With more and more SaaS applications being released on a weekly basis, Conducting Competitive Research can give your product an edge. It can be a challenge to differentiate your product from others and by doing this type of research, you can better understand where you can position your product for the best results. The good thing is that you can implement a few methods and gain the awareness you need to satisfy your customer and business needs. 

Before you get started in the review of others, you must have awareness in a few things that will guide your direction. This has everything to do with your business and the opportunity of your solution. The realization of these things are key as it becomes your north star and a guide for the way you offer services to your customers. This includes being clear about the mission, business goals of the application and being laser focused on the value proposition being offered to your audience. 


Identify the Players

Often there are parts of the process that can get overlooked as you start to complete your analysis. The nuances in trying to identify every bit of detail in an organization and assess if it matters to you can be draining and time consuming. I’d recommend focusing on the key things that will answer some of your tough questions:

  • Who is my ideal consumer? 
  • What problem does my offering solve?
  • What incentive should I extend to the user?
  • What is being done in the market currently? 
  • Who are the major players in the space?

Having the insight to know what you plan to capture and who you plan to target can steer how you execute on your findings. Your customers will be the driving force of feedback to help you solidify your opportunity instead of copying your opponents products. Talk to them directly. When you are executing this competitive analysis, being open to other industries, products and applications can begin to give you moments of clarity while informing on directions you should avoid taking.

“Your customers will be the driving force of feedback to help you solidify your opportunity instead of copying your opponents products. Talk to them directly.”



Pros & Cons Review

After defining your user, your audience and the players in the space, I’d recommend that you commit to analyzing their products by doing your own audit. Download their latest application, review the current website and sign-up for a trial period to their SaaS product. In doing this, you will get first hand experience on how the product performs, engages and/or disappoints the user. 

The ultimate goal here is to inform yourself on what is out in the market and what the potential users can come to expect from the players. Use this step as a chance to be the best option by documenting the pros of that product, highlight the usability challenges and reference some of the visuals related to each. Moments of enlightenment will surface and give you the information needed to identify opportunities so that you may deliver a better outcome. Users and search engines favor engaging experiences and return to more frictionless services to find a solution to their problem. 

Segment and rank each organization by the criteria of your choosing to pinpoint where they stand. If it’s yearly revenue that is of focus, prioritize each using that point of measure. Or perhaps the amount of active users, downloads and/or market share matter more than the number of service offerings which can end up shifting your basis of evaluation. Whatever the requirement you and your team decides on, prioritize the top-tiered organizations and analyze them with that frame of view.

Visual Screen Reference

As designers, we can have a tendency to lean in on the visuals and allow it to inform our judgment of a product. With design led organizations placing high value on their digital and experience design, there are respectable companies that you can model your applications after. This is done through a review of various screens, assets and interactions which can help you make connections within your mobile app using common design patterns

“Whether content needs to be given more prominence, provide additional clarity or become something supplemental will depend on its value to the user.”

Explore both online and offline mediums to give you a full range of creative possibilities. Critique each view and sort out the different features and interface elements that you believe can extend into a positive experience for users. Make note of these options and compile them for reference. Following this, you can then rework and modify the highly desirable ones to fit your brand and product for a unique and customized delivery. This will be some of the early stage building blocks for your stakeholders to associate with while you implement interface design and product mockups.



Analysis Informs Your Design

With your competitive analysis sorted and your documented references flushed out, you can then let that inform the next stages of your design thinking process. Using wireframes to provide context to the overall layout, can display the ability to translate research into screens contextually. Whether content needs to be given more prominence, provide additional clarity or become something supplemental will depend on its value to the user. You can discover new ways of displaying navigations, data tables, usability patterns and more. 

Following the references from the wireframes, you can now begin to design the visual interface for your solutions. With the previous contenders reviewed and an outlined guide to work with, this will reduce your time in creating the user interface. Begin looking through the defined brand guidelines for logos, typography and color choices to speed up the implementation process. The research is now your tool and has informed how you bring life to the analysis and the mobile application.   

Check out the following video for a look into these competitive product design research methods and how I’ve approached using them to inform my visual design efforts.

Your life has color, so design it that way. AD

User Avatar

Anticio Duke

Anticio Duke is a serial entrepreneur, inventor and product designer based in Chicago, IL. Known as Duke, he transitioned from a successful product engineering background to digital product software design. Bringing a wealth of knowledge to the digital space, he serves as a product design strategist for agencies and Fortune 100/500 companies; bridging the gap between consumer hardware and digital products. Currently, he leads as Chief Product Strategist at WDI Studios, an innovative creative agency focused on product delivery and education for mobile application design, gamification and voice user interfaces.