A great UX strategy is about more than just aesthetics — with a competitive UX analysis, your product can soar to success.
Assessing competitors’ UX design requires intentional strategy. In this article, we offer a step-by-step guide to everything there is to know about a UX competitive analysis, including best practices and how you can conduct your own research to inform your organization’s UX and overall business strategy.
What is competitive analysis in UX?
A user experience (UX) competitive analysis is the systematic process of evaluating and comparing the user experiences of your competitors’ products to your own product’s user experience. Unlike other competitor comparisons, the primary goal of a UX competitive analysis is to gain a deeper understanding of how your competitors design and structure their digital products (websites, mobile apps, software) to cater to user needs and preferences.
While every UX competitive analysis can vary depending on the goals and objectives of a particular organization, UX competitive analyses typically include research into:
- User interface (UI) evaluation — Examining the visual design, layout, and overall aesthetics of competitors' interfaces to assess their appeal and usability.
- User flow and navigation — Analyzing the paths users take to achieve specific tasks or goals within a competitor's product, such as making a purchase or finding information.
- Content and information architecture — Assessing how competitors organize and present content, ensuring it's structured logically and easy for users to access.
- Interaction design — Evaluating the interactive elements like buttons, forms, and menus to determine how user-friendly and intuitive they are.
- Mobile responsiveness — Checking how well competitors' digital products adapt to different devices and screen sizes, including smartphones and tablets.
- Performance and loading speed — Evaluating the speed and responsiveness of the competitor's website or app.
- Accessibility — Assessing how accessible competitors’ products are to users with disabilities and whether they comply with accessibility standards.
What’s the purpose of a UX competitive analysis?
In-house UX designers, researchers, and product teams have a lot on their plate when it comes to creating and implementing great UX practices — given that, UX competitive analyses can often feel like an extra burden. Without conducting these analyses, however, design teams and their collaborators miss out on some incredible opportunities for improvement and innovation.
Mainly, a UX competitive analysis helps organizations:
- Understand user expectations
- Identify best practices
- Recognize weaknesses
- Spot opportunities for innovation
- Set benchmarks for improvement
- Validate design decisions
- Invest in iterative improvement
Understand user expectations
Competitors in your industry have likely invested time and resources in understanding their users' needs and preferences. By analyzing their user experiences, you gain valuable insights into what users expect from products like yours. This understanding sets a baseline for user expectations and design products that meet or exceed those expectations.
Identify best practices
Competitors who excel in UX design often establish and adhere to industry best practices. By studying these practices, you can identify proven methods for improving usability, engagement, and overall user satisfaction. This process allows you to adopt and adapt successful design patterns, saving time and effort in the design process.
A competitive analysis identifies the shortcomings and pain points in your competitors' products. By understanding what doesn't work well for your target audience, you can avoid making similar mistakes in your own designs. This approach prevents usability issues and user frustration and increases the likelihood of user retention.
Spot opportunities for innovation
Through competitive analysis, you can uncover market gaps or areas where your competitors may be falling short. These gaps represent opportunities for innovation and differentiation in your product design or design system. By addressing unmet user needs or offering a unique solution, you can stand out in the market, gain a competitive advantage, and attract users looking for something new and better.
Set benchmarks for improvement
A competitive analysis provides a benchmark against which you can measure your own product's performance and user experience. This benchmarking allows you to set clear goals for improvement and track your progress over time. It ensures that you're constantly striving to enhance your product's UX.
Validate design decisions
When you incorporate findings from a competitive analysis into your design process, you're basing your decisions on real-world observations and data. This validation reduces the risk of making design choices that may not resonate with your target audience.
Invest in iterative improvement
UX competitive analysis is not a one-time task. It's an ongoing process that allows you to monitor and adapt to changes in the competitive landscape continually. This iterative approach ensures your product remains competitive and up-to-date.
How to conduct a UX competitive analysis in 4 steps
Now that we’ve covered what a UX competitive analysis is and why it’s essential, here’s how your team can conduct one.
1. Define your objectives
Like with any organizational initiative, it’s always a best practice to begin by clarifying your goals for the competitive analysis. With the right stakeholders, consider what specific aspects of UX you want to evaluate and why, and what your key research objectives might be.
2. Identify competitors
A competitive UX analysis, of course, requires that an organization identify exactly what competitors they’ll assess in comparison to their own product. When it comes to UX analysis, many organizations identify both direct and indirect competitors.
Direct competitors are businesses that offer similar products or solutions to the same problems or needs as your own product. They typically target the same audience, share a similar value proposition, and compete for the same market share. In the context of UX competitive analysis, identifying and using direct competitors in your analysis is helpful for a few reasons:
- Direct competitors provide the most relevant insights because they offer the closest alternatives to your product.
- Analyzing direct competitors helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of products that users might directly compare with your own.
- It allows for a more detailed, head-to-head comparison that can identify specific areas for improvement and innovation in your UX.
