We have all heard the age-old fable ‘Cinderella’ – the girl who never gets her due.

Much like Cinderella, business-to-business (B2B) products have remained grossly under-appreciated for most of their existence. They do the heavy lifting, manage complex enterprise data and workflows, and provide in-depth insights to empower business users. Unfortunately, they are often accused of being boring, clunky, and intimidating to use. It is akin to accusing Cinderella of being unkempt while she manages a large household and farms singlehandedly.

B2B products are regarded as the drudge you deal with before you can get home to ‘play’ with social media and use B2C apps for simple everyday convenience.

Of late, this mindset has begun to change. The shift began with the advent of the software as a service (SaaS) model. It leveled the playing field when it enabled tiny-one-room startups to compete with established giants like Oracle and SAP.

While design-led thinking and human-centered perspective have been widely adopted in B2C products, the adoption of this approach within B2B settings has been slow to gain traction. In a B2B market context, just as within B2C markets, product managers cannot afford to overlook creating exceptional experiences for their stakeholders. Companies today understand that functionality alone is no longer enough to remain competitive and relevant.

Today, SaaS companies like Salesforce, Workday, and ServiceNow are setting standards for what good user experience looks like.  But designing a great B2B product comes with its own set of challenges which are different than designing a B2C app.

1. Higher functional complexity

As compared to B2C apps, the complexity levels are higher in B2B applications and products. The reasons for this are many:

  • More functional requirements
  • Numerous data states & workflows;
  • Complex data structures and computations
  • Systemic interdependencies;
  • Multifarious visualization requirements;
  • Multi-user collaboration; and
  • Integrations with other B2B systems.

The greatest challenge of all is to encapsulate the complexity while providing an easy, intuitive experience to the end user.

2. B2B products are designed not for a consumer but for an employee

Users expect B2C apps to be fun and engaging. Consequently, B2C products are designed to ‘hook’ users to the app and aim to increase time spent on the product. Enterprise users have additional expectations of a B2B product – to make them more efficient, provide insights otherwise not available, and to justify their business case for purchasing the product. This presents a whole new set of challenges.

3. Building new features & capabilities sometimes take priority

For an enterprise product, building new features and functionality can take precedence over enhancing existing user experience. Reaching the MVP milestone and customer requests are often a high priority, especially for young companies, resulting in UX taking a backseat.

4. Maintaining UX Consistency

Enterprise companies generally have multiple products, each encompassing several modules. This can sometimes mean distributed development and design teams. Conflicting release schedules and development priorities can result in UI & UX inconsistencies across products and even across modules.

SaaS companies are taking these challenges head-on and are bolstering their design capabilities either by going the in-house route or by acquiring leading design companies.

We, at SirionLabs, are on the cusp of a similar journey, which we are excited to share with you in our next few blogs.

Do watch this space for more on our commitment and approach to transforming Sirion’s user experience.