Design Tips for Comparison Websites

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With so much of information available on the internet, it has become exceedingly difficult to shop around for products and services. For every single industry, there are hundreds of thousands of companies presenting their offerings on the internet. And because of the plethora of offers available, it can become quite difficult to navigate through the web to figure out which product or service you wish to buy.

Because of this massive ocean of information, there has been a mushrooming of comparison websites. These websites collate data from the internet for you.

Now, if you want to create a comparison website that is specific to your industry, but you don’t know how to go about designing one, then here are a few tips to help your website stand out above the rest.

Considered vs. Non-Considered Purchases

Before you even set about designing your comparison website, you need to decide whether the products or services you will be comparing will be worthwhile to your target audience.

There are certain products that most customers will not compare. These are called Non-Considered Purchases. So, if your target audience is just looking for small purchases such as socks, batteries, and other such low-cost items, then a comparison website is a waste of time.

On the other hand, if your target audience is looking for higher cost products and/or services such as cars, refrigerators and so on, then they would like to see price and product comparisons. This are big-ticket items and most people would like to ensure that they have done their homework well before they spend their hard-earned money on such a product.

So, the first question you need to ask is: Is creating a comparison website worth the effort for the products you are targeting?

Choosing Your Niche

Once you have decided that creating a comparison website is worth the effort, then you need to choose your niche. There are already so many comparison websites on the internet today that your website needs to do something really interesting to get target shoppers to use your website.

The best way to do this is to choose an interesting niche. For example, there are plenty of very good car comparison websites on the internet. So, if you decide to create a website of your own, what is going to make you stand out? Something different.

One piece of advice we have here is this – if GoCompare has already created a comparison of the product or service you’re looking at, then it is best to find another subject.

Another example: If you wish to join an online casino, then you can go to websites such as Casinofy to figure out which online gaming hub will be best for you. Such websites now exist for pretty much every single industry there is.

Choosing Your Comparison Model

Once you have chosen the niche you wish to create a comparison website for, then you need to decide on the kind of comparison model you wish to use.

Are you looking at creating a price-comparison website? Or maybe one that compares features? Or it could even be based on reviews and customer feedback.

Before you decide on the kind of model you are going to use, it is best to carry out extensive research. Find out what kinds of comparisons your competitors are showing. And most importantly, look for comparisons that have not yet been covered, but would be something that could help buyers make more informed decisions.

Let us give you an example. The construction industry is huge – and traditional. However, one of the biggest complaints that customers have there is no transparency about the pricing structures offered by the companies. Therefore, creating a comparison website focused on prices in the construction sector would be a niche and would give you an edge over other websites in the same industry.

Sourcing Reliable Data

This is the most critical part of creating a comparison website. Before you can even get to the data collation stage, you need to decide which factors you will consider for your comparison website.

Let’s give you an example to make things a little clearer. Say you are planning to make a comparison website on women’s shoes. You will then need to collect data on the styles of shoes available, the colors, the shoe sizes, and the prices. Of course, you need to ensure that these attributes that you have chosen are Relevant. It's no use having a website where the attributes you have chosen are not what your consumer is looking for. This is the easy part of the data collection process.

Then comes the next step. After you have zeroed in on the fields, you need to get the data itself. There are two ways in which you can do so:

  • You can get in touch with the manufacturer or supplier and request them for the data, or,
  • You can use a web-scraping service to get the data off the internet.

It is important to remember that for your comparison website to be successful, you need to have consistent and well-structured data.

But that is easier said than done. Getting your data from all the suppliers is sometimes a herculean task. You will see numerous comparison website that have displayed comparison tables, but the data is incomplete. These are the websites that people end up skipping!

A lot of times, suppliers and manufacturers are not too forthcoming with this information or they don’t have the information in the format in which you need it. Therefore, by default, you will end up having to use a web scraper to get the details you are looking for. To be able to do so, you will need an efficient web-crawling software. But that also is not a guarantee of success.

So, what should you do if you are unable to get complete comparison information? Instead of creating the tradition comparison table, it would be a better idea to inform the searcher that a product comparison is not possible since data for some of the products is not available.

