B2B User Experiences (UX) is difficult. And it lacks focus. This leads to poor usability in many Enterprise solutions. But does it have to be that way? Meet our expert, Helene Lundeby Riddervold, who is responsible for user experience at Ambita.
"In Ambita we passionately believe that strong UX is possible and necessary to increase revenue and gain happy costumers and users," said Helene Lundeby Riddervold.
The difference between B2B and B2C
In order to understand the challenges we face when designing for Enterprise solutions, we must understand the difference between B2B and B2C solutions.
An important difference between B2B and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) is that B2B transactions are in general larger and more complex than B2C transactions. A B2B solution is often software designed to meet the needs of an entire organization, as opposed to B2C software that is designed to satisfy individual users.
"Users are in a different context when at work than solving tasks for themselves, and they are often motivated by other things. Usually, design for different roles and tasks in the same product is required, and the user is often different from the decision maker. In addition, B2B software companies normally take longer to roll out functionality and often work on multiple things at the same time," said Riddervold.
We often see B2B users requiring that the product be tailored to their workflow, not that the user adapts their workflow to available products, as B2C users would do. This requires a completely different level of flexibility and different ways of solving tasks. Since B2B users in general use the product a lot, there are completely different requirements for streamlining work tasks, such as the use of shortcuts, templates, and automation. In B2C design, there is usually more focus on the user understanding how to use the product, while in B2B design, it is more important that the user can perform their tasks as efficiently as possible.
The purchasing process is often different and may involve tenders or invoices more often than credit card and mobile payments, as we see in B2C.
"It is complicated to recruit for interviews and user tests when designing for B2B, as users must have a given profile and field of expertise. At the same time, we experience that people are happy to contribute if they have the time, since the outcome of what we design affects their workday," said Riddervold.
Why is UX important in B2B?
"It is important to be concerned about UX when choosing a B2B solution because good usability can affect how effectively you can use the solution and how easy it is for you and your colleagues to achieve their goals," said Riddervold.
B2B software is undergoing major changes, such systems no longer need to be unfriendly, difficult to use, and boring to look at. Today's professional users expect the same from the systems they have at work as they do at home. A less frustrating workday leads to a better working environment and satisfied employees. In addition, it leads to fewer errors, which can be critical to many actors. This has led to many software buyers now demanding high quality UX in their software. Therefore, more and more B2B software manufacturers are realizing how important it is to invest in good user experience when creating a product.
We see some companies now that have user experience as their unique selling point, starting as small actors, but now growing to become medium to big size vendors. Continuing to uncompromisingly focus on usability in this phase requires leadership that believes that usability must be at the forefront.
And that is precisely the step I have experienced that Ambita has taken in recent years. With management that understands that usability and user experience is an essential competitive advantage, the hiring of a UX team and a general focus on usability in the organization has led to a completely different way of working today than just a few years ago.
A software house focus creating user-friendly solutions:
- Reducing risks: By making sure we solve the right problem for the right people and the willingness to pay for the solution before we start to develop, we reduce the risk substantially.
- Working incrementally: By rolling out small changes to small portions of users, we help the users to adapt and can learn more rapidly.
- Designing for both users and buyers: In B2B the buyer is often not the same person as the user. Therefore, we must cover the needs of both roles.
- Informing the decision maker: Often, the buyer has little focus on UX when deciding on Enterprise solutions. We must therefore inform well how important this is for the effectiveness of the end users of the system.
- Innovation: In a marked where processes take long time and the risk is high, it is necessary to be up front and pick up on needs and opportunities in the marked early on. In order to do this, we use different methods and tools, for example Lean Startup, and Continuous Discovery.
- Design and business hand in hand: UX is important in order to make the products usable, by ensuring good UI (User Interface) we make the product pleasing to use, and by ensuring good accessibility we ensure that as many costumers as possible can use our products. But all this is of no use if we don’t prioritize in a way that makes our customers wanting to buy our products. Therefore, we designers must think about both UX, UI, accessibility and business when we create solutions.
- Thinking big: Our solutions is just a small part of our client's customer journey. We must have that in mind when we design our solutions.
- Flexibility and modularity: By working in modules, we can easier adapt to the diverse needs our customers have, and avoiding huge, complex “one-solutions-fits-all" applications that are difficult to support.
- Design System: By having a Design System and a component library, we ensure higher speed when designing and developing solutions, better consistency within and across our solutions in addition to less time for maintenance.
- Accessibility: We have a high focus on this when creating new solutions. Not just to ensure that as many as possible can use our solutions, but also to help our customers be compliant and avoid discrimination.
- User testing for different scenarios and needs: We cannot test with one group of users for one test situation, we must try to uncover the different variations out there.
- Do not ask what users want: When asked what we want, we usually respond based on what we know at that moment. It may not necessarily be the best solution for our needs and problems. Therefore, we figure out what problems users are trying to solve and what they are trying to achieve, and create solutions based on that.
- Working closely with marketing, customer support, and sales: We cannot work in isolation with product development, sales, customer support, and marketing. All of these four roles are part of the customer journey and must be coordinated across.
- Expectation management: When launching something new, there are expectations, both internally and in the market. But many users hate changes, and that often means receiving criticism and dissatisfaction if you make a big change. Therefore, it is important to prepare internal and external stakeholders for the fact that popularity will decline somewhat before it can rise again.
- Rollout: We never know exactly how a product will be received, which is why it is important to roll out to a few at the beginning and with few modules. This gives us the opportunity to learn along the way and make changes before we go out broadly.
"Perhaps the most important thing we have learned, is that it takes an organization leadership that takes usability seriously, to see results. I believe that more companies will recognize the importance of user experience in a product, and that you, as someone choosing software, will have a more conscious approach to this in the future", said Riddervold.