Illustration by Erica Fasoli
What is competitive analysis in UX and why is it important?
In the world of UX Design, competitive analysis is a critical part of the research process. Whether it’s a babysitting app, fintech dashboard, or e-commerce site, understanding the landscape of solutions is crucial to the foundation of the solution you are designing. A competitive analysis provides strategic insights into the features, functions, flows, and feelings evoked by the design solutions of your competitors. By understanding these facets of competitors’ products, you can strategically design your solution with the goal of making a superior product and/or experience.
When do you perform a competitive analysis?
Performing a competitive analysis is one of the earliest research steps in the UX design process. A UX competitive analysis should be done prior to starting work on a new project. Since competitors can emerge at any time or may increase (or improve) their offerings, the competitive research should be iterative and continue as long as you are working on that project.
Considerations for competitive analyses
- Create a short list of main comparison criteria before you start. You can always add more criteria if it makes sense. This will keep your research guided.
- Remember to add the product you’re designing to the analysis to see how your product compares to the competition.
- Know when to stop. Start with 3-5 main competitors. Once you uncover the information you need in order to inform your design decisions, it’s time to stop.
- Don’t simply copy the designs you find in your research. The competitors may not be using best practices. Instead, be inspired by the solutions found in your research and adapt the solutions to fit your brand, product, and users.
- Be tool agnostic. Choose the tool that helps you present your findings based on the information you are documenting and sharing.
- Know when to perform a “comparative analysis.” Study solutions from products that are not direct competitors. For example, if you are designing a solution that includes a calendar scheduling feature, explore the best calendar scheduling solutions, regardless of the vertical.
Starting a UX competitive analysis
Some common questions to begin a UX competitive analysis are:
- Who is currently trying to solve this problem?
- How are they trying to solve the problem?
- What their main differentiator or unique value-add is for their business and products
- Did anyone try to solve it in the past and fail?
Once the main competitors have been identified, conduct a heuristic evaluation of the competitor’s end-to-end user experience. When possible, keep in mind your product’s goals, how you want users to feel about using your product, and why they would prefer using your product over the competitors. Here are some common user experiences to evaluate:
- Sign up & Login
- Ease of account creation
- Social Sign up/Login
- Initiating the main task
- Performing the main task
- Successful completion of the main task (learn more about task analysis)
Note: The criteria you use to compare may vary depending on the project, stakeholder goals, and ultimately what information you need in order to strategically inform your design solution.
User experiences can be evaluated with qualitative and/or quantitative measures. Your decision of qualitative and/or quantitative presentation of your findings may depend on the type of data captured, who will be viewing your research and whether qualitative or quantitative data will be easier to understand.
When it comes to documenting and sharing your competitive analysis research, there is no “right” way to do it. Most any method and medium can work, as long as you can clearly see the comparison data points, share with your team & stakeholders, and make data-driven decisions for your design solution.
Real-world UX competitive analysis examples
Websites for kitchen and bathroom fixtures: Visual, quantitative, and qualitative competitive analysis
Fitness app: Visual, quantitative (app store ratings), and qualitative competitive analysis
App logo: Visual competitive analysis
The goal of this visual competitive analysis was to encourage my client that the logo directions he was considering were not on par with the competitor logos in conveying a modern and trustworthy app:
Digital business listing: Qualitative competitive analysis
Digital real estate experiences: visual and qualitative competitive analysis
Ridesharing feature comparison: Quantitative competitive analysis
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Learn from what has been tried and is currently in use, map it out in a competitive analysis, and leverage your findings to differentiate your solution from the competition. And if you are new to a particular vertical, i.e. financial technology, then a competitive analysis will be imperative to grow your understanding of the basic features and functions of a financial technology platform. Understanding the landscape of competitors not only helps inform your design decisions but it also helps inform the overall product strategy. A UX competitive analysis uncovers valuable opportunities to create a superior product and stand out from the competition.