In the realms of user experience (UX) design, benchmarking is how you measure and evaluate the performance of your website against predetermined criteria, or against your competition. UX benchmarking offers valuable insights into how your site is doing, assists you in identifying areas you might want to improve, and helps with setting goals for future improvements.
Unfortunately, it’s not all gravy. Benchmarking can be a bit of a double-edged sword.
While it’s a useful tool, it can also lead to misguided or inaccurate comparisons and an overly competitive mindset that won’t serve your business as well as you hope. That said, any benchmarking you use should always be done with a healthy understanding of its limitations, and how you can use the obtained data effectively. At the end of the day, your only real competition is yourself.
Strive to make your business better than it was yesterday, and watch the true gains start happening. Keep reading as we explore some of the benefits and pitfalls of UX benchmarking, and how you can make the most of it. May the odds be ever in your favor!
What is UX Benchmarking and Why Should You Care?
As previously stated, UX benchmarking is the way you measure your website’s performance, so you can figure out what needs improving.
You can measure those benchmarks:
- Against your competitors
- Against a set of criteria you determine ahead of time
- Or against common industry standards
There are a few ways benchmarking is helpful. The most obvious is that it provides a baseline so you can evaluate how effective your UX design changes are over time.
If you measure the performance of your site before and after you make changes to the design, you can use that data to determine whether those changes have had the desired impact on your user experience, AKA internal benchmarking.
Benchmarking may also help you figure out areas that need refinements by comparing your site’s performance to your competition. If their website UX kicks ass, theoretically, some of that data could be useful to determine areas your own website falls short. However, we don’t love this method, more on why later.
Benchmarking can also help you set realistic, achievable goals based on industry standards, which can be helpful, but again, isn’t our favorite methodology.
What to Benchmark and How to Do It
There are several aspects of UX design that can be benchmarked. Things like:
- Site speed: How long it takes for your website to load and respond to user interaction.
- User engagement: How long users stay on your website, how many pages they view, and how frequently they return.
- User satisfaction: How satisfied users are with their experience on your website.
- Conversion rates: How many visitors to your website complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
- Navigation: How easy it is for users to find what they are looking for on your website.
You can use tools to help benchmark these aspects, including user testing, surveys, and analytics tools.
- Usability testing: This involves recruiting and observing users as they interact with your website and complete tasks. You record their experiences and feedback, and use that to inform your decisions moving forward.
- Surveys: These can be used to gather direct feedback from users about their experiences with your website, good, bad, and ugly.
- Analytics: These are metrics you can use to track metrics like page load times, page views, bounce rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction.
How Do You Use the Data from Benchmarks?
Good question. The goal is to obtain intel you can use to make data-driven decisions for UX design changes. For example, if you learn your website has a high bounce rate, you can use that information to discover what about your design is triggering it, and make tweaks to lower the bounce rate.
If you learn something isn’t converting well, you can make tweaks to improve those conversions. And if you learn your site is loading turtle-style, you can take steps to upgrade your site speed. Trust us, your users will thank you for that one!
You can also use the data to help you set realistic goals for other usability enhancements, and inform decisions for future web design and functionality. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. But when you do know, do better!
Competitive vs. Internal Benchmarking
Though there are three types of benchmarking, most businesses engage in either internal benchmarking or competitive benchmarking. Competitive benchmarking is what it sounds like. Comparing your site performance against your competition’s site performance.
Sure, you might gain some valuable insights doing this, and improve your site design and usability to a degree. However, there are limitations to how helpful it is, and your results could even lead you astray. The reality is that your competitors often have different:
- Business models
- Target audiences
- Levels of expertise
All of that adds up to making direct comparisons challenging, if not impossible, and it can be difficult to replicate their success no matter how much you deconstruct it. Not to mention, benchmarking against your competition can lead to an overly competitive mindset that ultimately prioritizes beating them out over actually improving your user’s experience.
Internal benchmarking, on the other hand, keeps the competition in house, with you against yourself and your previous performance. Using internal benchmarks allows you to focus on improving your site’s usability and set concrete goals based on your own past history.
You can measure and compare against yourself over time, identify areas that need work, and track your progress. Internal benchmarking also offers a more accurate measure of improvement, since the reality is, your website is the only one you can actually control and make changes to.
How UserInput Can Help You Set Better Benchmarks
Though benchmarking can offer valuable intelligence into your site’s performance and usability, it’s vital to have a clear understanding of your business goals and target audience, and you must collect accurate data and feedback from users if you want to set meaningful benchmarks.
Our platform is a tool to help you gain those necessary insights by:
- Providing access to real users to collect feedback from, so that you can set meaningful benchmarks based on actual experiences.
- Offering various types of user tests, like usability testing, user interviews, and surveys. These tests help you gather particular information and identify ways to improve.
- Allowing targeted feedback from specific user segments, such as customers or potential customers, so you can gather feedback relevant to your business, and set benchmarks tailored to your needs.
- Enabling you to track progress over time and measure the effectiveness of any changes you make. This can help you set achievable benchmarks and reach data-driven conclusions.
- Providing actionable insights based on user feedback, to identify weak areas, set benchmarks, and track progress.
Additionally, when you combine feedback from real website visitors with powerful analytics tools that track key performance metrics, you can identify trends and patterns in your user’s behaviors that will help you put forth the best UX experience possible for your site visitors. So to recap:
- Involves comparing your website’s performance against your competitors
- Can provide insights into how your website performs compared to your competitors
- May have limitations due to differences in goals, target audiences, and business models
- Involves comparing your website’s performance against your own previous performance
- Allows businesses to focus on improving their own performance
- Provides a more accurate measure of improvement over time
- Enables businesses to control their own data and feedback
Benchmarking Against Industry Standards
- Involves comparing your website’s performance against established standards within your industry
- Provides businesses with a baseline for their website’s performance
- Can help identify areas where their website can be improved
- May not be applicable to all businesses, particularly if they operate in a niche market or have unique business models
Pros of UX Benchmarking
- Identifies strengths and weaknesses
- Sets realistic goals
- Tracks progress
- Provides insights into competitors
Cons of UX Benchmarking
- Difficult to make direct comparisons with competitors
- Competitors may have different goals, target audiences, and business models
- Competitors may have different budgets, resources, and expertise
Always keep in mind that benchmarking is a valuable tool in improving your user’s experience and driving the success of your business forward. However, don’t be fooled or fall into the trap of competitive thinking.
Benchmarks are worthless against your competition.
They only matter when you are your own competition, much like most things in life. Focus on internal benchmarking, use tools like UserInput to gather real-time visitor feedback, and set benchmarks that actually matter when making design decisions and UX changes.
Trying to beat your competition just for the sake of winning doesn’t keep your visitors top of mind and won’t serve you well in the long game. And successful businesses are always playing the long game.