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The B2B UX Design Dilemma and How to Overcome it

Nov 20, 2021

Most UX literature and education focuses on B2C products. As a Product Designer in B2B, I am trying to apply the B2C-centric school of thought into my daily design process and have some challenges.

UX in B2B is a different game. I call it the B2B UX Design dilemma.

What is the B2B UX Design Dilemma?

The dilemma is that in B2B, the end-users of a product are not necessarily paying customers. Therefore companies (especially sales-driven ones) don’t see the immediate value of UX in revenue and are poorly investing in it. As a result, the UX maturity in most B2B companies is low, and their products’ user experience sucks.

An illustration of the B2B and UX Dilemma.
An Illustration of The B2B UX Design Dilemma

These are the challenges B2B companies need to overcome to create more innovative products and be more UX mature and product-centric. 

Empowered Product Management Team

Yes, as UX Designers, we need Product Managers who are empowered to drive their product forward. However, in many B2B organizations, Product Management is instead Project Management – heavily focussed on execution. This typically applies to very delivery-driven organizations. Product Management only receives requirements from stakeholders and writes tickets.

Product management needs its market and customer research to create a validated product strategy. Without an empowered Product Management team, UX can not unfold its full potential. 

Outcome-Driven UX Design and Product Metrics  

In her book Escaping the Build Trap, Melissa Perri describes when businesses value delivering features more than actual user and customer problems solved. Typically, companies who know they should innovate and feel the market pressure are too afraid of making mistakes. They cling to ‘Metrics’ like velocity to measure a product’s success.

UX and PM need the freedom to explore rapidly new ideas to improve customer experience. This is the only way a product team can build an internal innovation muscle. 

Open Access to Customers and Users 

Without unfiltered, direct contact with customers, Product Management and UX can not create a validated Product Strategy and long-term product success. In UX immature organizations, the delivery team may be protective of the customer relationship and afraid UX ‘messes’ something up. In my experience, customers love to be involved in the product development process. You can even sell it as a unique Customer Champion Program to engage with promoters of your brand.

Conclusion

It is challenging to design products with great UX in B2B organizations due to the B2B UX Design Dilemma. Here is what you can do today to change it for the better: 

  • Team up with your Product Managers. Create together a plan on how to get a customer-validated product strategy.
  • Define outcome-driven product metrics (Customer Value > Velocity) with your Product Managers to measure what success means for your product. 
  • Involve your Delivery Team (Sales, Marketing, Consulting) into your design process to make them understand the need for unfiltered customer and user feedback. 

It is not an exhaustive list, but we need to start the conversation about measuring the value of UX Design in B2B.

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 David Wenk
I’m sharing my thoughts and experiences about B2B Product Development, UX-Design and Innovation.

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