UX Design for Enterprise vs B2C products
While the fundamentals of good design apply, there are key differences to consider in the approach taken when designing for each.
Here's a few things to keep note of.
Design’s just design right? Many of us recognize, and talk about the consumer product design that’s used by millions of people every day, there’s an often less talked about side - Enterprise product design.
An enterprise product helps an organization and it’s employees’ get their work done or do it better. There’s about 4 types of them: Back-office, SaaS, partner based and consumer grade products (an article for another day.)
Compared to consumer product design, enterprise design is often complex, deals with large volumes of data, and more often than not has multiple types of user groups.
While the fundamentals of good design apply to both, there’s key differences to consider in the approach taken when designing for each. Some are obvious, while others are subtle in how they build the user experience.
Delighting with caution
Consumer products can leverage design for delight and gratification. Quirky microcopy, interactive UI loading states can go a long way in building a product’s personality and experience. But the same approach in an enterprise product can get interruptive. The user is already an expert and the tool is something they’d be using every day. They’re often doing the same repeated task in a given context, which can mean that things such a big flashy animations or quirky copy can feel over-done to the point of being annoying.
This doesn’t mean there’s no space for adding a bit of delight in micro-experiences, To quote Matt Armstrong, Product Designer at Dropbox, from his interview with Adobe,
“Whenever you add a detail to a design, it should enhance that specific element rather than overpower it, and ideally aid in making the overall experience more usable or comprehensible. Context presents an interesting challenge in that any extra detail or flourish runs the risk of becoming annoying really quickly. This makes users feel like their time is not respected, which is pretty much the opposite of what these sorts of details are intended to do.”
Complexity and Scale
Compared to consumer products, enterprise products:
- 1.Often deal with large volumes of data and are heavy.
- 2.Have various intertwined features in the product.
- 3.Need to account for problems of scale.
Apart from figuring out how to visualize and display data sets in a consumable, and simple way; design needs to consider that even a minor change in one place can have multiple ripple effects across the system.
For example, a terminology that’s used in a table column heading would be used as a property field on a system query dropdown menu and graph under stats. Changing the term requires one to think of its effects across each area.
Or, adding something as simple as an illustration in an empty state for a table requires thinking on how it could scale. If there are 50 tables used across multiple features and stats across the product, is there design bandwidth to make that many illustrations unique for each state? Or is there one illustration that can work for multiple cases? That’s something to think about.
Functionality gains precedence over delight in an enterprise product. The design needs to enable a user to get their task done without redundancy or getting in the way. Efficiency is key.
In a consumer product, design can restructure a workflow and simplify it as they go. Whereas in a tool, there’s already a predefined workflow that design can only streamline or tweak. Even a minor change can sometimes get disruptive and interrupt the user’s tasks. One needs to account for various edge-cases
The Nielsen Norman Group lists down 10 mistakes that are common in complex application design. They suggest designing iteratively and testing changes with a few users to better the experience.
Push, not pull
In enterprise, the end-user uses the product day in and out, they already have their own mental models and workarounds to make sure they can get the job done (oftentimes learning to live with usability issues.)
The user is already an expert, which means one needs to allow them to seek help and information, instead of pushing it to them. This could be through tooltips, product documentation, or even FAQs.
For example, advice on avoiding tooltips might work for consumer products where it’s easier to give the information they need upfront. But features on enterprise products might require only a one-time learning for a workflow a user is going to use every day. Hence, is the information that’s provided even valuable the next time?
To end, enterprise design gets dubbed as being boring and the not so “glamorous” side as compared to working on a consumer product. But it might be your thing if you love solving problems with added complexity and challenges of scale.