If you're like most companies, you may have reached a point of stalled growth. Or maybe you’re struggling to keep up with others in your industry.
This is where a UX competitive analysis can help you stay ahead of the curve and learn everything there is to know about your competitors.
Why UX competitive analysis?
One of the key factors contributing to a company's success is the quality of its UX design. Getting this right can mean the difference between scaling up and falling flat.
Keep reading to get the full scoop on UX competitive analysis – the what, when, why, and how. You’ll also come across examples and templates that you can use.
UX competitive analysis: What is it?
The best way to stand out is to know who you're standing next to. A UX competitive analysis allows you to understand your competitors' products and services from a UX perspective. It can help you gain insights into how other products in your industry are designed, how they function, and how users interact with them.
When conducting a UX competitive audit and analysis, you’re sourcing information on your competitors' user interfaces, user flows, navigation patterns, visual aesthetics, information architecture, and content design.
You can then use your findings to improve the UX of your product and services. For example, you could:
Redesign your website's information architecture.
Add new features that your competitors don't have.
Better understand your users' needs and pain points.
Improve existing features and make them more accessible to users.
Make changes to your UI design to make it more appealing to users.
Now, you're probably wondering: how is UX competitive analysis different from competitive analysis for market research?
Competitive analysis for UX vs competitive analysis for market research
UX competitive analysis and competitive analysis for market research are related concepts, but they differ in terms of focus, scope, and purpose.
When conducting a UX competitive analysis, your objective is to assess and contrast the user experience of your competitors' offerings. This means looking at the design, usability, interaction, and overall user satisfaction of their products. The point is to identify best practices, areas for enhancement, and potential opportunities to improve your product's UX and gain a competitive edge.
In contrast to a UX competitive analysis, a market competitive analysis has a broader scope. It focuses more on a brand's go-to-market (GTM) strategy, such as target audience, product positioning, pricing strategies, packaging, distribution channels, and overall brand perception. The goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the competitive landscape within your market or niche.
To learn more about competitive market analysis, read Zapier’s step-by-step guide to competitive market analysis.
The table below highlights the key differences between UX competitive analysis and competitive analysis for market research.
Competitive analysis for UX
Competitive analysis for market research
Focus and scope
Evaluating user experience aspects of products and services.
Analyzing broader business strategies and market dynamics.
Improve UX design.
Formulate a comprehensive business strategy or make better business decisions.
Examples of elements that are analyzed
UI design, user flows, information architecture, navigation.
Market share, customer demographics.
UX designers, product managers, product teams.
Marketing and sales teams, product managers, business strategists.
Examples of methods
SWOT analysis, heuristic evaluation, feature matrix, user story mapping, user journey mapping.
Benchmarking studies, market surveys, competitive intelligence.
Recommendations and insights for improving a product’s UX.
Strategic insights for business growth, competitive advantage, and positioning.
Why conduct a UX competitive analysis?
Below are some of the most important reasons you and your team should consider performing a competitive UX analysis.
1. Understand your competitors' strengths and weaknesses
When you analyze your competitors' products, you'll learn what they’re doing well and where they fall short. You can then use this information to spot opportunities to improve your product or service.
2. Learn about best practices in your industry
In UX competitive analysis, you'll also look at design patterns, interaction elements, and usability features used by your competitors. The data you gather can help you and your team understand industry standards and integrate effective design practices into your product design and development.
3. Identify gaps in the market
When you identify areas where there's a need for a better product or service, you’re more likely to innovate and create something your competitors don't have.
4. Keep up with trends and stay relevant
As your industry constantly evolves, staying current on what your competitors are doing is important. This helps you identify new UX trends and opportunities for innovation.
5. Make better design decisions
A competitive UX analysis can help you make better design decisions through valuable insights into what does and doesn't work. This leads to higher satisfaction and user engagement.
6. Benchmark progress
Conducting a UX competitive analysis allows you to track your design's progress over time. You can measure how your product's user experience evolves in relation to your competitors and adjust your strategies accordingly.
When should you do a UX competitive analysis?
Here are some scenarios when a UX competitive analysis might be helpful:
You’re exploring new markets.
You want to identify market gaps.
You want to improve your conversion rates.
You’re launching a new product, service, or feature.
You want to monitor the market landscape for new trends.
You’re redesigning or refining a product, service, or feature.
You want to confirm a working hypothesis in your user research.
Remember, it's important to regularly perform competitive analysis for UX during your product's lifecycle, particularly when making important decisions. This will help make sure that your product's user experience stays competitive, user-centered, and in line with industry trends and customer expectations.
How to do a UX competitive analysis, plus examples
Here's how to play detective with the competition and learn more about how their users interact with their products and services.
Step 1: Figure out the "why"
Understanding the "why" before diving into the "what" of a UX competitive analysis is a foundational step that provides context, purpose, and direction to the entire process.
"This (step) involves understanding the underlying problem or needs that your product or service is trying to solve, as well as identifying the key stakeholders and their motivations. Only by thoroughly exploring the ‘why’ can you then move on to defining your goals and scope, and ultimately conducting a successful analysis."
