When I meet with clients to talk about a website project, I usually ask if there is anything they like or dislike about their competitors’ websites. (Mostly I just want to make sure I’m giving the client what they want.)
Their answers are always different, and always interesting. Part of being a Web Designer & Developer includes looking at design trends and conversion data to figure out why certain elements work and others don’t.
Data is everywhere, and the tools to track and collect data are getting better and better. We rely on data to design websites for businesses that improve their chances of gaining new leads.
Understanding why designs succeed or fail helps me show clients how their website ideas might actually hurt their chances of engaging their audience and growing their business.
Don’t Be a Puffy Donut
We’re big donut fans here at Website Muscle. We’re not snobs or anything, but we think the best donuts are the ones that have some substance and flavor when you bite into them.
You know that puffy, sugar sprinkled donut that’s mostly air inside? That one is always left for last because you know, as soon as you pick it up, that there isn’t much to it.
We don’t want your website to be that puffy, air-filled donut. If your website is going to help your business, it needs substance (functionality) and flavor (good design). To create that substance, we like to get to know you and make sure that our ‘recipe’ (ha ha) is a good fit for your company.
Before we start, we want to know:
- Who your target audience is
- Where you get the most online traffic (mobile or desktop)
- What your most popular or profitable service or product is
This type of information actually has a major impact on how I design pages. If you have a product that people love and it’s your biggest seller, we want the user to see that first! A good designer won’t make it difficult for users to find what they need.
Follow the Numbers, Not the Competition
Let’s leave the donuts behind and talk about motorcycles for a minute. Harley-Davidson, one of the most well-known brands in the world, has been in business since 1903. Now, my last name isn’t Harley or Davidson, but I’m pretty sure they haven’t succeeded for 110 years by blandly following what their competitors were doing.
As your website designer, I want to learn from your competitors, but ultimately improve on their choices. We want your company to be seen as ahead of the competition -- in the best possible way, of course.
Trying to copy your competitors’ success by copying their web design may make sense at first, but your competitor’s design might not even be the reason they are succeeding.
An established audience or effective traditional marketing campaign might be powering their online success - and you may not have those assets for your own business yet. Improving on your competitors’ web design with data-driven decisions, however, can give you an advantage of your own.
It’s All About the Data
“Don’t focus on the competition; they’ll never give you money.”
-- Jeff Bezos
My favorite thing about having all of this data to look at is that the numbers never lie. We don’t need to make decisions based on guesses and hope for the best.
We know that a design strategy based on data works better than blindly following a competitor because you think what they are doing is working.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the good things your competitors are doing. That’s why we study design trends in addition to data - there’s no wrong way to learn about improvements in web design.
But when you hire someone to build your website (or anyone else, for that matter) they should be able to explain the reasons for the decisions they make. If there are no justifiable reasons for our choices and we can’t defend our work, clients might feel taken advantage of and we won’t last very long.
Numbers don’t lie, and at the end of the day we want your numbers -- for leads, for sales, for lunch budgets and holiday bonuses -- to go up. By using data to guide website designs for our clients, we can lead businesses toward success instead of just following trends.