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How to do a competitive analysis UX?

You're considering a new project, and you need to know what your competitors are doing. It would be best to do a competitive analysis, as it can help you create a better product.

12 April, 2022
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When launching a new project, there soon comes a realization - you're not alone in the market. Some people and companies (i.e., your competitors) offer products or services with the same or similar value, and you must thoroughly research them to create an even better product and gain invaluable insight. One of the more important targets of such research is user experience. You might be wondering now - how to do a competitive analysis UX that will actually help you improve your product's design? Hop on the Merge train, and we'll show you the way.

What is competitive analysis in UX?

A competitive analysis is an in-depth look at your competitors and their products. UX designers are constantly researching the competition to find out what other companies are currently doing regarding trends and strategies and how their products are performing to stay ahead of the game. The primary focus is on features other products offer - which are more popular with customers and offer a better user experience.

The UX competitor analysis also offers practical insight into how your competitors are solving their customer problems, how they are implemented through front-end development, and what users value most when it comes to usability and experience. It is a valuable tool for understanding how to improve the design of your product, and it can also be used as an early-stage strategy for SaaS design and development.

The competitive analysis research aims to determine what customers want from your product or service and whether you're meeting those needs well enough to keep them coming back.

Competitive analysis in UX can help you identify gaps between your competitors and what you offer so that you know how to better position yourself for success.

Benefits of competitive analysis in design

The benefits of conducting a UX competitor analysis can be tremendous. To get an edge on your competition, you need to understand who your competitors are, how they present themselves, and what their products offer users. Besides, it's always a show of good business sense to know what your competitors are up to, especially if they are one of your leading rivals.

The benefits of conducting a UX competitor analysis involve:

  • Understanding where and how your competitors are excelling in their products or services;
  • Getting unique insights into their design;
  • Learning about their design processes and best UI practices;
  • Evaluating the usability of the competing products;
  • Setting benchmarks for future product development.

The information from this research is then used to make more informed decisions regarding usability, UI design, and user experience.

How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis in UX Step by Step

The main goal of this process is to find out early on in the product design process what you should focus on based on your competitors' UX decisions and how they got there. These six steps below will give your competitive analysis a more definitive structure.

Step 1 Perform research on your competitors

The first step is to research the current market situation - who are your competitors? What are they doing in terms of UX design solutions?

Find the key players in your industry. You need to identify your competitors, even those you don't yet know about. You'll want to determine the direct competition and see who else might compete in the same market.

Create a list of the competitors. Then divide them into two groups: direct and indirect competitors. Direct competitors are those companies that offer the same product or service as yours; indirect competitors are those who sell a similar product or service but not exactly the same. For example, if you're trying to figure out how to do the competitive analysis for an e-signature SaaS, you might put DocuSign in one group and other similar services in the other.

Competitor analysis illustration
Competitor analysis illustration

Gather information about them:

  • What are their objectives?
  • What are the products or services they offer?
  • Who are their target markets?
  • What content do they produce?

Define a set of criteria for measuring performance. This should include identifying all the competitors relevant to your business goals and defining clear objectives for the project.

Step 2 Compare products

Startups who know how popular SaaS products are because of their business advantages might decide to build their own. Clearly, the competition is high. Determine how your competition positions itself against a similar commodity.

Analyze their products. Make sure to understand what they're selling, who they're targeting, and how they're different from what your company's product is offering. This will give you insights on what to provide customers with and where to focus your design.

After that, create a list of features, benefits, pricing points, and other relevant information about their competitors to compare it against their product. And measure how each competitor performs against those criteria.
You may have a similar product, but it could be made better by adding features they don't have or taking out unsuccessful ones. For example, if you're creating a website, review your competitors' websites for any unique features that might not be present on your site. This includes anything from an interactive widget, SaaS UX navigation, something visually appealing on the homepage, or a new layout we may want to implement.

Step 3 Evaluate the competition

The next step is figuring out what other companies are doing well and where they are failing. To do that, check their user reviews, assess their overall tone and design crux points, test their customer service, review their user journey, etc.