Indirect competitors are businesses or products that may not offer identical solutions to the same problems but serve the same audience or address related needs. They often have different value propositions or cater to slightly different niches. In UX competitive analysis, identifying and using indirect competitors is also helpful for a variety of reasons:
- Analyzing indirect competitors gives you a broader perspective on user expectations and preferences in the wider industry or market.
- Indirect competitors can introduce alternative approaches and creative solutions that you might not have considered, inspiring innovation.
- Understanding the UX of indirect competitors can identify opportunities to diversify or expand your product offerings.
To find both direct and indirect competitors of your UX analysis, organizations should conduct industry research through reports and market trends, online marketplaces, social media, and even industry events and conferences.
3. Gather data
In order to properly analyze UX competition, organizations need to gather a specific set of qualitative and quantitative data, including data around usability, accessibility, performance, and user feedback.
There are lots of ways that organizations can gather data to conduct their competitive analysis. Depending on your organization’s goals, budgets, and resources, one research technique might be more appropriate than others. Common techniques include:
- User testing
- SWOT analysis
- Public customer review assessments
- Heuristic evaluation
- Competitors’ user journey mapping analysis
Conduct user testing sessions with actual users to gather direct feedback on your competitors' products. Users perform tasks, and you observe and record their interactions and feedback. This method provides real-world insights into user behavior and pain points.
Or, instead of hiring outside experts to gather user research, encourage your team to use the competitor’s product yourselves, and conduct an analysis.
A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a valuable tool in the context of a UX competitive analysis. It systematically evaluates the internal and external factors that impact your user experience and your position in the market.
- Strengths — Identify which aspects of your competitor’s product are successful, and maybe even outperform other competitors.
- Weaknesses — Identify where your competitors fall short in their UX design (poor mobile responsiveness, confusing navigation, or slow performance).
- Opportunities — Consider where your product could excel and provide a better UX. For example, if competitors have poor accessibility, you might see an opportunity to excel by providing a more inclusive and accessible user experience.
- Threats — Consider the potential challenges to your competitor’s product and how your product might avoid them.
Public customer review assessments
One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to collect data about your competitors, whether direct or indirect, is through public customer reviews. Available on websites like G2 and Capterra as well as other online marketplaces, customer reviews — both positive and negative — can help you identify strengths and pain points.
A heuristic evaluation is a method used in UX design to assess the usability of digital products, such as websites or applications. In this evaluation, usability experts or evaluators review a product based on established usability principles known as heuristics. These heuristics serve as guidelines for good design and cover aspects like navigation, feedback, and error handling.
Competitors’ user journey mapping analysis
Competitors' user journey maps in UX are visual representations or diagrams that illustrate the various stages and touchpoints that users go through when interacting with a competitor's offering, from initial awareness to post-interaction support
4. Implementing analysis in the UX design process
Once your team gathers all the right data, it’s time to take your insights and implement them into the iteration and design process. Prototype new designs, test functionality with real users, keep seeking user feedback, analyze data, and make improvements to the design to enhance the user experience over time.
Competitive analysis UX: Best practices & tips
While every team’s objectives, goals, and resources may vary, conducting an efficient and successful UX competitive analysis requires design teams to abide by a few best practices
- Ensure unbiased research — To ensure that all research you collect is unbiased, recruit a diverse group of collaborators, implement blind evaluations, establish evaluation criteria, and use neutral language.
- Continually update analysis with changing trends — UX design is a constantly evolving and changing practice. In order to ensure that your UX design is serving users well and maintains a competitive edge, it’s essential to stay up to date with industry news and trends.
- Leverage insights for overall business strategy — While UX competitive analysis is primarily focused on design, insights you gather from research can also inform broader, more macro business strategies like market differentiation, competitive positioning, and marketing and messaging.
- Prioritize actionable insights — Highlight actionable insights that can directly inform improvements to your own product's UX. Focus on areas where you can excel or differentiate.
- Ethical considerations — Respect competitors' intellectual property and confidentiality. Avoid unethical practices such as plagiarism or unauthorized data scraping.
Best tools for UX competitor analysis
There are several tools for UX designers that can help you conduct a UX competitive analysis. These tools can gather data, track user behavior, and assess the user experiences of your competitors. Here are some popular tools for UX competitor analysis:
- UserTesting — Provides access to a panel of real users who give feedback on your competitors' websites or apps.
- TryMyUI — Offers usability testing services with detailed video feedback and insights.
- Hotjar — Offers heatmaps, session recordings, and user feedback tools to visualize user interactions.
- Crazy Egg — Provides heatmaps, scroll maps, and user behavior analytics.
- WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool — Identifies accessibility issues on competitors' websites.
- axe DevTools — An accessibility testing extension for web browsers that assesses websites against accessibility standards.
- Optimal Workshop — Offers tools for card sorting, tree testing, and first-click testing to evaluate information architecture.
- Lookback — Allows for remote user testing, interviews, and session recordings.
Put your UX competitive analysis into action
Conducting a UX competitive analysis is not merely a design exercise; it's a strategic imperative that goes beyond the aesthetics of a website or app that allows organizations to delve deep into the very essence of how users interact with their digital products and services.
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