A Guide to Competitive UX Analysis for Product Designers

A Guide to Competitive UX Analysis for Product Designers

Contents

 

You don’t want to just design a product that is as good as those of your rivals, as a product designer. The better one is what you want to create. You can achieve it by using this guide to do competitive UX analysis.

This ambition has a significant financial component. A product that fulfills the needs of your customers is significantly more likely to succeed and generate more revenue for your business. You will be eligible for promotions, raises, and any other awards your employer may bestow upon you if your product is a success.

However, isn’t it also an issue of pride? Because you are a designer and it is in your best interest to maintain your reputation, you want to create amazing products. You want to be the one to give your user base the best because they deserve nothing less.

In other words, you owe it to yourself as well as your employers for your products to outperform those of your rivals.

You’ll need to perform what’s known as a competitive UX study to accomplish this. A UX researcher or two may be available to you if you’re part of a large UX design team. It will be your responsibility to execute one if you are not.

The bad news is that a competitive analysis takes a lot of effort to do correctly. The good news is that the rewards are significant if you put in the work.

You can get going with the aid of this manual. We’ll discuss:

 

  • The purpose of competitive UX analysis
  • Why it’s extremely crucial
  • Five steps for doing a competitive analysis
  • A competitive analysis is what?
  • A competitive analysis gathers both quantitative and qualitative information about rival businesses and their goods. If you can examine this data intelligently, you may utilize it to modify
  • your product design plan (and, later, your marketing/sales strategy) to build on their advantages and take advantage of their disadvantages.

What information must a competitive analysis include?

 

You should aim for at least:

A market analysis that includes details about your competitors (products and services, price points, market share, target markets, etc)
user statistics
Product characteristics – pay close attention to any characteristics that are specific to certain businesses.
The visual design, verbiage, and branding that rival companies employ for their goods
You’ll be able to pinpoint areas where your product might stand out and recommend new growth prospects as a result. Has the market share of a specific software vendor declined recently? If so, why and who will pick it up? Could you gain access to that user base with the correct features and marketing?

A competitive UX analysis provides you with a comprehensive picture of the state of the market and how your proposed product might fit into it.

Why is it essential?
Here, are two main causes:

It may serve as a source of inspiration for the creation of your products.
It will make creating a business case for your product a great deal simpler.

Leave any copyrighted or patent-protected technology well alone if you don’t want to break any intellectual property restrictions.

On the other hand, you may and ought to get ideas from the feature sets and user experiences of your rivals. Without a doubt, they are influenced by yours.

It’s more appropriate to use this as a springboard for your creativity than to reproduce it verbatim. Improve the features of your rivals’ products for your own. Win the game they’re playing.

Your project is being sold internally

You might have to make pitch to internal stakeholders as a product designer to persuade them that what you’ve produced is marketable. The data you compile for your competition analysis will be crucial in developing this.

The top executives you speak with will be interested in knowing the specific market situation, whether there is room to increase the company’s market share, and how your product would differentiate itself from competitors. Even if you aren’t directly pitching to a board, it will help you if you can answer these inquiries from other team members and convince them to support your project idea.

The easier this will be for you, the more facts you can provide to back up your claims.

Performing a competitive analysis
Determine your rivals
The process’s most research-intensive step is this one. Although it could take some time, resist the urge to haste. The outcomes of your competitive analysis will be more valuable the more time you invest at the beginning.

Before you can analyze your competitors and drill down into their product features, you first need to identify who those competitors are.

There are various ways you can do this; the following are good starting points:

‘Common knowledge’: you know these competitors well already, as a matter of course. Apple is aware that Google is a rival. Oracle knows it competes with SAP. List these obvious competitors first.
Customer discovery/UX research: your user panel might have mentioned some comparisons between your software and others. Write them down and remember them for occasions like these.
Google using potential keywords: simply think about what sort of keywords potential customers would use to find you, and type them into Google to see who else comes up.
Trade press articles: those ‘top 10 software systems for X’ articles are useful to figure out who’s on the radar, and where you need to aim if you’re not on the radar already.
If workable, it’s worth bringing together a small team from across the business to help you here, as different departments will have different knowledge pools.

Your customer service team might have heard customers comparing your software to other, similar tools (favorably or otherwise), for example – or your marketing team might be running a campaign for which they did a lot of competitor research earlier in the year. You’ll never know unless you ask.

