(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared within Fjord New York studio)

We design digital interface (among other things). To be a relevant to the market or simply to amuze ourselves we want to design for the latest platform with the latest technology that enables us focus on true user experience, rather than coming up with work-arounds of technical limitations.

However, digital adaption in business environment is far slower than the consumer market. During Aetna project last year, we discovered that Walmart had only 1 PC per store that was shared by all staffs and the store managers were equipped with feature phones. In In service design point of view, we can still design a system that works smoothly while embracing these ‘slow users’, but the interface is not going to be sexy.

There are other factors that make B2B applications not as appealing as consumer ones.

One is about the decision making process and the proxy of users. The specific tasks that the users will be doing in the application are represented by the business owners who may not necessarily be the user of the application. Therefore, the points that the designers try to come across from UX point of view could be compromised by people who say that they know what the users are doing.

Another is about powerless users. The impact that the individual user has on the product sales(or user base) is relatively small on B2B solutions. Consumers will leave the service right away when they can’t figure out how it works. But business users have to deal with the poorly designed application until the company decides to end the partnership. So the efforts  that go into making a flow ‘a couple clicks less’ may not be as valued when designing for B2B.

As we focus more on service design, I personally thought about this ugly B2B application issue quite a bit. How do we fight for the simpler, sleeker and sexier user experience for B2B? Here are a couple of bullets to fight back.

B2B users are humans too and the principles of designing for humans (simplicity, easy of use, emotional pleasure etc) should still apply. In fact, the tasks that users need to accomplish on a daily basis on B2B applications are more complex than consumer’s, B2B applications are the ones that need more UX support.

Also, B2B users are the users of consumer products and they are familiar with the latest technology. Working with familiar user flow, they can get the job done much quicker.

I’d love to hear what other people think about this.

P.S. An article about designing for B2B.