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Designing a New Website? Check Out the Competition First

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When you decide to start a new website, it’s always tempting to jump in with both feet first and to get it up and indexed as quickly as possible. But if you take a little while to take stock, the end result can be both pleasing and effective.

For designers, the greatest temptation is festooning a new website with all the latest bells and whistles. But it’s important to remember that not every web concept will be suited to an all-Flash format with an animated menu. You not only have to think about the audience, you also have to think about the content and how it is best displayed within the design format chosen for it.

Looking at websites that are already operating in the area you hope to target can be a useful tool, both in terms of showing you how most companies in the sector present themselves and also providing you with ideas for your own website. Don’t be afraid to emulate the elements that you admire and incorporate them into your own design. By the same token, make a note of any features you hate, or that are ineffective. You want your website to be fit for purpose while also being as attractive to visitors as possible.

When you do visit rivals’ websites, make a note of the features that are most useful to customers. Is a site easy to navigate? Can you find all the information you need without difficulty? Does it load quickly without chewing up your RAM? Are there any features in particular that are especially alluring or distracting? All of these are questions whose answers will provide you with guidance and inspiration when you begin the design for your own website.

If you’d like to start a website or blog and want to compare yourself to other Kenyan¬† or African websites, the best place to start is Afrigator. The site allows you to search by topic or by country, and you can then visit sites to inspect their designs. For a more international outlook, you can do a generalist search on Google’s Blog Search, which will list the most relevant blogs in addition to blog posts which include your search terms. Take your time to explore all the websites and blogs in your target niche in detail. The design process will be much easier and coherent if you have a clear idea of what you want the site to look like.

Before starting this blog, we had been running surveillance on a number of Kenyan blogs for over eight months. In addition to the design elements used, we also tracked the frequency of posts, which blogging platforms were used, whether or not they carried advertisements, and other bits and pieces that we deemed pertinent. As it was, we launched much earlier than we felt ready, and used a ready-made template, but rest assured that if we move to our own domain, we know exactly what we want to do.

[Image by PracticalOwl]

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2 Comments

  1. Ssembonge says:

    I disagree. Suit your website to fit your end-user rather than mimic/imitate the competition.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Of course you should tailor your website to fit the end-user, but the fact is, you also need to take your competitors into account.

    I’m not talking about ripping off somebody’s CSS wholesale. But if they’re using a bunch of unnecessary scripts (a real bugbear of mine) or too much Flash (another) that slows down site functionality, you can take this into account when you’re designing your own website.

    Similarly, if the most popular website in the niche you’re targetting offers a particular feature that seems very popular with users, it makes sense to try and incorporate this into your site design so that users are more likely to use your site rather than somebody else’s.

    The end-user should always be foremost in site design, but it doesn’t make any sense not to have a look at what similar websites are doing. After all, they’re already up and running, while you’re still designing a site. Right?

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