A Guide to Competitive Analysis in UX Research
User Research

Published on March 30, 2022

A Guide to Competitive Analysis in UX Research

Competition is something you need to keep an eye out for, whether you are a small business or a big enterprise, operating offline or online. One of the best ways to do that is to compare yourself directly with your competitors.

In this article, we will talk about how to do that in the online world by conducting a UX competitive analysis. What is it, why do you need it, and how to actualize one? And which UXtweak tools can you make use of?

What is competitive analysis and why do you need one?

According to Nielsen Norman Group, competitive analysis is a method to determine how your site performs in relation to your competitors’ sites. It can take the form of expert reviews, where an experienced usability practitioner reviews the designs based on her expertise and knowledge of usability, or competitive usability testing, where users complete a set of tasks using 2 or more competing sites. In this article, we will talk about both of those approaches. 

Competitive analysis has its place in every area of business, and user experience is no exception. On the contrary, it is, or at least it should be, a crucial part of the design and research journey. 

Competitive analysis is a process during which you identify strategies, features, functions, and other aspects of your competitors. You then compare what you have learned about the competition with your own company/service/product, in order to find out what are your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can transform them into a unique and outstanding experience. 

In this article, we focus on conducting a competitive analysis that incorporates UX research and the design process which goes hand in hand with it. 

Acquire knowledge that is worth the effort

Before we get into the step-by-step process of how to do a competitive analysis, let’s first look at what are its biggest advantages. 

After you conduct your research, you will:

  1. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your website/app in relation to your competitors
  2. Gain a deeper understanding of the market, its users, and their needs
  3. Learn about the industry trends
  4. Discover usability issues to fix and features to improve
  5. Define a course for long-term growth

competitive analysis

Source: Unsplash

When to do a UX competitive analysis?

It is best to conduct a competitive analysis when you are in the early stages of the development of your website or app. That being said, don’t despair if you haven’t executed any yet. You will benefit from a competitive analysis even if you already are an established business. 

Following your first analysis, it is beneficial to get back to it in different stages of your business and update it regularly at least once a year, since your competition and your market also evolve. Think of it as an iterative process that will keep you alert and on top of your competitive advantage. 

How to do a UX competitive analysis?

1. Specify your goals

First, you should decide what you aim to learn with your competitive analysis. This will determine if you will conduct a high-level analysis or you will focus on specific aspects of your website or app. 

You should also consider what your company’s position is when conducting a competitive analysis. This not only changes your perspective but also sets the stage for tools and the opportunities coming with them. 

What different positions do we have in mind?

  1. You are in the early stages and you are looking at your competitors to inspire yourself. A list of strengths to replicate and mistakes to avoid might be the core of your findings. 
  2. You are the owner of an already established business. (Or you are making the analysis on behalf of your client.)

2. Create a list of your competitors

When creating a list of your competitors for the analysis, keep in mind you don’t need a large number. Usually, three to five are enough to compare yourself with. 

Feel free to use smaller businesses but also bigger players in your field. If your customers can meet their needs there, you should include the business in your analysis. 

3. Identify key features and flows

Before you start gathering the insights, do yourself a favor and prepare a matrix document where you will log and organize your findings. 

Now, looking at your competitor’s website/app, define the most significant flows and features that users interact with. It can look something like this:

  1. Sign up and login
  2. Purchase of a product
  3. Subscription to a service
  4. Searching on a website
  5. Making an appointment

Or any other task that applies to your business.

When you’re done with the list, imagine you are the user and perform each action on your list. 

Don’t forget to write down everything in your matrix document. Include notes about what you liked and disliked, what worked, or what surprised you. If you are comparing websites, be sure to visit them using both desktop and mobile devices. 

4. Analyze the data

Looking at the data you’ve collected, it’s time to name the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and yours as well. Use the same document to record your conclusions. 

During the analysis, you will surely stumble upon something that your competitor does differently. Do not feel the urge to replicate each feature straight away. Just because your competitor has something you don’t, it doesn’t mean it is the best approach. Sometimes, however, you might not be sure. If such a situation occurs and you are not sure what to do, read below how you can resolve it using one of the UXtweak tools. 

