User Test Your Competitor's Website

October 11, 2010
By Robbin Steif

Gourd Competition - Indiana State Championship

Last 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