Table of Contents
Competitor analysis can be a valuable tool in redesign process. Unfortunately, this tool is often either neglected or not used properly. It is time to fix this issue. This article will teach you all you need to know to use this tool right. With this knowledge you will be able to conduct competitor analysis in a way that will improve your redesign process and its results.
The Website Redesign Process – How to Redesign Like a Pro part 1.
The Website Redesign Process – How to Redesign Like a Pro part 3.
The Website Redesign Process – How to Redesign Like a Pro part 4.
The Website Redesign Process – How to Redesign Like a Pro part 5.
Do you remember all the things we discussed in the first part, about analyzing the website of our client? Well, we will analyze the same elements we were curious about there here as well. The first thing to do is to analyze the first impression the website we picked creates. We have to ask ourselves on what emotions and feelings it evokes. And, we have to be very specific.
This is a very important. If we really want to use any of the information we get from this analysis, we have to very very specific about, well, everything. Also, it is not enough to just notice the feelings and emotions the website evokes. We also have to look for why it evokes these specific emotions and feelings. We always have to search for the root cause.
Structure and layout
Next step is reviewing, or analyzing, the overall structure and layout of the website. Is the website clear? Are elements distributed in some specific pattern (Z-pattern, F-pattern, etc.). If so, which one it is? Do you think this pattern is the best choice for this type of website? Would you use it, or would you use a different one? Will you use it for your redesign project?
How user-friendly is the website? Is there something, such as popup, that prevents you from any action when you land on the page? What about the navigation? Does it make sense? Are all links easy to read and understand? Do you miss some links? Or, do you think some links are redundant? If so, which one and why? Remember, always look for reasons for your judgments.
What about the layout of the content? Can you recognize what grid layout the website uses? Is this grid used consistently across the website? If not, do you think that these “deviations” have a purpose? Are these deviations making the layout better or worse? Does the website include a footer? If so, what links does it contain? Do you miss any links? Or some links redundant?
What about some “special” elements? Is there a slider or carousel? If so, how usable does it seem to you? Is it making your experience better, or is it making it worse? Why? What about elements that capture your attention? Are there any? If so, are these elements distractive or not? Why? Remember to look at the structure and layout as a whole as well as a sum of details.
Now, to the content itself. Is it both, readable as well as legible? Is the font size, leading and line and letter spacing appropriate? What do you think about the typeface? What feelings and emotions does it evoke? Is it the best choice? Would you choose a different typeface for this type of website? Would you consider the typeface used here as one of the options for your redesign?
Think about what is the specific reason for either using or not using this specific typeface? Is it a good choice because it is readable and legible? Or is it bad because it negatively impacts readability or legibility of the content, or both? What about the content itself, is it appropriate? Is it the content, or type of content, you were looking for? Why?
Is it the content rather a long-form or short-form? How digestible is the content? Is the text too dense? Meaning, is it too technical, hard to understand for user who may have only basic or no understanding of the subject? When you consider the target audience of this type of website, is the level of knowledge required to understand the text an obstacle?
Point of view
This is a good thing to keep in mind. We have to always consider the target audience when we analyze any website. Some websites may seem too complex, the content too technical and hard to understand. However, this may not be an issue if the target audience of the website has this level of knowledge. For example, pages for healthcare professionals will be more technical than others.
In other words, when we analyze any website, we need to adjust our point of view. One approach never fits all situations. We have to always customize our analysis. Sometimes, it might be necessary to skip analyzing some parts or elements, because these elements just don’t exist on that type of website. Or, the opposite might be true. We will need to include some additional elements.
A website from financial industry, such as website for a bank or stock broker, will be different from a web site from a different industry, such as the healthcare service we mentioned above. The same is true about a website focused on education, food and cuisine, politics, news, entertainment, sports and so on. And, the same is also true about type of the website.
E-commerce website will be different from a landing page, blog, news feed, some kind of a listing, gallery, magazine, portfolio and so on. All these types will require us adjust our analysis either just slightly or more. I know that this sounds like a common sense. However, it is easy to forget these differences when we move from one redesign project to another.
Is competitors analysis necessary?
Is doing competitors analysis necessary? No it is not. We can skip it if we want. However, what is actually necessary? Delivering working redesign? Questionable. We can decide to not to deliver, if we are willing to deal with the consequences. This is a wrong question as nothing is really necessary. Is competitors analysis beneficial? Yes, it is.
One benefit of doing competitor analysis is that it can help us tune our creativity. Meaning, it will give us a better picture of what material we are working with. We will see what is usual, common and also expected by users in that particular industry. As a result, we will increase the chance that our redesign will work and help our client meet her and project’s goals.
Another benefit is that it can also help us see and understand what others are doing that is working. This can help us find out ideas we may want to try in our redesign project. We can adopt some of the tried and tested practices and build upon them. The opposite is also true. Competitor analysis can show us the wrong things others are doing, the things we have to avoid.
Third potential benefit is that we will see what our client expects from the project, more or less. If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. What people think and expect is usually limited by what they know, what they already saw. This means that client’s expectation for the redesign will be influenced by existing websites of her competitors.