At this point you can add links to relevant stand-alone product review pages. While this is not the ideal solution, it is better than presenting incomplete information.

Presenting the Attributes

The most important part of your website is the data. And so, the way you present it is critical to the success of your site. Here are just a few of the things you should keep in mind when presenting attributes and data.

  • Technical Jargon

While designing your comparison website, it is important to remember that sometimes, using the technical terms for an attribute may not be a good idea. Most of us don’t know the technical jargon related to a product.

What could be a better idea would be to give practical applications or to translate technical jargon into language that most of us would understand. This is something that Amazon does very well.

For example, for a power bank, instead of using technical jargon, Amazon has used simple terms that we – as the average consumers – will understand. Its attributes include the number of iPhone 6 charges and the number of Samsung S6 charges.

  • Other Types of Comparison Lists

The technical specs are not the only things you need to present when creating a comparison chart. You can use the advantages and disadvantages of each product, customer reviews segregated into positives and negatives, similarities, prices and so on.

There are tons of ways in which you can display your data. The point is, it should be data that will be appealing to your target audience and it should be simple to understand and easily readable. Spec sheets are simply not enough if you wish to create a comparison website that is world class.

  • Grouping Attributes

A good way to present attributes is to group them together in classes. There are many products that can have 70 to 80 attributes (take digital cameras, for example!). In such cases, it is best to group them into bit sized pieces with drop down options for customers who want more details.

For example, you can easily break down attributes by adding headings such as Show Only Differences. Most buyers want to know the differences between the products they are considering and are not interested in going through the entire list of attributes.

You can also add other options of comparing specific attributes of a set of products. These design options give users a chance to slide and dice the data the way they want.

At the end of the day, you have a data set that contains all the attributes. But when you design the display, you add drop downs and other features that give your users the flexibility to assess products the way they are most comfortable.

  • Color Coding the Comparisons

Another great way to highlight the attributes, ratings, and so on is by color-coding them. However, we need to warn you that this tool needs to be used with caution. If you use too much color, it could end up making your product comparisons look untidy or – even worse – unreadable.

  • Using Floating Headers

When you’re building a comparison chart or table, it is best to use a floating or a sticky header. When you have tons of attributes being compared between products, it’s difficult to keep track of which attribute belongs to which product. Having a sticky header that allows you to scroll down and check the attributes while also keeping the product model, name, etc. in sight makes comparisons much easier.

The names of the products can be placed above the attributes (as the header) or below the attributes (footer) and in many other ways. But the most logical way to present them is at the top as a header. It’s the easier way for customers to read the comparisons and less stressful to work out. A great example of this is how Sony has used sticky headers for its product comparisons.  

Deciding on Revenue Streams

If you are going to the trouble of creating a comparison website, then you also need to find ways to monetize the effort. Today, most comparison websites make their money through affiliate programs, commissions from suppliers or even by creating advertising space on their pages.

You need to think this step of the process through carefully. Here are a couple of options you can look at:

  • Does the supplier offer an affiliate program that you can sign up for? This way you get a commission for each sale that your website generates.
  • You can strike a deal with each supplier separately and have them pay you a commission for every sale or lead that they get from your website.
  • Consider offering a free trial period. It is wise to remember that with so many websites on the internet, creating a website is not difficult. Getting it off the ground is. So, one way to woo suppliers into giving you their data is by offering free trial periods. Therefore, you can offer them a set period during which they get free leads from your website.
  • If you’re planning to use advertisements on your website, then how many will you allow? How will they be placed? Will they go with the content that you have on your website?

Tip: Monetizing your website should not be your priority. Your priority should be making your website popular, which means ensuring that the web design, the data presentation, the quality of the data and so on are on point. Once you have higher traffic on your website, then you can think about monetizing it.

Final Thoughts

When designing your comparison website, there is a lot of work that goes into it. Data is a precious commodity, so don’t expect to get it for free. You can make deals with various suppliers, but a lot of the time, you will have to source the data on your own. And this can be expensive.

So, make sure that you have a budget planned for your website. On average, creating a solid, fully loaded comparison website can cost anywhere from $20k to $50k.