As UX is first and foremost a problem-solving discipline it’s a good idea to see how other organizations are trying to solve the same problem you are trying to solve.

Competitive benchmarking is a great way to do this.

It may not be the most complex work you do, and it probably isn’t something you’ll deliver to clients or stakeholders. But the insights you gain are useful when designing a product and speaking to people within the organization.

Who to Benchmark

It’s a good idea to make a list of 8-10 competitors and see how they are doing things. This list doesn’t necessarily need to be made up of direct competitors or even organizations in strictly the same industry either.

If you’re looking to deliver a better user experience for the flight booking process, for example, you can look at how well sites offering similar functionality do things. Things like selecting dates, choosing from different options and filtering results.

You can also look at competitors operating in other countries that you aren’t directly competing with, as they may deliver an excellent user experience you would otherwise miss.

What to Benchmark

There are many things you could look at and it’s largely dependent on the problems you’re trying to solve.

But as a general rule, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

  • How is the website/app solving the problems?
  • What are they doing very well that you can emulate?
  • What are they not doing so well that you can improve?
  • What conventions have been established that you need to follow?

Again, you can’t be too specific as it varies on the problem you’re trying to solve, but here are some ideas for some of the most common use cases.

Homepage:

  • What does the organization say about themselves?
  • Is the proposition clear?
  • Is key functionality easy to access?
  • How much functionality is offered?

Navigation:

  • What is the navigation hierarchy like?
  • How is the navigation displayed?

Entering Details:

  • How are details entered?
  • How is registration encouraged?
  • What is the process like and how long does it take?
  • How is payment taken and confirmed?

Search, Select and Filter:

  • What are the similarities or conventions between sites/apps?
  • What is the most efficient way of doing things?
  • How much and what information is immediately presented?
  • What is the sorting logic like?

How to Benchmark

Competitive benchmarking is a simple yet time-consuming process.

It consists of 3 steps:

  1. Take a screenshot (you can use Screenpresso, Snagit, Greenshot, PicPick or one of the many free browser extensions available)
  2. Highlight and number what you want to call out
  3. Add brief commentary why this aspect is called out.

What is mentioned above should get the ideas flowing for what you should to benchmark, but to get more specific here are some things you can call out:

  • Language used
  • Call to actions
  • How well something is communicated
  • Input controls (buttons, dropdowns, radio buttons, checkboxes, text fields etc.)
  • Navigational components (menu items, search field, breadcrumbs, icons etc.)
  • Informational components (notifications, progress bars, message boxes, tooltips etc.)
  • The look and feel of the entire page

Take a look at our Heuristic Evaluation article for more ideas.