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User test your competitor’s website

Gourd Competition - Indiana State ChampionshipLast week, I was at Big Picture Communications , a marketing and research agency here in Pittsburgh.  We talked about their Google Analytics, their SEO and their website in general. And then I showed them one of my favorite tools, usertesting.com.

They *loved* it. (And who wouldn’t?) Fast, inexpensive, great results if you ask great questions. The Big Picture Communications thought process, though, was so interesting.

Thought #1:  “We could do this for our own site.”
Thought #2:  “We could do this for customer sites.”
Thought #3: “We could do this for our (and our customers’) competitors’ sites.”

That last thought is so powerful. SEOs are so smart about gleaning insight into their craft from competitive sites, I wonder why conversion artists don’t do the same? (OK, you do. So go ahead and comment. Would love to hear from you.) Instead of listening to real users say, “I love that widget,” or, “I’ll click, but that’s way too expensive for me,” we rely on our instincts.

Wouldn’t it be great to write a protocol for the target demographic that asks questions like,

  • “What are the three things you love most about this [competitor's] site and why?”
  • “What are the three aspects of this [competitor's] site that you dislike the most or that you found the most difficult to use?”
  • “Would you recommend this site to your friends/colleagues, why or why not?”

Then, instead of Competitor Copy Condition, we’ll have something to test. We might even become Compassionate Contenders, as we learn that users don’t quite love the competition’s site.

Robbin

Robbin Steif

About Robbin Steif

Our owner and CEO, Robbin Steif, is an analyst herself. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association (formerly the Web Analytics Association.)

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2010/10/11/user-test-competitors-website/

2 Responses to “User test your competitor’s website”

Great idea. One of the other things side benefits of multiple site tests is that you can get an insight into things like the relative speed of the site. I know it’s only a single test, but it can certainly make the site’s owners suddenly understand the impact when they witness a real tester waiting.

There’s a UK service like usertesting.com who offer comparisons (they call them benchmarks) as a built-in facility. You specify two sites to test, not one and pay slightly more. I’ve no connection with them apart from using them a couple of times.

They’re at
http://whatusersdo.com/specifytest.php

I wish usertesting would do the same. At the moment we have to send testers to an extra page on our server containing the links to the relevant sites.

Dave says:

Hi Tim. That’s a great suggestion, and we’re adding something like that to UserTesting.com. In the meantime, here’s an example of how you can do this with UserTesting.com:

Assume you manage the RedEnvelope gift site, and you want to be compared against your toughest competitor, Gifts.com. Here’s how you could write the user tester’s task:

Scenario: You need to buy a gift for a friend. You search Google for gifts and find two websites that look promising: http://www.gifts.com and http://www.redenvelope.com.

Task: Use both of these sites to find an appropriate gift for your friend.

Once you have found a good gift on both sites, please answer these two questions:

1) Which site did you prefer?
2) Why? (please explain with examples)