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User experience in B2B – does it matter?


User experience has historically been a field focused on solutions targeting consumers. But when how you use products at work no longer differ from how you use them at home, user experience obviously becomes important also for business users. I don’t want the web sites I visit to suck, the phone I carry to suck, or the software I use to suck, simply because I am in the office.

User experience in a business-to-business context tend to focus on web sites, web-based services and IT software. But I strongly believe that the value of a good user experience applies to all types of products targeting business users. From the design of those web sites, to the mechanics behind performing maintenance on industry grade hardware, and everything in between.

What would Steve Jobs do? Or at least what did he say?

Steve Jobs famously said “If it would save a person’s life, could you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?” during development of the Mac. He clearly valued even small improvements to the boot time, something that immediately translated into an improved user experience. The original Mac was developed back in 1984. It was a device labeled a personal computer, but that in all honesty was a whole lot more work than play.

So is there true value in good user experience, beautiful products and well designed user interfaces? Steve Jobs seemed to think so. Everyone can conceptually agree that user experience matters, simply because it is such a broad concept. But there are definitely voices claiming that aspects such as a beautiful user interface is irrelevant in business-to-business. I disagree. And I disagree strongly.

Great user experience is rewarded with smiles

I recently launched two new products at a large trade show, both with a sleek user interface and dead simple user experience. I had senior executives from some of the worlds largest media organisations explicitly telling me that “this is what it is supposed to look like”. I had grown-ups spontaneously starting to smile when seeing that great user experience. And this from people on such a high level that they would never touch the products once purchased. And in an industry where design and user experience has historically been largely ignored.

Great user experience creates spontaneous smiles - also in B2B! Click To Tweet

Even though I personally always believed in the value of a great user experience I was stunned by the reactions. They made it crystal clear that the value of great design not only applied to that demo moment, but also to the future success of the product.

User experience and great design has become a buying criteria that cannot be ignored!

Hire, rent or beg for help – it pays off!

You agree that user experience, product design and user interfaces matter? Then the obvious question is how to take this into consideration when building products?

First of all it is about company culture. You need to get the people around you to agree with the idea that user experience matter. That a well designed user experience takes a product from good to great. And that great user experience at the end of the day affect the bottom line. How do you do this? For me the concept of “build it and they will come” seems to work. Show what a product with a great user experience, design and user interface actually looks like. What it feels like. And how it makes your customers react.

Once there is agreement that user experience has value, then how do you actually improve it? No matter if you’re into software or hardware, user experience requires a specific set of knowledge and experience just like anything else. It requires focus, time and effort. It also requires proper input from your customers and target market, both to understand what really matters and to test your ideas. Techniques like minimum viable products and A/B testing has grown strong on the web, but can be applied to most types of product design.

Finally getting experts and people with experience involved in your projects is highly valuable. Hire, rent or worst case beg people who have done it before to give their input and help – it pays off!


Alexander Sandstrom

Passionate product manager with a love for technology and innovation. More about me.

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