
  • The quality of the service you offer
  • What you offer that your competitors don’t
  • How you’re addressing your customer’s problems or pain points

Let your business’ voice lead the way

Even the smallest business should always be meeting the general standard of web design across its industry.

At least knowing what’s expected, will help your business settle into the digital world and start achieving.

You know what you like, and you know what you don’t – that is valuable. It will help you express your business’s voice, and give you a flair that exceeds the normal standards.

It’s safe to say you’ve now got a lot of knowledge behind you.

So pull your sleeves up – it’s time to learn the fine skills of how to design a website.


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