Before you begin, talking to stakeholders is also important. Jeff Hendrickson, UX Research Manager at WestRock Company, shares why:
"They (stakeholders) represent the business ask and can speak for management. By first taking them through a specific interview process we can gather all the right information for direction and start engaging a development team for a feasibility study. Set this as the NorthStar and start from here."
Step 2: Set goals and scope
With a well-defined "why," you can now move on to defining your goals and scope.
Your goals should align with the purpose of the analysis and the needs of your users and stakeholders.
For example, if your why is to improve the conversion rate on your website, which has been steadily decreasing, you can set the following goals:
Increase the overall conversion rate by 15% over the next six months.
Reduce cart abandonment rates by 10% within three months.
Increase mobile conversions by 20% in the next quarter.
With these goals in mind, your scope may include the following:
Analyze the entire user journey from landing on the website to completing a purchase, including navigation, product pages, checkout process, and post-purchase communication.
Conduct user testing with diverse participants to identify usability issues and pain points that hinder conversions.
Evaluate the website's performance on different devices and browsers to ensure a seamless experience for all users, especially mobile users.
Perform the steps above with your competitors' websites and compare how your site or app fares with theirs.
Step 3: Identify and select competitors
For this step, your competitors can either be:
Direct: These are organizations or businesses that offer the same product or service as yours. They are the most obvious competitors in your industry. For example, if you run an ecommerce website selling clothing, your direct competitors are other online clothing retailers.
Indirect: Indirect competitors may not offer the same product or service but are targeting the same or a similar customer base. These competitors can be more challenging to identify but are still important to consider. In the clothing retailer example, an indirect competitor might be a fashion subscription service that provides clothing recommendations.
In addition to looking at direct and indirect competitors, look at creative solutions and design elements from unrelated industries.
Cavan Huang, Group Creative Director of Experience Design at Huge, gives this insightful tip:
"A narrow definition of the competitive landscape, especially in UX, might not yield the best opportunity to innovate or create a measurably better experience. Look for inspirational beacons of UX. In that sense, anyone with a good UX can be added to the mix; they don't need to belong to the same industry, category, platform, or device. Casting a wide net when looking for beacons allows my clients and my design team to think bigger and design for the future."
And how many competitors should you evaluate?“A typical review or test focuses on 2 to 4 competitors’ sites. Any more than that can be too expensive and too overwhelming to analyze,” shares Amy Schade, former Director of Experience at Nielsen Norman Group.
Step 4: Define your evaluation criteria
Deciding on the evaluation criteria sets the framework for how you'll assess and compare the user experiences of different products or services.
These criteria should be relevant to your UX competitive analysis goals and the specific aspects of the user experience you're interested in.
Some common evaluation criteria for UX competitive analysis include:
Usability: How easily users can accomplish tasks and navigate the product.
Visual design: The aesthetics and overall appeal of the product.
Content quality: The relevance, clarity, and usefulness of the content.
Performance: The speed, responsiveness, and reliability of the product.
Accessibility: How well the product accommodates users with accessibility constraints.
User engagement: The ability of the product to keep users engaged and satisfied.
Innovation: Unique features or approaches that set the product apart.
Within each evaluation category, specify the metrics or characteristics you'll use to assess competitors' products or services. For example, if you’re interested in improving the usability of your product, you might focus on criteria such as:
Error rates: How many errors do users make when using the product?
Time to completion: How long does it take users to complete their tasks?
User satisfaction: How satisfied are users with the product?
It's worth noting that not all evaluation criteria are equally important. Prioritize them based on their significance to your analysis goals and their impact on the user experience. Some criteria may be critical, while others are nice-to-haves.
Additionally, consider creating a scoring system to add objectivity to your analysis. Assign numerical values or qualitative descriptors to each metric or characteristic to rate the competitors. This can help you quantify the user experience and make comparisons more systematic.
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Once you've defined and prioritized your evaluation criteria, you can start collecting data to measure them, which brings us to the next step.
Step 5: Collect data and conduct research
Once you've defined your evaluation criteria, you can start collecting data. For this step, aim to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.
Start by identifying the sources of data and research methods you'll rely on to gather information about your competitors, such as:
Competitor websites and apps: Explore your competitors' digital platforms to understand their user interfaces, features, content, and overall design.
User reviews and ratings: Analyze user feedback on app stores, review websites, and social media platforms to gain insights into user satisfaction and pain points.
Published reports and case studies: Look for industry reports, case studies, or whitepapers that provide data and analysis related to your competitors' user experiences.
Competitor documentation: Some competitors may publicly share design guidelines, user personas, or other relevant documents that can offer insights.
User surveys and interviews: Conduct surveys or interviews with users of your competitors' products to gather qualitative data about their experiences.
Usability testing: Test with real users on your competitors' products to identify specific usability issues and gather qualitative feedback.
Heatmaps: This involves tracking where people click and scroll on your competitors' websites.
A/B testing: You test different versions of a website or app to see which one performs better.
