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Correctly analyze the digital products and services of the competition
Almost every company in the world takes a closer look at its competition in order to assess its own status and evaluate new market opportunities. A branch of industry of its own has even developed around the topic. Market researchers provide corporations with important information and thereby exert a strong influence on important business decisions. And UX designers also have to keep themselves informed about new innovations in design and functional issues so that they can offer the users of their products the best possible experience.
For example, the usability or the interaction design of one's own service can only be assessed correctly if they are compared with the solutions of competing offers and services. Such comparisons are particularly important when a completely new product is to be brought onto the market. The successes and mistakes of other companies that are already active in this sector offer instructive assistance and make any design decisions easier.
In order for UX designers to remain competitive in the long term, they have to keep an eye on their competitors. For this purpose, market researchers fall back on competitive analyzes, with the help of which they evaluate the behavior, methods and products of the competition. In her article "How to Check Out the Competition", Sarah Khan discusses some interesting starting points on how the method of competition analysis can be meaningfully integrated into the work process of UX designers.
Competitive analysis for UX designers: direct and indirect competition
According to Khan, UX designers need to take a closer look at both direct and indirect competitors to evaluate. Direct competitors are those products that aim to solve the same problem. Such offers often come with a similar range of functions and therefore have a similar user base. In contrast, indirect competitors are those services that share certain product features with their own item, but offer a completely different service and therefore target a different target group.
Khan cites the Uber and Lyft applications as examples of direct competitors. Since the two services offer a similar service (driving service), they compete for the same customer base in many cities.
Deliveroo, for example, is an indirect competitor of these two providers. The application offers its customers the option of having food from upscale restaurants delivered to their home by courier.
What all three services have in common is that they have to use external drivers to perform their services; in some cases they even overlap their user bases. However, Deliveroo's primary service is fundamentally different from the similar offerings from Uber and Lyft.
Competitive analysis in UX design
Does the product aim to solve the same problem? What functionality does the service have? Does the service focus on a similar target group? With these questions it is possible for UX designers to get an initial overview of the current market offer. With the help of the creation of a competition analysis matrix, competitors can be identified, their competitive potential assessed and important information gathered about necessary features and functions. However, a meaningful market analysis has to be based on further parameters.
In order to refine the analysis, the opinions and views of the shareholders who have been exploring the market and the competition for a long time should also be obtained. Because the shareholders are typically the clients, they can provide information and insights that designers are less familiar with but that can benefit them in design decisions. However, it is not enough just to accept their suggestions. It is also important to regularly present the results to customers and compare them with their ideas.
The hypotheses developed should not only agree with the opinions of the shareholders, but should also be compared with the needs of the potential target group through constant testing and, if necessary, corrected. Whether there are design problems can be determined through interviews and surveys. Conclusions about the needs of the users are provided by the creation of user stories, personas and consumer journey maps. They serve as the basis of a good design strategy, which is further elaborated through blueprints and user flows. Whether the intended storytelling or the gamification elements used actually match the needs of the user must ultimately be checked using mockups, wireframes, prototypes and usability tests. If the evaluation is repeated regularly, the most common mistakes in UX design - for example when dealing with design patterns - can be avoided and thus a successful navigation design or a good mobile experience can be ensured.
In the meantime, a good user interface no longer just ends with digital interactions, but also extends to the spaces away from the screen. The customer experience takes into account the entire product life cycle and includes all points of contact and interactions between customers and companies. The CX connects the digital with the physical world, extends beyond the internal perspective of a product, such as a website or application, and includes issues such as packaging decisions, maintenance processes or returns processing.
Thinking outside the box of a digital product also expands the circle of addressees who are directly or indirectly affected by the activities of the shareholders. The needs of the so-called stakeholders must also be taken into account when making design decisions so that users can be offered the best possible experience in dealing with a digital product. Community-based services such as Airbnb or Uber show that control over the actual service is often no longer in the hands of those responsible.
Analyze instead of copying
Competitive analyzes can usefully complement the workflow of UX designers if they can be used to combine the online and offline experience. Only when this connection succeeds are products and services in the digital sector successful these days. Websites and applications no longer stand on their own, but have to become the mediator between the digital and the physical-social world. Whether and how this succeeds can only be determined in the course of extensive tests and cannot be determined across the board.
Therefore, simply copying the features and functions of products and services that are in direct or indirect competition is usually doomed to failure. It may seem promising at first glance to simply copy the concept of an established product in order to be able to fall back on tried and tested know-how and thus save time-consuming research work.
If you skip this step, however, you ultimately never know how and why an element works how it works. And if you don't know what you're doing right from the start, this is rarely crowned with success (in the long term). In addition, copying existing features only reproduces the status quo. The company's own digital products and services are always one step behind the actual development. The market opportunities and opportunities resulting from innovative renewals are thus given away from the start.
Since the success of digital products and services depends on the combination of a good online and offline experience, conversion cannot be planned, but rather the result of detailed analyzes and tests. For a first orientation it is important to collect information about the direct and indirect competition. However, their features and services should not be simply copied, nor should current design trends be blindly adopted online.
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