Competitive Study


iTranslate is the leading translation and dictionary app. With the advent of cloud-based natural language processing services, the market has grown crowded and competition has intensified. The SVP of Marketing asked me to study why users choose a top competitor's iOS app over iTranslate.

Original stakeholder ask


  • Understand how users choose translation apps.
  • Identify marketing and UX opportunities.

Research questions

  • Who is choosing between iTranslate and its competitor?
  • What is the experience of choosing a translator app in the App Store?
  • How do people decide which translator app to install?


The team was looking for insights they could incorporate into a strategy session coming up in just six weeks.

My role

I was the only researcher on this project. To meet the deadline I'd need to get scrappy when it came to method selection.


Senior marketing and product stakeholders that I involved throughout the project.


Planning and initial research
  • Led a kick-off meeting with marketing and product to determine objectives and understand constraints. I created a shared working document that I updated throughout the project.
  • Met with marketers to understand current user acquisition strategies.
  • Recruited people who had installed either iTranslate or the competitor within the last 30 days and interviewed them.
  • Synthesized the interview data to identify a key attribute: participants installed translation apps because they were planning on traveling to a place they did not speak the language. The team confirmed this was a primary use case.
Interview transcripts
Study design

Now that I knew who I wanted to recruit I designed a remote, unmoderated study at a scale large enough that I could make inferences at 90% confidence. I recruited 40 participants who had plans to travel to a place where they did not speak the language within the next three months and were very likely to put a translator app on their iPhone. I tasked these participants with installing the translator app they would use on their upcoming trip.

Remote study scorecard
  • I quantified everything I could: query term frequency, number of apps opened, screens scrolled through, and time on task looking for behavioral differences between participants that chose iTranslate and those who chose the competitor.
  • I transcribed and coded, pulling out themes to build a framework to understand the metrics.
Comparing participant behaviors


After five weeks I presented stakeholders with an App Store search behavior model, a list of what's most important in a translator app, and recommendations. My research influenced the team on three levels:

  1. Marketing tactics. One of the insights that I uncovered was a level of stress
  2. Feature prioritization.
  3. Enthusiasm for user-centered design
Slides from the findings and recommendations presentation