Analyze Your Competitors, Don’t Copy Them: UX Design

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  • 5/14/2019
    As designers at thunder::tech one of our most important jobs is to improve, reimagine and create friendly and inspiring website journeys. Because of this, we focus on how the end user will view and experience the site and how the user will engage with that experience. This “experience” encompases everything; from the moment a user types in a URL to the moment they close their browser, and oftentimes beyond this, they are going through an experience. Our biggest challenge as designers, therefore, is to craft the structure and organization of a site to meet specific goals and get users to perform specific actions to accomplish those goals. 
    Following the structural organization and planning of a website, we add visuals to the layout and style them in ways that evoke specific emotions, represent the brand identity, add flow to the site’s storytelling and are not intrusive to the user. In all, our job is to make the user’s journey easy and enjoyable in a way that also meets our client’s objectives.
    thunder::tech’s Approach and Strategy
    Another approach and strategy to our web process is focusing on our clients’ competitors. At thunder::tech we consider competitor analyses very important, especially when it comes to using them as a learning experience for both ourselves and our clients. A misconception we often hear, however, is, “This is what our competitors are doing, so we should be doing the same thing.” But this isn’t true.
    Just because your competitor is doing it, doesn’t mean you should.

    If you’re thinking about copying your competitor, first consider why you want to copy them. Is it because you had an incredible experience on their site? Is there an industry standard or consistency that they do particularly well? Is the site flashy and “modern?” Are you out of ideas internally? 
    Whatever it may be, knowing the reason(s) behind why you might make a specific request can help both UX and visual designers plan, review and implement those requests. However, making changes based on your competition and their perceived success can be counterproductive to your end goal. Mimicking a design, terminology or an experience - without being 100% certain it is correct - can set you back, cost more and might not even solve your business’ goals. UX and visual designers take many variables into consideration when designing a site, each crafted with a specific business goal, conversion or visual strategy in mind. Trying to work a competitor’s designs and ideas into our strategies, however small they might seem, affect the end product we deliver. After all, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to design. Every site strives to be as sleek as Apple or as robust as Amazon, but very few companies actually have the resources to accomplish it.
    Stand Apart from the Competition 
    Instead of trying to blend in with the competition, we want to focus on what sets you apart and what works best for your customers in a way that also accomplishes your company goals. Your customers are expecting an impactful, easy-to-use experience tailored around your branding and messaging, but with their goals in mind at the same time. So, a site built with bits and pieces of competitor sites (what we at t::t have dubbed a “frankensite”) will not serve you or your customers well. 
    At thunder::tech, part of our motto is to “invent the future,” and we take great pride in that. Rather than following what a competitor has implemented, we want your site to become the benchmark that others strive to copy. We understand there are standards that should remain consistent across industries, but apart from using the correct jargon, miming the competition will not help you stand out in the crowd. As we always say, we don’t design websites for our clients, we design websites for our clients’ customers.
    Our goal is that at the end of the day, your customers are thanking you, your business goals are met and, if we’re lucky, we’re there to help you along the way.
    Want to know more about how we can help you with user experience and website design? Contact us today!
    About the author::This blog was a joint effort by Jay Mazzone and Joe Cola. 

    Jay Mazzone is a User Experience Designer at thunder::tech. He creates sitemaps and wireframes, conducts user research and keeps his finger on the pulse of the UX world to deliver the best possible experience for clients and users alike. When he’s not at the office, you can find him at a microbrewery, vibin’ with friends and family or at the ballpark. He still calls it "the Jake."

    Joe Cola, who sadly has no connection to the world famous brand, Coca-Cola, is a graphic designer at thunder::tech. When he isn't designing, Joe loves going to the zoo or the metroparks. He also considers himself a "dinosaur expert."
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