How designing for B2B SaaS products is different from vs B2C SaaS products
B2B SaaS product design has fundamental differences from designing B2C products. When designers work on B2B products, they need to approach key areas differently. Why? Because of the differences in how B2B companies use products.
To be brutally honest, I came into Standard Beagle as their UX/UI designer not knowing too much about the difference between B2B (Business to Business) vs B2C (Business to Consumer) SaaS products. While it is easy to understand that the target market is drastically different between the two, I never considered the design differences that lay underneath.
Basic differences of UX/UI for B2B vs B2C
Core differences come at the purchasing level. For B2C products (whether it is SaaS or not), users, or consumers look for delight. This means that they base their purchase on emotion. The reason? These users tend to purchase products for persona use. Many B2C SaaS products focus on entertainment, health, communication, and social services.
On the other hand, businesses plan purchases for a professional reasons — often on a long-term basis. Products may improve productivity or expand service through the features that the product has to offer.
- Good UX is crucial for B2C buyers
- Users can quickly leave a product if they don’t find it useful.
- Users and their feedback is the ultimate decision maker, naturally leading to having good UX.
- B2B buyers think about UX differently
- As long as the product offers a feature that is necessary for the business, it is beneficial for users to stay on the product regardless of usability
- Purchase is planned and long-term. Making a switch potentially has high cost and effort, due to the complexity of the user base and any procurement rules that may exist.
- The decision-makers may not be the users of the product, and business goals may not focus on usability. Business goals may focus on integrations with other products, scalability, and alignment with internal KPIs.
Design difficulties for B2B products
Now that we understand the basic differences in UX between B2B and B2C, let’s take a look at what design differences lie between B2B SaaS products and B2C SaaS products. (And this doesn’t include product websites.)
Scale of complexity
When it comes to functional complexity, B2B apps/platforms take the cake. Why? They platforms tend to collect and display large amounts of data, support multiple user roles, permissions, and management operations. There’s also often collaboration and integration between the different types of users.
When designing for B2B, designers need to consider how a single action of a single user type would affect the other types of users. It’s crucial for the designer to understand the whole concept of the app. They must also pay attention to the smallest amount of details.
Designing for the employee’s mindset
An enterprise user’s mindset and goals are not quite the same as a B2C user. Consumers tend to be more casual. Designing for professionals includes understanding the job context, their workflow, work environment, problems and current solutions.
This is exactly where UX research would come in – we need to empathize with the end users. Listening to their problems, seeing their current workflow and work-arounds, researching about their methodologies and possible competitors would go a long way in understanding the end user’s mindset.
The effort of switching
A well known characteristic of B2B enterprise users is that they become used to (and even comfortable with) their existing workflow. Sometime changing this workflow can cause productivity issues and a lot of learning on the job.
An old product with poor usability can cause problems for new, incoming users. If these users have to spend unnecessary time to figure out a product, this can also cause issues. Any B2B product needs to both be easy to use and reassuring for those used to a different workflow.
The issue with usability is not the only topic when it comes to the effort. The migration of existing data, cost, procurement rules, and the training processes is a large hurdle for the company and the employees using the product.
How might these hurdles be addressed?
- UX research
Redefine the current user workflows and address what could be improved and how that would benefit the company and the end users.
- Redesign a components of a product over time
A design overhaul may be unrealistic due to the size and scope of the SaaS. In order to avoid this issue, there needs to be a clear UX roadmap, where improvements happen in digestible chunks for all parties involved
To businesses, building out new features and capability takes priority
In most cases, businesses are interested in enhancing their product rather than enhancing usability. From the stakeholder’s viewpoint, this can not be helped – any time that is not spent building new features and going above competitors feels like a revenue loss.
Here, it is important to explain why improvements (both informational and visual) will benefit the business and the end users – and will raise your revenue in the long-run. Here is a good article about why investing in UX raises market revenue, and another article of the costs of good and bad UX.
Maintaining design consistency
From experience, we have seen that some B2B apps/platforms have difficulty with maintaining a streamlined design style. This is due to longer product cycles, which results in non-simultaneous work from different teams and employees – and only increases as the team and product itself scales up.
How might we address this issue?
- Introduce a design system.
This should be the first step to be made for a redesign. With a consistent and scalable standard in design, current work and future work can be aligned, naturally leading to less to no inconsistencies, and making the development phase significantly shorter in the long run.
Takeaways of B2B SaaS design differences
B2B SaaS products help users get their job done. On the other hand, B2C SaaS products focus more on entertaining their customers. A UI for mesmerizing the user is less necessary for B2B products as it is for B2C products, and having something that is intuitive and reduces workflow takes priority (still, having a clean UI will is always a plus).
Establishing order and processes will benefit in reaching an improved product experience for the users. That means good collaboration between stakeholders and the design team, solid customer research, and digestible design iterations.