Design isn’t just about the creative process.
The important part of any project begins before any sketches are drawn. It starts with the research – the competitor analysis that guides every subsequent decision and helps shape the final product. A UX competitor analysis is a deep dive into the every detail of all relevant competitors. It means doing effective research and understanding how others in the market are catering to user needs, then taking this information and building the best possible experience for your app or website. While this may seem tedious, it’s a necessary step that most UX designers find extremely helpful.
Why should I do a competitor analysis?
There are many reasons why designers and clients choose to do research on competitors. In fact, they’re a common deliverable in the UX workflow and are thought of as an integral part of the design strategy.
To determine your position in the market
First off, it’s helpful to understand the position of your own product. During an analysis, it becomes clear where your idea stands in comparison with other market players. This is especially useful when you’re designing a brand new product that doesn’t yet know its place or purpose.
To observe industry trends
It’s also beneficial to observe industry trends and common features, since this will allow you to design for your intended audience. More often than not, your desired customers will already be using your competitor’s apps, which means they have come to expect certain features and flow. This is your chance to explore these elements and build a product that your intended audience can easily navigate.
To identify competitor weaknesses
One of the biggest advantages of a UX competitor analysis is gaining an understanding of where the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors lie. Looking at what others in your niche are doing allows you to identify their major flaws and inadequacies. It opens up the opportunity to offer the elements that others lack – creating a major competitive advantage.
To support future design decisions
As a UX designer you have to avoid “i guess” and “i think” when you’re backing up your work. With a complete competitor analysis, you have the research to support your decisions when you’re faced with questions. It’s a resource you’ll be thankful for at all stages of the design process.
Which competitors should I include?
There are two types of competitors to look at when conducting an analysis, both of them shining a light on what elements to prioritize for your product and design process.
Direct competitors are the most obvious segment to include in your research. They’re the ones that offer very similar features and solve essentially the same problem as your product. Direct Competitors will also have the same target users and same usage scenarios for their apps. So, for instance, if you’re looking to build a fast food delivery app, Foodora, SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats and DoorDash would all be direct competitors. They all offer the same solution and cater to the same market.
While direct competition is easy to determine, it’s equally important to look at indirect competitors. These brands don’t offer exactly the same value proposition, yet some aspects of their product overlap with yours, making them useful to research. Indirect competitors could target the same customers without offering the same features, or vice versa. They might be solving a different problem or existing in an adjacent market. If we take another look at fast food delivery, this could be the official Mcdonald’s app or a fresh produce delivery app like SPUD or HelloFresh.
What elements should I look for?
Although there are many ways to actually organise your research, there are certain aspects that are important to focus on when conducting an analysis. However you choose to document your findings, these are the elements to look out for.
The first thing to look at is scope. You can gain a sense of scope by critically analyzing features and determining what their priorities are. What exactly are these apps offering in terms of the user experience? How big of a project are you about to take on? These are the types of questions you’ll answer when reviewing scope.
Analyzing structure allows you to discover how other products organize their information. The main goal here is to understand the user flow and implement a successful structure in your own app. For example, if everyone has a search bar popping up at the start, that means the user is accustomed to initiating their app experience with a search feature. Implementing this structure in your own product could alleviate a lot of confusion for first time users. Remember, an effective structure can make or break a product.
This includes interface, navigation and interaction design. It’s important to observe how things are organized on the screen. How do users navigate the displayed information? What’s the interaction like with every button? In most cases, competitors have similar layouts. That’s why an analysis is so key. By comparing apps, you can see exactly which aspects are similar and which are different – giving you a chance to be both inspired and ambitious.
Visual elements are used to express brand identity and convey a certain feeling to users. It’s vital to explore different colour schemes, icon styles, fonts and animations during a competitor analysis. Consider whether or not other brands achieve their desired look and note their consistency across platforms. It’s yet another chance for you to understand your competitors and surpass the standards they’ve set.
Researching online reviews and conducting user research could be your ticket to success. Make it a priority to check reviews from the App store and Google Play store, as well as social media comments/complaints. This extra step can unlock information that will put your product ahead of all competitors. Moreover, research from usability tests or focus groups will allow you to more closely note the flaws of other apps.
What will I gain from a competitor analysis?
A UX competitor analysis is not simply a tool, it’s a mindset. Every designer or firm will have a different process for conducting an effective competitive analysis. Even if you don’t subscribe to the formality of an analysis, you will undoubtedly do some research on the competition when designing an app or website. It’s the natural way to build the best product, and the more you do it, the better you will get. Gaining insight from comparison and research is part of what makes a critical, focused and successful designer.