23 Jun Why benchmarking is the key to your website’s success
So you want to build a website…
Content marketing. Hosting. UX design. Creating a website means managing a lot of moving parts. The process can be really involved, and since your website is often the first place people will go to interact with your brand, those components can’t be thrown together without a cohesive strategy. So, where do you even begin?
It’s hard to build a site that stands out, but taking a look at your competitors is a good place to start. Known as benchmarking, this is your best bet for creating a web experience that hits all the right notes.
What is benchmarking?
It’s all about taking a look at the features that perform well for competitors and industry leaders, then adapting those features for your own site.
Before you begin:
It’s important to choose some broad criteria to inform your observations. You can benchmark just about any measurable aspect of a website’s performance. The key is to figure out which goals make the most sense for the needs of your business.
Just be sure to always keep user experience in mind. Jakob Nielsen, king of usability and one of the minds behind Nielsen Norman Group, said “Users spend most of their time on other websites…this means that users gear their expectations for your site by what they have learned to expect elsewhere.” While you’re benchmarking, be sure to focus on how the websites actually work because no one is going to stay on a website that’s frustrating to use.
1. Research your competitors
Create a shortlist of websites to review based on site authority and grades on marketing tools like Moz. You can even scan popular industry keywords and scan the top ranking sites for each one. Once you’ve identified some of the best sites in your space, you can start gauging features to get a sense of what makes them perform so well.
As you go through each site, keep comparing what you see to your original criteria and take notes throughout the process. Ask yourself what’s working, consider how you can improve things, and take screenshots for future critiques.
As you’re benchmarking, make an effort to figure out how features work. Check out the forms, buttons, headers, and calls to action. How can you interact with them? Are they easy to use and understand? Can you find the information you want? Great websites tell visitors what they’re looking at so they can decide whether or not they want to stay.
Keep your audience in mind every step of the way. You need to identify the features that will balance your audience’s expectations with the purpose of your site. That means picking apart the platform, plug-ins, CTAs, layout, and all of the other moving parts to see what makes them practical and clear. It’s all about providing context and subtle direction.
This all comes down to how you plan on getting people to your website. When benchmarking a website that has a similar target audience to yours, pay extra attention to traffic and the features that can contribute to it.
You should focus on figuring out which channels your audience likes, then figure out how they can drive traffic back to your website. Are people responding to a blog or social media? Identify potential sources for drawing in traffic to your website, and if consumers often find you via search, consider what keywords you need to incorporate into your site for search engine optimization (SEO).
4. Design and layout
Once you’ve identified features that perform well, dig deeper and try to understand how the design and layout of a competitor’s site are contributing to its performance. A website’s layout creates a visual hierarchy, telling the visitor what to pay attention to at what time. Your job is to uncover that hierarchy and figure out the reason behind the arrangement. Pay careful attention to the look and feel, including images and font sizes to help you find the happy medium between your brand identity and best web design practices.
This part can get pretty manual and qualitative, so you might want to ask an expert eye for help you evaluate.
Putting it all together
Benchmarking is your best bet for making sure your website is up to par, but in the process, make sure you wind up creating a site that also stands out in the crowd. The process should be much more than a game of catch up.
Once you’ve got a sense of where your competitors’ sites are strong and weak, you’ll have a pretty clear picture of the opportunities you have to differentiate and grab attention.
If you’re looking to design a new website or want to give your current site a refresh, our award-winning UX designers have got you covered. We’re always up-to-date on the latest and greatest in web design, and we know how to implement it.