Ask any business owner and they’ll be the first to tell you that it’s wise to keep an eye on your competition. But when it comes to tech, including software and mobile applications, competing products need to be more than just watched—they need to be studied.
Competitive analysis is a standard user experience (UX) tool that helps inform design decisions and improve on what’s been done before. Designers perform a competitor analysis during the UX design process to get actionable insights that will inform their design. It is essential to ensure the user experience is consistent with design standards set by companies who have already paved the way. Evaluating competitors and learning about their products helps companies identify which features are most important to users, find strengths and weaknesses in competing designs, and spot opportunities to differentiate their product in the market.
This article walks you through how to run a competitor analysis for UX design—with questions to help guide your research.
Over time we’ve refined our approach to UX design analysis, discovering what we feel is the most effective way to analyze and learn from competing products. Here are the steps we take to run a competitive analysis for UX design.
Before you start analyzing competitor products, it’s important to understand the user pain points and the design challenges you’re trying to solve for. You want to understand which features they’re using most in their existing software. Then you can tailor your design so those features are more prominent in your own product.
We work with our clients to identify three to five competitor products to evaluate. When product ideas are unique and there aren’t direct competitors, analyze competitors in the overall space. They can still provide helpful insight into what’s currently available in the market.
Once you’ve identified the competitors, try to learn as much as you can about the competing companies and their products. Because we work primarily with B2B companies in the Software as a Service (SaaS) space, we don’t always have the opportunity to log into and review how the competitor product actually works. That said, there are a few work arounds, like taking advantage of a free trial or scheduling a product demo, that can be really useful when you’re running a competitor analysis.
Observing real users completing tasks in competing systems is the best way to analyze the competition and identify ways to differentiate your product’s UX design. When you can’t actually observe people using competing products, do as much research as possible to learn about the design and overall user-friendliness of their systems. Our own UX design competitive analysis template includes the following nine questions:
1. How long has the competitor been in business?
2. How many employees does the competitor have?
3. What type of software does the competitor design?
4. How does the software make users feel?
5. What is the most prominent feature on the dashboard?
6. How is the system’s information and navigation organized?
7. Are there any obvious flaws in the competing product’s design?
8. What is the competitor’s product doing well?
9. Do users get stuck during any specific point using the software?
10. What do user reviews say about the competing systems?
While it’s certainly helpful to learn which features are most useful to users—as well as the design standards they’re already familiar with—the most essential insight to gather during a competitor analysis is what existing platforms aren’t doing well. This provides you with a design framework that models the most familiar components and presents opportunities to differentiate your product in the market.
After completing a UX design competitor analysis, you’ll want to sum up what you’ve learned and present it to the client or leadership team. Your report should include:
These findings should inform your UX design decisions going forward. However, remember not to directly copy competitors. While it may be tempting to mirror competing designs, features that differentiate and solve for the competitor’s design challenges are key to enticing users to upgrade their existing systems.
At Checkmate Digital, we believe that the best products are validated by UX research and feedback from real users. If you have a product idea, running a competitor analysis can provide invaluable insight into what your target users want and expect—and we can help make it happen. Drop us a line to get started.