Why undertake a competitor analysis on the web?

By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of your direct competitors and other comparables (that is to say companies that operate in the same or similar industries, or even  different industries, but who’s users need to undertake comparable tasks on their websites) a competitor analysis allows you to ensure that you do anything that they do well equally well, or better and that you don’t fall into any of the pit-falls they do.

There are a number of different perspectives to be considered when undertaking a competitor analysis. Competitor analyses can vary from high-level strategic analysis, looking at what strategies companies are currently undertaking and planning to undertake, to more low-level detailed analyses, such as usability evaluations.

Personally I’m more concerned with the low-level usability side of things. I undertake a usability focused competitor analysis on every project I undertake. 

In order to ensure an ‘even playing field’, I undertake a heuristic evaluation, against a set of pre-determined usability criteria I have put together. The heuristic list not only ensures I don’t miss anything, but also that all sites are compared like-for-like. Each of the rules or questions in the evaluation requires a simple Yes or No response, making it easy to assign a concrete value to each analysis.