Get design ideas by researching features in similar products.
Completing a competitive analysis can take a couple of hours. It depends on how many examples you have and how specific your subject is.
Gathering different options and ideas for the direction you want your content or design to go in and gaining a broader perspective of the different ways your competitors achieve the same goal.
Competitive analysis compares similar examples of content or design to help you determine what features you want or don’t want in your future project. Competitive analysis is often used in marketing, but it can also be used for UX projects. For UX, it is useful to see how other people design for their users and get inspired by other designs.
Have a research idea or goal in mind
This sets the scope and helps determine what examples will help you! For the University of Arizona Libraries UX team, some of our research goals have been
- Are other libraries using a sidebar menu? If so, does it appear on the top or bottom of the page in mobile view?
- How are other universities organizing their Special Collections website?
We find that it is best to ask yourself a research question. This makes the search more open-ended and curious than just checking out what other institutions are doing.
Make a list of competitors
It is always better to have a large list to reference because not all competitors may have the features or characteristics you are looking to analyze. Find competitors that you would consider a “peer” to your organization. Think of similarities such as size, location, mission statement, and audience.
If you are looking at specific features of a platform, look at competitors that use the same content management system (e.g. Drupal, Wordpress, etc.).
- An idea, concept design, or product you want to improve
- Existing products or web pages related to your idea
- A list of examples you want to compare your idea to
- Sometimes we get lists or ideas of competitors from our stakeholders!
- A list of criteria you want use to analyze in your examples that help you determine what you like and don’t like about the examples (e.g. how they design their menu, where their search bar is located, etc.)
- A notetaking template to keep track of your examples, observations, and analyses
Create a place to store all your examples
It is important to keep all of your analyses in the same place so that they can be easily compared to one another. It also never hurts to be organized! The University of Arizona Libraries UX team uses Notion to organize and store our analyses.
For each example, include a screenshot and link of what you’re analyzing so others can see what you’re describing and refer back to it later.
Establish a structure
A way to set your competitive analysis up for success is to have certain criteria that you will look for in every competitor. For example, in our banner alert competitive analysis, our criteria were:
- Is it concise?
- Is it closeable?
- Does it remember you closed it?
- Does it have a clean design?
- Does it have a “Learn more” button/prompt for the user?
- Is it too large?
- Is it too subtle?
- For this question, we made this a separate criterion and divided it into these categories:
- Top of page
- Under logo
- Under search
Having criteria makes it easier to go through examples quickly and will also allow you to see trends of what your examples do.
Review each example
For each example take note of what you like and dislike. Keep your research or design goal in mind so that you focus on features that are related to your project. Take note of how each example falls under your criteria, and where they succeed and fail.
Document your analysis
Once you have reviewed your example, it’s time to capture your observations. Indicate which criteria each example falls under. You can also include emojis such as a checkmark for yes ✅ and an x for no ❌ to mark what you like and dislike about each topic.
Summarize your examples
After all your examples are collected, summarize all the trends that you see. These will help point you in the direction that you want to go in with your content or design! The easiest way to summarize trends is by crunching the numbers on the criteria you created (ie: 50% of our examples had their banner at the top of their page). Take note of what you would possibly like to implement, and what you want to avoid in your design.
You can share this work in a brief summary or through an in-depth write-up. Our team uses Notion pages to keep all of our findings in the same place.
A brief summary presents the general trends of your findings and show the more standout examples (good or bad). This can either be shared briefly in a meeting or sent via email.
An in-depth writeup includes showing every example and demonstrating what you liked and disliked about each example. This is best shared in a presentation form in a meeting to walk through everything you learned.
- Don't get too caught up in overly explaining why you like or dislike something. Bullet points work great and help you focus on the most important details.
- Don’t forget to take screenshots. Using screenshots as a visual aid will help make the examples you use more clear and specific. It will also make your analysis more scannable and ensure you can reference the example even if the content moves or the link breaks.
- When choosing examples, consider organizations that do similar work to you. For example, The University of Arizona Libraries UX team typically uses websites from other large, public university libraries as examples.
- Don’t go overboard with too many examples. You don't want your findings to become redundant or overwhelming to look through. 7-10 tends to be a good number.
- When choosing a representative example, choose ones that have clear details that demonstrate what you really like or dislike. This helps steer you in a clear direction.