The Simple Research that Will Help You Leap-frog Your Competition
One of the biggest reasons that companies redesign their websites is so that they can stand out from other websites and draw traffic (and sales!) from their competitors. But how do you make your site impressive enough to leap frog the competition, especially if you have a smaller budget? A little research and planning at the beginning of your website design process goes a long way.
This is Part 4 of my 7-part series on how to create the website you really want, on time and on budget. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve covered so far:
- Step 1 – State your GOAL. The best way to set your website project up for success is to start with the end in mind by considering what you need that website to do. The more specific you are about what you expect to get out of it, the better. And of course, be sure to communicate this to your website developer.
- Step 2 – Identify your AUDIENCE. Before you start building a site, get very specific about who the user is, the customer you’re trying to reach. This will allow you to gear your message around who your customer is and what they are looking for, which will improve the conversion rate of visitors into customers.
- Step 3 – State your MESSAGE. Focus on one key message. This requires discipline that few people exercise, which is why you can use it to set yourself apart.
- Step 4 – List the necessary ELEMENTS. A necessary element is one that will make your website incomplete if it’s not there. Listing these items will give you and your website developer a better sense of what type of website you need.
And now, on to the next step two steps…
Step 5 – Create a MIND MAP
Mind mapping is a brainstorming process where you list things that represent your message. Write down everything that comes to mind, especially visuals. If it’s on your mind, write it down.
You can use a notebook, write on a white board, or type it into your computer notes app – whatever you feel most comfortable with. Some people do their best thinking out loud, so they could record it on an audio recording device using their smart phone or computer.
The idea here is to use your stream of consciousness to discover hidden things that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise that may evoke feeling and communicate with your audience.
Here’s an example: What do you think of when the message is “We have the best price and selection on sports apparel”? It could be something like this:
- discount signs
- % off
- clothing racks…
Visuals are important because they communicate quicker than words do. Showing me a picture of the food on a menu is going to tell me more about whether or not I want it than a list of ingredients would.
Step 6 – RESEARCH designs with similar goals
This step involves looking at other websites for two purposes:
- Sites you want to emulate
- Sites you want to stand out against
I appreciate it when a client sends me websites that they like, especially in their particular industry, because it quickly narrows down the look and feel that the client wants, so I don’t have to try and read the client’s mind (which is time-consuming and frustrating on both sides). And hey, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, right? I can take a look you like and customize it to your company.
Additionally, I always research what my client’s competitors are doing with their websites. My goal here is to see what they are doing well that we can emulate, and also to look for opportunities to do a better job.
People will judge your site based on what they’ve seen at competitor’s sites, so those sites are a good starting point to know what kind of baseline expectations people will have (do all of your competitors have online ordering with free shipping?), and to see where their site is frustrating visitors (difficult to navigate, key info is hard to find, etc.).
You can look at what they are doing in terms of technology, design, and messaging, and come up with strategies to make yours just as good and better.
Is their website slow to load? Make yours the fastest.
Is their shopping cart very user friendly? Make sure yours is too.
Is their homepage cluttered with too much content? Focus your home page copy on one clear message and call to action, with big eye-catching photos in a slider.
Whatever your particular message and audience, there are likely other businesses with similar goals and offerings. Rather than starting from scratch with your website design, take an hour or two now to survey the online landscape you operate in for ideas to emulate and to stand out against.
Get the website design template
That should be enough to keep you moving forward for now… If you’d like to receive my free website design process template that walks you through this process, subscribe here.