A guide to UX competitive analysis

This article will explain the basics of how to find suitable competitors, compare them and analyze the results. Our simple template will help you do this quickly and efficiently.

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Performing a competitive analysis is one of the first steps in the UX design process. It is an extremely important element of the research process since your future solution has to have a unique competitive advantage over similar products.

The main goal of a competitive analysis is to discover existing solutions, their strengths, and weaknesses. It is useful for designers to not get carried away with the ideation process and try to reinvent the wheel. A better understanding of the subject area will help to come up with a solution that will be in high demand.

It doesn’t matter if you are planning to redesign an existing product or create a new one from scratch, competitive analyses are useful in both cases. The only difference is that the existing product already has certain features, and first you need to understand what can be improved. In the case of designing a new product you are free to choose any criteria for comparison.

Research criteria

A great way to kickstart learning about your product’s competitive landscape is to ask three simple questions; who, what, and how:

  • Who is the user of the product?
  • What is the core problem the product solves for the user?
  • How does the product solve the user’s problem, what approach is used?

Answering these key questions will help you better evaluate solutions and identify the type of competitors.

Types of competitors

The competitors you choose to analyze usually influence your final solution. This is why it is important to include different types of competitors in the analysis.

Direct competitors
Products that are similar in every way to yours; they are used by the same users to solve the same problem using a similar approach.

Direct competitors
Direct competitors

Let’s pick the Zoom app as a comparison product. In our example, Zoom and Google Meet are in direct competition as excellent tools for remote communication and collaboration.

Indirect competitors
There are three subtypes of indirect competitors that differ in one of the three main criteria, but all others are the same.

Indirect competitors
Indirect competitors
  • Telegram is an app primarily for friendly communication, so unlike Zoom, the user audience is different.
  • Miro originally was aimed at solving the problem of remote collaboration, but now it competes with Zoom as it also has the ability to video chat right within the interface.
  • Comparing modern communication platforms to old-school web chats, we see a difference in approach, and with how it works.

Alternatives
Alternatives are products that have completely different users, features, and approaches but serve the same purpose.

Alternatives
Alternatives

Face-to-face meeting is a good example of Zoom alternative. If everyone is in the same room, Zoom is really unnecessary.

Search for competitors

The most challenging step is finding suitable competitors, otherwise you will waste time analyzing the wrong products. Try not to focus only on famous brands, as real diamonds can be hidden among smaller startups.

A typical review focuses on 2–4 competitors for each category: direct, indirect, and alternatives. Choosing the right group is important because the features in competitors’ apps are based on exactly what their users need.

If the product you are working on is unique and has nothing similar in the market, then you will hardly be able to find direct competitors. In this case, it is better to look for only one indirect and alternative competition.

The obvious way to begin this research processis to run a Google search. Your starting point can be “Top 10” or “Best of” articles from experts. The goal is to form an accurate request and clearly describe the specifics of the product. You can get relevant keywords from the company description on Crunchbase, Zoominfo, or Owler.

Tools like Capterra, SimilarWeb, SaaSHub allows you to compare different products side by side and define top competitors.

To better understand the pros and cons of competitive solutions, you can go through the customer reviews on G2Crowd, GetApp, TrustRadius, App Store or Google Play.

Creating a visual board

Once the main competitors have been identified let’s move on to a visual comparison.

You can get a basic understanding of the competition by examining the description. However, if you want to thoroughly understand the product, you will need to actually use a competitor’s product. Many products offer free trials, so it is a great idea to register for them to fully digest what your idea is up against.

In the case of enterprise solutions, the list of competitors is usually easy to compile, but difficult to access freely. Search for manuals with examples and screenshots, which will help you overcome this hurdle. You can find product demos and presentations on YouTube or download buyers’ guides from official websites.

Mood board
Mood board

It is better to collect all insights in one place and a visual board is a great way to do this. Such collage allows designers to easily visualize existing approaches, compare and analyze them. You can organize your boards in tools like InVision or Pinterest.

Comparison matrix

After creating the list of competitors and visual board you should determine the assessment criteria and create a report. The best way to describe key findings is to use a matrix structure. If you already have a product and need to redesign it, be sure to add the current version to the analysis to see how your solution compares to the competition.

Create a list of comparison categories before you start to see the product from different angles. Feel free to use our Google Sheets template which will save your time and serve as a starting point for future analysis.

Competitive matrix
Competitive matrix

You can increase the visibility of the compared items by using a system of color-coding to represent different values. This method provides real-time analytics and willhelp you understand in seconds which features work best.

Categories

Each comparison implies a judgment on a set of criteria or values. Try to be objective and independent of personal preference and bias.

In most cases, the following set of categories can be recommended. But you can also modify or detail them according to your specific needs.

Basic information
The first section consists of key attributes for identification: product name, short description, supported platforms, website address / or application link.

You can keep your login and password here for quick access to a competitor’s product. And linking to a visual board can help you recall the style and explain the specifics of each feature.

Basic information
Basic information

Feature list
List here all the features your competitors offer. You can not only determine the presence or absence of functionality but also assess its quality.

Color-coded scores help you quickly determine quality levels.

Feature list
Feature list

Approximate sitemap
Define and describe the organizational system: what sections are in the product, and what patterns does it consists of?

The list does not need to be precise but should provide an overview of the structure.

Approximate sitemap
Approximate sitemap

Heuristic evaluation
As an option, you can evaluate the usability of a competitors’ products against a set of Heuristic Principles. We’ve included two of the most popular methods, in which problems are categorized on a numeric scale according to their perceived impact on user performance or acceptance.

Depending on how much time you have for research, you should either use the entire set of heuristics or select only a few of them. In any case, it is important to evaluate the same heuristic for all competitors.

Heuristic evaluation
Heuristic evaluation

Feedback
Customer reviews are a treasure trove of information for a product. Studying them can help you not only understand the pain of users but also get an idea of what new features they would like to have.

Feedback
Feedback

Overall experience
SWOT analysis is a combination of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a company. But here we are only focusing on strengths and weaknesses. We are trying to evaluate competitors, not building a business strategy.

Overall experience
Overall experience

Business specific
Comparing the Pricing and Revenue Models of competitors’ apps to their overall performance can help you decide how to price your own solution for success.

Knowing a company’s founding year helps to put things in context in the overall analysis.

Defining Target Customers helps to understand what works better for the current customers or to discover new audiences.

Business specific
Business specific

The Takeaway

Performing a correct competitive analysis can be time consuming. However, if you follow the defined process above the task turns into a set of understandable activities that will help you build the best possible product and save you time in the long run.

The key to creating a successful competitive analysis is collecting and organizing the information you need in one place.

Fortunately, you don’t need to create a competitive matrix from scratch, you can use our pre-built template. This allows you to quickly immerse yourself in research without wasting time in preparation.

Originally published at https://skhyzhniak.medium.com on January 29, 2021.

Senior Experience Designer in www.windmillsmartsolutions.com