Compile a spreadsheet or Trello board (or however you want to work) with company names and websites. As a UX designer, you’ll need to document the following:

The number of users or downloads each competitor product has (if available)
User demographics (E.g. if it’s a B2B product, is it being marketed to enterprise or small businesses?)
How much the product costs, and what are the differences in pricing plans if it’s a SaaS
The key features each product offers, and which are unique to each competitor
How long each product has been on the market
As an aside, your marketing/product teams might want the following included – so add that to the table too, and keep your eye out for anything that might help them out.

Market share, and how that has changed over the past five or ten years
Financials (if available) – their latest results (and how they justified them), and share price
Social presence
Branding – make sure to find some visual examples of this for reference
Industry verticals
You might have to work hard to find this information. A good starting place is software review sites like software advice and Capterra – these allow you to run side-by-side comparisons of different products, laying out feature sets, platform differences, and more.

You could also download your competitors’ gated content (for example, white papers and buyers’ guides), which tend to offer a more in-depth look at their product offering than standard blog posts – though remember to use a non-work email address if you don’t want them to catch you snooping!

Understand the reasoning behind your competitors’ products

Any products are, ultimately, solutions to a particular problem.

To understand your competitors’ products – and to end up with a better design strategy as a result – you’ll need to sit down and ask yourself some fundamental questions about what their products do.

Identify the reasons behind your competitors’ success by honing in on ‘why’ questions. From here, you can better understand why your competitors design their products in certain ways. You can also see the logic behind common design tropes in your industry.

Your first question here should be ‘why does this problem exist?’. – work from there.

Then move on to the ‘what’ question. This will help you understand the differences between your product and your competitor’s products. For where they excel and where you excel; where you come up short and where they come up short.

What features have your competitors introduced to solve the problems identified above? What technology do they use, and what platforms do they make their product available on? What aftercare or customer service guarantees do they offer?

These are all essential in creating a solid understanding of your competitors’ design strategy – and its strengths and weaknesses – before moving on to the next stage:

Use your competitors’ products and examine their user journeys
The best way to get to grips with your competitors’ service design is to familiarize yourself with their products.

Handily, lots of vendors offer free trials of their software for a limited time (typically, a week to a month). Whilst some are pretty vigorous about who they offer these to, other vendors take a no-questions-asked, no-card-details-needed approach.

If you can’t get free trial access, consider paying for a subscription for a short time, or depending on the product, buying it outright.

(quick note here – make sure your project manager sets aside some money for this in the project budget).

While not a replacement for using the software itself, you could also look at your competitors’ video demos. These are great for understanding your competitors’ thinking behind particular user journeys

Take extensive notes, keeping in mind the following considerations. These are all centered around addressing ‘how’ your competitor has designed their product.

How have your competitors responded to user needs or offered solutions to particular pain points?
How well do they respond to these needs? (check review sites like Trustpilot, Capterra, or similar to get a good idea of this)
How does the look, feel, and language your competitor uses affect the user’s experience of this particular product?
You want a full picture of how they’ve designed their service, so don’t stop at the product itself. Dive into any product-related emails you receive (like registration, email validation, or error notification) and scan their customer service social media feeds to see how they deal with queries.

You can then start to think about the ultimate ‘how’ question:

 

‘How can we do it better?’

Analyze, analyze, analyze
Take all that data and analyze it to see how it stacks up against your current ideas for your product.

Look at:

  • How much overlap there is between your user demographics
  • The percentage of similar features your products have
  • Where your features outperform their features, and where your competitors outperform yours
  • Users’ opinions of your product versus your competitors’ (you could use Trustpilot reviews or similar, NPS scores, reviews on software comparison sites, and social media comments to do this) …
    and anything else you think of as stemming from these categories. To an extent, this will depend on your industry and the type of product you want to create. If you’re building a mobile app, for example, you might have a look at the percentage of your competitors that support both Android and iOS operating systems, or which features the free version of their app has versus the paid-for version.

There’s no such thing as ‘drilling too deep’ here. The more detailed you get, the more likely it is you’ll create a fantastic product that blows all the competition out of the water – and reap the rewards usability-wise.

Bring it all together

Now’s the time to think strategically.

You know who your competitors are and what they’re doing. You’ve turned their product inside out to understand their features, the logic behind their user journeys, and how users respond to this.

Now, start to think about how you could improve on that for your product. Creating your versions of their successful features is fine, but like any good designer, the question on your mind should be ‘how can we make this better?’ rather than ‘how can we make something similar?’

Post competitive analysis, you’ll also have a much better idea about where your existing products aren’t meeting user expectations and how to solve that.

As well as adding new things to keep up with the competition, make sure you patch up any issues your existing feature set throws up.

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