Competitor Analysis: Benefits and Dangers in Web Design

March 14, 2018

Ian Philip Thompson

Ian is the founder of Arias & Thompson Digital, an Estonian eResident, and a frontend developer.

We recently worked with a client to redesign and redevelop their corporate website and, as part of all of our projects, we were tasked with conducting market research to see where they stood in relation to their known competitors. While conducting competitor analysis is important, there are benefits some dangers that you should be aware of.

The Benefits of Using a Competitor Analysis

Knowing what your direct competitors are up to is business and marketing 101. You can learn how to get a competitive edge, gain insights on pricing, as well as identifying gaps that no one else is filling. Specifically for web design, it can provide you with some valuable information as to what technology your competitors are using, what features they have employed and the level of engagement and interactivity that you need to meet and, hopefully, surpass. Additionally it can help you reinforce industry standards making it easier for your customers to find you online.

The Dangers of Relying too much on your Competitor Analysis

In web design, there are a few clear dangers that many fall into when it comes to studying competitor designs. The first and foremost is copying or plagiarism. Intentionally or not, the more you focus on your competitors, the closer your new design will come to them. It’s important to chart your own path and carve out your own creative space regardless of what you might have observed in your analysis.

What to Include in your Competitor Analysis

When you start looking at your competitors’ websites, it’s advisable to start with sections you want to cover and come up with metrics that are meaningful given the context of your website. We normally include the following sections in a competitive marketing analysis:

  1. Technical Overview

    What CMS are your competitors using? How about hosting? This is the area where you get to know the systems your competitors are using. Focus here on what you can learn from them, especially if you are new to the digital world. Every time we conduct market research for clients of this type we learn something new that we can later implement where appropriate.
  2. Speed and Optimization

    The faster the page load, the better the user experience, and now the better the search results. Knowing this information can help you benchmark your own site speeds and optimization to gain a competitive edge over your competitors.
  3. SEO

    What keywords are your competitors targeting? Have they optimized all of their pages or just specific landing pages? This is where you can identify gaps to target with your own SEO or SEM strategies to bring in traffic.
  4. Social Media Integration

    Are your competitors using any particular API to enhance their users’ experience? Have they implemented Open Graph and Twitter Card metadata successfully? This is all about competitive edge and benchmarking. Remember that context is key here. Not every website needs enhanced social media sharing functionalities or social embeds.
  5. Style

    Are your competitors using modern styles? Are they relying on Bootstrap’s UI? This is less about what style they have but what style they don’t. You are looking to differentiate yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of copying your competitors. Be vigilant!
  6. Content What we like to do is look at what industry standard information that different competitors include on their website as a norm. This is normally indicative of items that should be on the website we are working on. It should also help you identify other areas to cover with your own content that is missing from your competitors.
  7. Website Features

    This section is all about interactivity and engagement. Are your competitors offering something new and innovative? Is this something you need to be worry about in terms of customer retention? When you are designing your new website you want to create your own user experience, so just make sure not to adopt functionality that does not fit into that experience.

If none of this post makes sense to you, or you are looking to get started on your own website, get in touch with us and see how we can help your organization or small business conduct an efficient and engaging competitive analysis of your competitor websites.