As the use of technology in our day to day lives, from the internet to tablets and smart phones, continues to grow (The Office for National Statistics shows that 99% of 16 to 34 year olds are using the internet for example) our expectation of the user experience is naturally elevated by the best exemplars. The bar is set higher and higher with each new generation of device, operating system or web technology and the bare minimum is at least an intuitive experience, otherwise we quickly become frustrated and move on.
Many business to business websites and business systems, have historically treated UX as an afterthought taking advantage of a captive audience. But, driven by our experiences as consumers and users of delightful technologies, we’re ever more reluctant to accept the frustrations of clunky or outdated systems in the world of B2B. New B2B technologies such as Slack, Xero, Quickbooks, Yammer, Trello and Salesforce have all taken market share on the back of a combination of excellent or new functionality and strong UX, forcing legacy systems to up their game or become redundant.
Adopting a design led approach to product development however isn’t always easy, especially in mature and large organisations. The needs of the user, and all their variants, need to be considered at the start, and remain at the heart of the process. Key is to involve designers and users from the onset, capturing user needs typically within a series of workshops or focus groups. Designers will interpret these needs into an initial set of process flows – improving as applicable, then wireframes, prototypes and/or emulations before moving onto UI build. Key issues are clear and agreed requirements, usability testing and maintaining design consistency.
Achieving consistency isn’t easy, but it’s aided by the definition of design principles in a guidelines document; the provision of visual assets by the design team – colour palettes, typographic scales and font usage, grid definitions, the provision of icons and UI patterns; and, finally, governance during the development phase which is best addressed through collaboration across teams during build.
“Enterprises are finally facing the reality that business users expect the same quality of experience as consumer products. While transformation won’t happen overnight, the future looks promising. As UX continues to evolve as a core business competency, so too will the processes and platforms that support collaborative product development.”
Jerry Cao, The state of enterprise UX design in 2017.