Website UI competitive analysis

17 Aug 2009 - 8:24am
5 years ago
8 replies
2854 reads
Will Hacker
2009

I've been tasked with documenting how one of my company's user
interfaces compares with our top three competitors, as a way of
understanding where we excel, where we need improvement, and where we
are roughly equal. The business goal is to more fully understand the
UI conventions used by these sites so we better anticipate what
customers coming to us from the competition bring in the way of
expectations. We'd like to know what our competition does well to
make sure we aren't lacking in that area, and where there is an
opportunity to improve on what they are doing to provide a possibly
better experience.

I'm wondering if anyone has seen a good report format for recording
the observations of the four sites. I was thinking of using
Nielsen's heuristics checklist as a starting point, but would like
to know if anyone has done this kind of analysis and how they
performed it. Another approach I'm considering is one I found on the
IBM website: http://tinyurl.com/davyr5

I recognize this type of analysis involves a certain amount of
subjectivity and does not address things like the users' domain
knowledge and the context in which the customers use the sites so it
will be impossible to make absolute statements about what works and
what doesn't. I'm curious how you would approach this task.

Comments

17 Aug 2009 - 8:58am
William Hudson
2009

Will -

You could have a look at our UX Benchmarking report description at
www.uxbench.com to get some ideas (or better still, buy the report<g>).

Another benchmarking firm is Bowen Craggs & Co. Theirs focuses on
corporate web site effectiveness (while ours is specifically e-commerce
UX). Have a look at http://www.bowencraggs.com/ftindex

Regards,

William Hudson
Syntagm Ltd
Design for Usability
UK 01235-522859
World +44-1235-522859
US Toll Free 1-866-SYNTAGM
mailto:william.hudson at syntagm.co.uk
http://www.syntagm.co.uk
skype:williamhudsonskype

Syntagm is a limited company registered in England and Wales (1985).
Registered number: 1895345. Registered office: 10 Oxford Road, Abingdon
OX14 2DS.

Confused about dates in interaction design? See our new study (free):
http://www.syntagm.co.uk/design/datesstudy.htm

12 UK mobile phone e-commerce sites compared! Buy the report:
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: new-bounces at ixda.org [mailto:new-bounces at ixda.org] On Behalf Of
> Willl Hacker
> Sent: 17 August 2009 8:25 AM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Website UI competitive analysis
...

17 Aug 2009 - 9:11am
Erin Walsh
2007

Will,

I realize you are being asked for an expert heuristic review, but
thought you might be interested in an approach we took on our team.
We did in-house usability tests comparing our site to our top 7
competitors. From these results, we were able to put together a SWOT
(strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis showing how we
compared to our competitors.

Again, I realize you are being asked for a heuristic review, but this
analysis provided us such insightful information we were able to
tackle major industry-wide issues and also help prioritize our plan
of work. (It also helped convince higher ups that we had the video
and it wasn't just our team saying "X is bad. We need to address this
right away.") As a last aside, we found the SWOT format worked well
for them because it was a style/language with which they were
familiar and comfortable.

It won't replace your heuristic review, but just something to keep in
the back of your mind.

Thanks,
Erin

erin walsh | product developer | For Rent Media Solutions™
150 granby street, 16th floor | norfolk, va 23510
p:757.351.8444 | f:757.961.4827
erin.walsh at ForRent.com| www.FRMediaSolutions.com

You Have Multiple Marketing Needs... We Have Multiple Solutions!

On Aug 17, 2009, at 7:24 AM, Willl Hacker wrote:

I've been tasked with documenting how one of my company's user
interfaces compares with our top three competitors, as a way of
understanding where we excel, where we need improvement, and where we
are roughly equal. The business goal is to more fully understand the
UI conventions used by these sites so we better anticipate what
customers coming to us from the competition bring in the way of
expectations. We'd like to know what our competition does well to
make sure we aren't lacking in that area, and where there is an
opportunity to improve on what they are doing to provide a possibly
better experience.

I'm wondering if anyone has seen a good report format for recording
the observations of the four sites. I was thinking of using
Nielsen's heuristics checklist as a starting point, but would like
to know if anyone has done this kind of analysis and how they
performed it. Another approach I'm considering is one I found on the
IBM website: http://tinyurl.com/davyr5

I recognize this type of analysis involves a certain amount of
subjectivity and does not address things like the users' domain
knowledge and the context in which the customers use the sites so it
will be impossible to make absolute statements about what works and
what doesn't. I'm curious how you would approach this task.
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17 Aug 2009 - 9:52am
Mark Schraad
2006

There are a couple of frameworks that can get you started... by the way this
is often referred to as market research (different than marketing research)
or competitive analysis. If you search/look for references towards SWOT
(strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) or Porter's five factors
you will find background and structures that may help - all coming from a
business perspective, but they can easily be applied to design.
Mark

On Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 2:24 AM, Willl Hacker <willhacker at sbcglobal.net>wrote:

> I've been tasked with documenting how one of my company's user
> interfaces compares with our top three competitors, as a way of
> understanding where we excel, where we need improvement, and where we
> are roughly equal. The business goal is to more fully understand the
> UI conventions used by these sites so we better anticipate what
> customers coming to us from the competition bring in the way of
> expectations. We'd like to know what our competition does well to
> make sure we aren't lacking in that area, and where there is an
> opportunity to improve on what they are doing to provide a possibly
> better experience.
>
> I'm wondering if anyone has seen a good report format for recording
> the observations of the four sites. I was thinking of using
> Nielsen's heuristics checklist as a starting point, but would like
> to know if anyone has done this kind of analysis and how they
> performed it. Another approach I'm considering is one I found on the
> IBM website: http://tinyurl.com/davyr5
>
> I recognize this type of analysis involves a certain amount of
> subjectivity and does not address things like the users' domain
> knowledge and the context in which the customers use the sites so it
> will be impossible to make absolute statements about what works and
> what doesn't. I'm curious how you would approach this task.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

17 Aug 2009 - 4:45pm
Toby Biddle
2009

Hi Will,

We've been asked to do similar things for clients over the years.
Most recently we used Loop11 (www.loop11.com) to run some online,
unmoderated user tests across our clients' website and then three
competitor websites.