This is both, good and bad news. It is good because we will have a better picture what reactions we can expect from our client. And, it is bad because our client may reject our redesign because it is too bold, audacious, unusual. We can quite well estimate the probability of this happening by looking at the examples for inspiration our client gave us.
The more conservative the examples are, the higher is the probability our client may reject our redesign. However, keep in mind that is not a rule that is set in stone, so to speak. It may work and may not. Also, our client may actually want something bold and audacious. In that case, we should be grateful for it. This opportunity doesn’t show up as often.
So, is competitor analysis necessary? No, not at all. Is it beneficial? Yes, it can improve your redesign process and its results. Should you do it? This is up to you to decide.
Where to look for examples to analyze?
Let’s say that you decided to conduct at least a quick competitor analysis. A follow-up question is, what are some ways to find a few examples we can analyze. My first suggestion is to start with our client and other stakeholders. These are the people who have, or should have, some idea about what other websites might be a good fit for our analysis.
A quick word of caution. We have to keep in mind that our client, as well as other stakeholders, has certain assumptions and personal preferences and tastes. What I mean is that we should always take the suggestions we get from our client and other stakeholders with some reserve. We should never work solely with these suggestions and bet everything on them.
When we take a look at the suggestions, we will see that not even one example is usable for our analysis and redesign. This can happen. It can also happen, although very unlikely, that our client and other stakeholders will not have any suggestions for examples. Again, this is very unlikely to happen. You will usually get at least one or two websites.
Another way to find examples to analyze is by using search engines. And, not only Google. Use also Bing, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo and even Baidu. When we conduct a competitor analysis, diversity of examples is very important. Search for websites that are in the same industry as our client. And, focus primarily on those websites that are in top positions.
Why top positions? Although it might be useful to learn from the average or even the very bad, learning from the best usually works better. We are looking for examples of websites that are already successful. We want to find the highest-quality material. This is usually easier when we work primarily with the websites listed in the top results.
Another potentially useful way, or place, to find material to analyze are web galleries. The most well-known are Dribbble and Behance. Again, a quick word of caution. It is a bad idea to bet everything on these and other web galleries. And, it is also a bad idea to use these galleries as our primary source of material for our competitor analysis. Why?
The reason is simple. Many designs presented on these websites are built for the eye. They are the result of “pushing pixels” for the sake of it. It doesn’t matter how usable and user-friendly the design actually is. Or, how good or bad the user experience is. Or, if any of them work. Well, many of the examples don’t even exist. All that matters is how they look.
So, should we rather stay away from web galleries? This question is a bit hard to answer. Web galleries will not give us any data about usability and user experience. We can’t test those examples on our own and see how well or poorly do they work. All we have are just pictures, pictures often created for the sake of catching attention and getting “likes” and “shares”.
I think that the best answer is that it depends. If we find some examples with link to a real website or at least a working demo, yes we may use it as a material for competitor analysis. Otherwise, it will be better to stick to examples of real websites. We can use web galleries later in later stages of the redesign when we will look for design inspiration.
How many examples to analyze?
A question we should briefly discuss is, how many examples should we analyze? Is it better to use more examples? Should we stick to a smaller number? I think that a good range is 3-9. Below three is too low because this amount will not provide us with sufficient data. Above nine is too high because it will take a lot of time, time we can use in other stages of redesign.
Competitor analysis is only one stage of redesign process, a small one. And, as we discussed, it is not even necessary. It is just useful and beneficial to do. We should not spend too much time on it. Competitor analysis will not take us to the finish of the redesign. So, choose 3-9 examples, analyze them, learn from the data and then move on to the next stage of redesign process.
Word of caution
One last thing. We have to remember what is the real goal of competitor analysis. It is not looking for ways how we can copy the competitor, and redesign the website so it looks similar. That basically mean doing a redesign for the sake of it, changing the design. This would, in turn, invalidate one of the conditions for redesign we discuss in previous part.
Let’s always keep this in mind. The main goal of competitor analysis is never to find out what or how to copy the website of one of the competitors. It is rather about getting insights and understanding the industry, seeing what is already out there, what we are working with, what works and what doesn’t.
Closing thoughts on website redesign
We are on the end of the second part of this mini series dedicated to redesign. Today we focused on how to conduct competitor analysis in a way that will benefit our redesign process. We discussed what we should analyze in the terms of the structure and layout. Then, we talked about what to pay attention to when it comes to the content of the website.
After that, we turned our orientation to general topics, such as the importance of considering target audience, industry and that every competitor analysis will be different. Next, we discussed whether competitors analysis is necessary and what are some of its benefits. Finally, we talked about where to look for examples to analyze and how many to pick.
I hope that you enjoyed this part and that you’ve learned something you can use right away. What will be the subject of the next part? It will be primarily one very important stage of redesign process. This stage is user interviews. I am looking forward to seeing you here. Until then, thank you for your time and have a great day!
Do you have any questions, recommendations, thoughts, advice or tip you would like to share with other readers of this blog, and me? Great! Please share it in a comment. Or, if you want to keep things more "private", feel free to contact me on twitter or send me a mail. I would love to hear from you.
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