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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? 

Competitive analysis is a method of researching your competitors and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. The aim is to gain more in-depth knowledge of your competitors’ strategies and their position in the market, especially in relation to your business. It can help you get valuable insights into how to run your business (and how not to) and find hidden opportunities in the market.

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 UX research journey.

Why is competitive analysis important in UX design?

In the field of UX design, competitive analysis helps to inform and guide the design process. It is important because it can provide valuable insights into user needs, preferences, and expectations, as well as the design trends and standards in the market. Additionally, a competitive analysis can help to identify opportunities for differentiation and innovation.

Competitive analysis in UX research can take the form of expert reviews, where an experienced usability practitioner reviews the designs based on their 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.

Looking for a good tool to conduct competitive analysis?

UXtweak’s got you covered! We developed a whole new Competitive Analysis tool to help you understand what users love or where they struggle and create a winning strategy using competitor sites in usability testing. And guess what’s even better? It’s free!

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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

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. Naturally, your competition and your market evolve and so should you. Think of it as an iterative process that will keep you alert and on top of your competitive advantage.

Learn more about Competitive Audits and how to do them efficiently.

How to do a competitive analysis in UX design?

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 if 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 of a new product development 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 thinking about entering a new market or industry, trying to find a place for new products or innovations
  3. You are monitoring the changes in the competitive landscape, with the goal of not falling behind as the market evolves
  4. You are planning a marketing campaign. Your goal is to understand what your competition is doing and outperform them with your strategy.

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 what 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. Run Competitive Usability Testing

Run a real user test on the websites of your competitors and find out what works for them and what doesn’t! Mimic competitor’s strengths and avoid found mistakes in the early stages of development. 

With UXtweak’s Competitive Usability Testing tool, you can give testers some tasks to accomplish on your and your competitor’s website, compare how they perform, find out what confuses them, and improve your UX based on the findings.

Learn more about usability testing in our guides.

How does it work?

  1. Create a new website testing study and specify the URL of the competitor’s website you want to test
  2. Give users tasks to complete. Before the testing starts, participant will be asked to install UXtweak Chrome Extension for tracking user activity on any website.
  3. Watch the recordings, find out what works and what doesn’t and improve your UX!

Here’s a short video tutorial to help you understand the process better!

2. 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: 2 versions of a tree structure of website navigation transferred to the UXtweak Tree Testing tool. 

3. 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 2: Screen of a task in the UXtweak Preference Test tool.

4. 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 3: 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 4: Competitor homepage B for Five Second Test, WithLocals.com, an experiential travel company that connects travelers with local hosts.

5. 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 5: Competitor homepage A for First Click Test, International House London language school homepage

first click test competitive analysis

Picture 6: Competitor homepage B for First Click Test, TELC UK language school homepage

UX competitive analysis template

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

UX competitive analysis example

Now, congratulations on reading this far! Hopefully you’ve gained new insights into what competitive analysis can mean for you and how conducting it can look like. We are however aware that words only convey so much and it is best to learn by doing. Or observing someone. 

That is why we advise you to check out these demo studies we have prepared and see what a competitive analysis done on a real life example looks like.

Do users understand how my website works?

Website Testing
Do users understand how my website works?

What is my competitor doing better?

Website Testing
What is my competitor doing better?

You can also check out an example of a competitive audit on our blog.

Conclusion: Staying Ahead of the Game

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. 

People also ask (FAQ)

Why is competitive analysis important in UX design?

Competitive analysis is important in UX design because it helps you understand how your product fits into the market. It can help identify opportunities to differentiate your product from the competition as well as make informed decisions that can lead to a better user experience.

How to do competitive analysis in UX design?

Competitive UX analysis can be conducted using a UX research tool. These are the steps:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Identify the competitors
  3. Identify key features and flows
  4. Create a test plan 
  5. Use a Competitive Usability Testing tool
  6. Analyze the findings
What is SWOT analysis in UX?

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In UX design, SWOT analysis can be used in competitive analysis to identify competitor strengths and weaknesses, and explore opportunities and threats for your business growth.

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