After that, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses against your own so that you clearly understand your position in relation to them, both from an objective standpoint and from the perspective of the customer or end-user. Use the flaws of your competition to positively stand out from the crowd.

Step 4 Create a competitive analysis matrix

The SWOT analysis is a simple competitive analysis matrix. You can use it to determine your and your competitors' internal - strengths (S), weaknesses (W), and external factors - opportunities (O), and threats (T).

List everything you think they are doing well, what could have been done better, and most importantly, how you can leverage these design insights for your product. You will need to consider the following:

  • What are they doing well?
  • What could they do better?
  • What are their most significant challenges?
  • How can you exploit these challenges?
  • Are there any opportunities that you can take advantage of?
SWOT Analysis template
SWOT Analysis template

Step 5 Analyze the data gathered

Take the information from the previous steps and identify critical areas you need to improve to successfully compete with others. Develop a strategy. A properly formed plan will help you one-up your competitors' strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses to achieve market dominance.

Identify opportunities currently existing in your industry to set a more profitable path for your product or service, along with being aware of the threats that come with the territory. For example, if one competitor has a great website with interesting content but a poor mobile app, you might want to focus on improving your mobile app to assert your market position.

Step 6 Implement competitor analysis in future design

Now that you have completed the previous five steps of competitive analysis, it's time to implement your plan. Regularly monitor your performance against the plan's objectives to make necessary adjustments. Be sure to keep an eye on your competitors' actions as well since their strategies may change with time, and you need to be in the loop as to why it happened and what will result from their decisions.

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UX competitive analysis template

UX designers constantly use a variety of competitive analysis frameworks in the form of ready-made or custom tools, methods, and models to effectively compare products and design decisions. They can look at data from Google Trends, Apple's App Store rankings, or usage statistics to understand what users search for and interact with on their product.

The type of competitor analysis method you should use will depend on your goals for the project. Want to know what users think about your app's design or usability? Then you would need a qualitative competitor's analysis, but if you're trying to find out who your competitors are in terms of market share or revenue generated by similar products/services, then a quantitative study will be your first choice.

Yet the best overall place to start if you want to form an initial opinion is the competitors' websites. Many tools can be used to gather information about what their site looks like, how it functions, and their products and services offered - from simple web crawlers like Google's PageRank, which show how many inbound links websites have, to more sophisticated tools that provide insights into their search engine optimization strategy.

Process competitive analysis
Process competitive analysis

To sum up, the methods that can be used in the UX competitive analysis are:

  • Website crawling. This involves automatically visiting websites to gather information about them. You can then use this data to see what's working for your competitors and what you need to change about your website.
  • Competitive intelligence (CI). CI is used to gather competitors' data through surveys, interviews, or other research activities. It helps you understand their strengths and weaknesses to identify opportunities for growth in your own business.
  • Social media analytics. With the rise of social media, it is possible to listen to user feedback through channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
  • A simple observation of how people use a product and what they like or dislike about it.

Enter the competitor's website just like an average user would. This will give you an understanding of how users interact with the site or app, what they see first, where they go next, etc. It also provides insight into how easy it is to find what they want on your competitor's site or app.

Product UX features template
Product UX features template

You can also use social media to discover direct feedback about your or your competitors' products. Another helpful method is using heatmaps that allow you to see how visitors interact with your site, their clicks, and most or least used areas to find out if they have problems with certain pages.

It's not just a one-off for your UX design

Competitive analysis in UX gives designers, managers, and stakeholders a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse into other companies' points of view and perspectives. Seeing your product through a prism of your competition offers more insights than if you were just focusing on your own spot in the market.

It also should be done pretty regularly and not just at the beginning of a project or when there is a pressing issue with sales or customer satisfaction. Doing so will help you stay ahead of the game and keep up with changes in customer preferences over time.

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CEO and Founder of Merge

My mission is to help startups build software, experiment with new features, and bring their product vision to life.

My mission is to help startups build software, experiment with new features, and bring their product vision to life.

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