5. Define actionable next steps

When your analysis is done it should be clear that are the biggest usability issues of your website/app. It is now the time to define actionable steps you will take to make improvements. 

Divide the tasks into short term and long term and plan the redesign and/or implementation. 

Competitive analysis using UXtweak or what do your users think?

Now we know what competitive analysis is, why it is important and how to conduct one. Above we have described general steps you should take when you compare the usability of your website or app with your competitors. 

However, there is a crucial aspect to consider. You as a business owner or a website/app designer are biased and the data you will collect will never be 100% accurate to what an actual user may find important. Therefore you should also be interested in what your users have to say. 

Let’s take a look at several specific ways you can test elements or features of your website/app using UXtweak tools. 

We have also prepared a tailor-made template in which you can record the data that will come up from your analyses. You can download it at the end of this article. 

1. Compare your navigation with Tree Testing

Ask your users to find the same product in your website’s navigation and in the navigation of your competitor. This is even more useful if your website is content-heavy and your business depends on users being able to find the right product or service.  

Take a look at the examples below. Both navigations represent an electronic e-commerce website but the organization slightly differs. Where should the user click if they’re looking for a pair of headphones for running? And in which navigation will they find the item faster?

competitive analysis

Picture 1: Tree structure of website navigation transferred to the UXtweak Tree Testing tool. 

competitive analysis 

Picture 2: Tree structure of website navigation transferred to the UXtweak Tree Testing tool.  

2. Find out which design users prefer using a Preference Test

A Preference Test is helpful when you want to find out how your and your competitor’s design or presentation is perceived by your target audience. In some aspects, you might be the users’ choice and in others, they might prefer your competition. It is priceless to learn what you can do better and what elements to highlight. 

For this Preference Test, we have altered the product page pictures, so they each contain the same product photo. This will enable users to focus on the user interface on the right side so they can choose their preferred option.  

preference test

Picture 3: Screen of a task in the UXtweak Preference Test tool.

3. Who communicates the message better in the first 5 seconds?

How quickly can your users grasp the main information of your page and what are their very first impressions? You can easily find it out using a Five Second Test for your and your competitor’s website. 

Comparing the results for both websites/apps can uncover what’s missing or which areas of your homepage you should tweak to deliver your message more clearly. 

All you need to do is to set up a Five Second Test study using a screenshot of your homepage and do the same with the homepage picture of your competitor/s. As you can see in the example pictures below, there are various approaches to delivering the same or a very similar message. Let your users tell you which one is most effective. 

5 second test

Picture 4: Competitor homepage A for Five Second Test, GetYourGuide.com, an online travel agency and marketplace for tour guides, excursions, and other activities. 

5 second test

Picture 5: Competitor homepage B for Five Second Test, WithLocals.com, an experiential travel company that connects travelers with local hosts.

4. Who is more user-friendly? Find out with First Click Test

All of the above – navigation, design, and communication of a website, lead the users to perform an action. Whether it is a primary or a secondary task, users need to know where to click in order to become your customers. 

Test your website/app using the First Click Test to see if you make it easy for your users or if they struggle. Repeat the same test using your competitor’s website and see who performs better.

To introduce a First Click Test example for your competitive analysis, imagine you would like to sign up for a Spanish course with one of the language schools below. Where would you click first? 

first click test competitive analysis

Picture 6: Competitor homepage A for First Click Test, International House London language school homepage

first click test competitive analysis

Picture 7: Competitor homepage B for First Click Test, TELC UK language school homepage

Conclusion

The main purpose of a competitive analysis is not just about implementing new features or streamlining a flow on your website. It’s really about keeping you on your toes. No matter if your business is big or small, you can still benefit greatly from knowing your competition and the approaches which have already worked for someone else. 

Why not jump on it right now? 

We have prepared for you a template specifically designed for comparison with your competitors using UXtweak tools as described above. Don’t wait up and create your first UXtweak competitive analysis study to collect the insights that will change your business. 

Download UXtweak Competitive Analysis Template

Eliska Hudzikova
March 30, 2022
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UX Researcher with a design and analytical background, she likes to think that even a small change (and a cup of coffee) can make a huge difference.

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