This approach might not provide all of the inforamtion you've been
asked to collect, but it'll give you a good idea of how
easy/difficult the same tasks are across multiple websites.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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18 Aug 2009 - 3:20pm
Paul Hibbitts
2009

Hello Will,

Here are a couple of additional comparative analysis articles/reports that you might find of interest:

http://www.digital-web.com/articles/competitive_analysis/

http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/services/usability/MTagger_ComparitiveEva...

http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/services/usability/SI622MBooks_CompEval.pdf

I%u2019ve personally been quite happy with the results of using the ISO 9241-110 Dialogue Principles as a set of usability guidelines to help identify/categorize both positive and negative usability aspects for several comparative analysis projects.

You can read more about using these guidelines in a usability inspection at http://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/expertreviews.html, and the guidelines themselves are available for purchase at http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?c...

Hope the above helps,
Paul

28 Aug 2009 - 12:15pm
James Page
2008

Hi Toby,

I prefer Webnographer <http://www.webnographer.com/> for website UI
competitive analysis, but than I am also Founder of
FeraLabs<http://www.feralabs.com/>,
who have built Webnographer (a remote usability testing tool).

Of course, I would expect you to promote your own product too :)

I am not sure if you mentioned on this list, that CrunchBase
<http://www.crunchbase.com/company/loop11>lists you as the CEO of Loop11, or
are there more than one Toby Biddle working in the same building that
UsabilityOne
and Loop11 share?

All the best
James Page
http://blog.feralabs.com

2009/8/17 Toby Biddle <toby at usabilityone.com>

> Hi Will,
>
> We've been asked to do similar things for clients over the years.
> Most recently we used Loop11 (www.loop11.com) to run some online,
> unmoderated user tests across our clients' website and then three
> competitor websites.
>
> This approach might not provide all of the inforamtion you've been
> asked to collect, but it'll give you a good idea of how
> easy/difficult the same tasks are across multiple websites.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44753
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

28 Aug 2009 - 5:31pm
Paul Bryan
2008

If usability is the differentiating factor between the competitors,
then a heuristic assessment would be useful. However, in many cases
usability issues are table stakes that should be optimized apart from
what the competition is doing. For a competitive analysis I suggest
starting with the manner in which each competitor has chosen to solve
the most valuable and complex needs of your customers.

I don%u2019t know what industry you%u2019re in, so take the kitchen
sink as an example. If you look at 4 competitors in this space you
might look at Kohler, Franke, Moen, and Blanco. The links to their
sinks are below.

Kohler:
http://www.us.kohler.com/onlinecatalog/category.jsp?category=5)
Franke: http://www.frankekitchensinks.com/
Moen: http://www.moen.com/ecatalog/gallery/kitchen-bar-sinks/_/N-687
Blanco: http://www.blancoamerica.com/index.html?p=KITCHEN_SINKS

If you were to conduct a heuristic evaluation of these competitors,
it would be very time-consuming; the results might not tell the story
of what really differentiates these sites; and the site owner may
still not know what needs to be done to reach parity or superiority
in key areas. It would be more helpful to focus on more strategic
design elements, such as:

- Approach to product selection
- Category-specific filters
- Use of rich media
- Personalization
- Supporting content
- Design tools
- Interactive demo in a home context
- Use of social media to promote awareness
- Consistency with offline brand collateral

To support your ratings of these strategic design elements, you could
provide screen captures (e.g. using software like SnagIt) showing how
customers would go from initial entry to goal attainment in the
different sites. You should use a rating system, like the one in the
IBM paper you referenced. But I%u2019ve found that stakeholders pay
more attention to the recommendations than the assessment itself, so
I always take the time to develop a perspective as to which areas
should be tackled first, comparing level of effort and expense to
anticipated business value.

Paul Bryan
Director, User Research and Design Strategy
Usography Corporation (www.usography.com)
Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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29 Aug 2009 - 2:19am
Murray Thompson
2009

Maybe you're already aware of it, but since it hasn't been
mentioned, Dan Brown's book "Communicating Design" has a good
chapter on competitive analysis documentation. Like the rest of his
book, he talks about a layered approach to the documentation, as well
as presentation and context for it.

To me, a competitive analysis is good for establishing a baseline
reference and perhaps get some ideas for inspiration. But in the end,
don't just try to include what your competition has or steer away
from their perceived weaknesses. It might get you to a safe solution,
but not a successful one.

Sure, find out what others are doing. But rather than using it to
imitate or "Frankenstein" concepts, first really know what _your
business'_ goals and customer needs are. Then use the analysis,
along with other resources, to maybe come up with something totally
new that's tightly aligned with those needs. And test that out.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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