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How to design an intuitive enterprise application: 8 user experience lessons I learned

My mom is a big user of WhatsApp and Facebook and not because of any training or in-depth manuals, so why not more B2B software and tools employ a similar user experience for their customers?

One of the most powerful things about WhatsApp is the app usage friction which is close to zero and that is true for other apps as well. Google (the web page) is essentially a white page with a search box at the center. Facebook provides a user experience that is as instinctive as any good application could ever get.

And all this began with Apple which brought this seamless user interface experience at the front through iPhones, noted for their intuitiveness.

Truth is that consumers are becoming accustomed to such effortless user experiences. They are not only expecting but demanding interfaces that are simple yet engaging and not only in the B2C space.

No one taught users how to use Google or Facebook, so why companies still expect their customers to go through a certification to use their B2B applications and tools?

Companies that are listening to this new wave of “consumerization of the enterprise” are also at the forefront of redefining the way software is designed over the past five years. Take Slack, which has transformed office communication and collaboration by applying the design principles of B2C social messaging apps.

Companies today are succeeding not just because of the groundbreaking technology they are employing in their applications—they are succeeding because they understand that user-centric design increases user engagement and productivity.

Recently, on the same lines, standing in the hallways of our office, I had a very interesting in-depth conversation with our Chairman and Co-Founder, Ajay Agrawal – about the massive differences in B2C and B2B apps.

This dialog resulted into some really interesting insights which we used to further reduce friction in Sirion (The most innovative tool to manage complex contracts) and improve the overall user experience by establishing our own 8-point checklist while designing any feature in our product;

  1. Users of B2B solutions are no different from B2C

    Studies have shown that easy to use consumer interfaces see higher adoption rates and better ongoing engagement. It’s hardly a surprise that people are drawn to products that aren’t complicated or confusing. B2B users are also consumers, and thankfully, convoluted B2B interfaces are becoming thing of the past.

  1. Fix access annoyances

    If you have the data ready, it doesn’t mean that you have to flaunt it all in a single blast. Club and exhibit data logically to demonstrate only what is needed. Users rarely benefit from huge, complex data sets and lengthy never-ending tables. If they want to gather further insights, Great! progressive disclosure is the key to it.

  1. Make enterprise applications look cool

    There is absolutely no need to show dull, monotone, content heavy screens with multiple rows of data running one below the other, lengthy forms with 100s of metadata fields, complex and cluttered user interfaces with equally complex interactions. Understand your users and their needs. The right information at the right time is the key here. Cluster and filter down the information as per the different scenarios. Allow for complete personalized views and let the user feel “That’s what I was looking for”.

  1. Don’t force your users to learn stuff

    Always provide simple and easy screen flows and interactions which represent the mental model of the user. Apply simple design principles like recognition vs. recall; progressive disclosure; consistency, grouping, similarity, and proximity to help them consume and absorb information. Do not force your users to learn stuff by providing them with help manuals, instruction manuals, and un-natural interaction flows.

  1. Avoid feature creep

    Do not add unnecessary features to your product. It’s easier to add them than to take them off. Remember, that 80% of users only use 20% of features. Fight feature creep and evaluate your user, business, product, and design goals.

  1. Need for speed

    SaaS companies are shy to change a product or feature at the expense of alienating their existing customers who are used to and are paying good money for those features. To solve this problem, one can always monitor their users’ activity, perform A/B test when in doubt and can keep iterating. Remember, moving or iterating fast won’t keep you from delivering quality products to your users.

  1. From managed to self-service

    B2C products are easy to install, setup, and use. This needs to be true for B2B applications as well. Avoid huge time-consuming implementations, deployments, training and support costs. The goal should be to empower your users to configure their product sans external support.

  1. Create dependency

    Ideally, B2B app user engagement should be free from management forces. Your product should strive to be a daily need which users can’t do without. Keep users engaged and continually incentivize engaged behavior and accomplishments.

Consumer-led demands today are compelling B2B companies to push new product updates monthly, giving rise to flexible product roadmaps that keep evolving with customer feedback cycles and an agile structure allowing organizations to adapt to ever-changing market dynamics.

B2B companies that are succeeding or are going to succeed in the modern market will be those who understand that the lines between consumer and enterprise are blurring and apply lessons from the B2C domain in their own approach.

Know why Redesigning B2B Products is like Dressing up Cinderella and the Four key ingredients we have used at SirionLabs to design one of the most innovative contract management SaaS products.

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