Creating a structured system for documenting and organizing the data you collect is also important. This could be a spreadsheet, a database, charts, graphs, or videos. Plus, make sure that your data is categorized, labeled, and easily accessible for analysis.
Step 6: Analyze your data
You're almost there! Your next step is to draw meaningful conclusions from the data you've collected about your competitors' user experiences. To help you with this process, you can use the various frameworks and approaches, like the following.
SWOT analysis is a widely used strategic planning framework that you can also use for UX competitive analysis. This framework will help you evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your product's user experience compared to competitors.
Here's an example for an ecommerce app:
Intuitive user interface that promotes easy navigation.
Streamlined checkout process that reduces friction for users.
Robust customer support system that provides prompt issue resolution.
Lack of personalized recommendations based on user preferences.
Limited payment options compared to some competitors.
Loading times for product images occasionally slow down the user experience.
Introduce AI-driven product recommendations to enhance personalization.
Collaborate with additional payment gateways to broaden payment options.
Optimize image loading times to improve overall speed and user satisfaction.
Aggressive marketing campaigns by a major competitor attracting users.
Emerging ecommerce platforms with innovative user experiences.
User expectations for fast and seamless experiences continue to rise.
Make your own with this SWOT analysis template.
In competitive benchmarking, you compare key performance metrics such as conversion rates, page load times, or user engagement between your product and your competitors to understand where you stand in the market.
Make your own with this competitive benchmarking template.
Use this framework to evaluate your competitors' products or services based on established usability heuristics and UX design principles, such as Jakob Nielsen's 10 usability heuristics. It helps identify usability issues and areas for improvement.
A feature matrix is a structured way to compare and assess the features and functionalities of multiple products or services in a UX competitive analysis. It helps you systematically evaluate how well each competitor performs in various areas.
Make your own with this feature matrix template.
User story mapping
User story mapping can also be used as a UX competitive analysis method by comparing the user stories of your competitors to your own.
This approach focuses on breaking down features and functionalities into user stories, typically in chronological or logical order. It provides a detailed view of how individual features contribute to the overall user experience.
You can use this framework to identify the different steps that users take to complete a task and the goals they are trying to achieve.
User journey mapping
User journey mapping is a method of charting the progression of customers through a given task or process, from start to finish.
By comparing user journeys across your competitors' products or services, you can identify areas where your UX may lack or excel.
It's worth noting that user journey mapping is excellent for understanding the holistic user experience, while user story mapping is valuable for feature planning and development.
With these frameworks in mind, you're now ready to share and present your findings.
Step 7: Identify key takeaways from your findings.
Once you've collected and analyzed your data, look for the takeaways. This will help you understand what you have learned from your analysis and how to use it to improve your product or service.
Alex J., Senior Design Systems Engineer at HashiCorp, shares the following pro tips for this step:
Use a structured approach to ensure consistency and completeness in your analysis.
Keep the focus on user needs and goals. Analyze how each competitor meets or fails to meet those needs, and identify gaps or opportunities for improvement.
Synthesize the data into a clear and concise report. Identify the key takeaways, such as areas where your competitors excel, where they fall short, and opportunities for differentiation.
Step 8: Communicate and present your findings
The next step is communicating and presenting your findings to relevant stakeholders. This could include your team members, management, or even customers.
The way you communicate and present your findings will depend on the audience and the purpose of your analysis. However, there are some general tips that you can follow:
Be clear and concise. Your audience should be able to understand your findings without having to read through a lot of jargon.
Use visuals to help you communicate your findings. This could include creating charts, graphs, or diagrams.
Be specific. Don't just say that your competitors are doing better than you are. Explain why they’re doing better and how you can improve.
Be actionable. Your findings should lead to specific changes that you can make to your product or service.
When providing actionable recommendations, Claire Jencks, Director of Content at Serotonin.io, recommends that you "take into account your organization's goals, resources, and capabilities while providing a timeline for implementation".
Step 9: Act
The final step is to apply the findings and insights to your product or service.
It's also important to iterate on your findings. This means that you should continuously test and improve your product or service based on the feedback you receive from users.
By iterating on your findings, you can be sure that your product or service is continuously improving and meeting the needs of your users. Here are some tips to help you:
Start small. Don't try to make too many changes at once. Start with a few minor changes and see how they impact your users.
Get feedback from users. Getting user feedback is the best way to know if your changes are effective. This could involve conducting user interviews, surveys, or A/B testing.
Be patient. It takes time to see the results of your changes. Don't expect to see overnight success.
Be persistent. Don't give up if your changes don't work at first. Keep iterating and improving until you find what works best for your users. If possible, use a continuous improvement framework.
Identify who you’re up against and deliver better user experiences with Lyssna
Lyssna provides a suite of tools to help you learn more about your competitors and help you level up. From user interviews to preference testing, Lyssna can help you do better than the competition and create design solutions that truly address user needs.
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Kai has been creating content for healthcare, design, and SaaS brands for over a decade. She also manages content (like a digital librarian of sorts). Hiking in nature, lap swimming, books, tea, and cats are some of her favorite things. Check out her digital nook or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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