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Here’s why UX for B2B Requires a Different Approach

March 12, 2019

Why you need a data-centric, objective-focused strategy when it comes to UX design for B2B

Part of our mission as user experience (UX) designers requires us to bridge the gap between user needs and business goals. Most of the time, that’s no easy task. When it comes to UX for business-to-business (B2B) websites, strategy and data must serve as pillars in choosing where, when and how a user interacts with your site.

Why B2B online behavior is different from B2C

B2B purchases and decisions are not made hastily; rarely do users make decisions moments after landing on a web page. A B2B website serves to validate the legitimacy of the business by delivering relevant content multiple ways to diverse audiences with a target organization in mind. This approach helps achieve the goal of convincing different members of an organization that this is the best vendor to choose for such a large purchase before they take the next step and reach out to get a bid.

The content we deliver needs to hit multiple markers. Unlike with business-to-consumer (B2C) websites, we need to provide greater depth and information not only on the product but the company providing it. The user needs to be able to find specifications, capabilities, white papers, regulatory and safety guidelines, for example.

When businesses intend to spend thousands of dollars with a vendor, they often research the company before contacting them. This process could take more than six months! In this scenario, the user could visit the site multiple times, share pages with board members and download white papers for further research. This process is vastly different than that of a consumer happening upon a site, seeing something they like on sale and, on a whim, shelling out a whopping $30 for that purchase.

With this in mind we have to treat the data, strategy and approach differently.

So what does UX design for B2B web design require? More than you might think. To begin, let’s take a look at what UX is and is not in the context of B2B marketing on the web.

What UX is not.

UX is not interface design.  

User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are two separate, often misunderstood, elements of web design. While UI focuses on the look, feel and functionality on the page, UX takes into account the story the website tells as a user flows through the site. UX is centered around developing a user journey, instilling confidence in the brand and ultimately leading them to make a decision.

UX is not optional.  

UX is not an a la carte item; it’s the backbone the website is built on. If we leave out data-driven UX design, we end up having pages of guesswork without a focus on what the user wants and needs at any given point.

UX is not only about the experience.

Beyond the experience, UX involves strategy developed through research on the customers’ specific industry, user groups within the industry and competitors. A UX designer needs to fully understand the product or offering to ensure the website delivers it to users in a clear and concise manner.

So what is UX?

  1. UX is a team collaboration between UX writers, designers, strategists and developers.
  2. UX is a balance of profitability, technological feasibility and the needs of users.
  3. UX engages users through objective completion.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what UX is and what it is not, let’s turn our attention to important UX features and tactics that should be part of any agency’s digital arsenal.

User Discovery

The first important tactic to include is ensuring visibility with your target audience. This means you need search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is one of the most important actions companies need to take, and it is also one of the most often overlooked. Most people are confused about what they need when it comes to SEO, which is no surprise since there are over 200 factors in Google’s algorithm. At Station8, we target the “critical 4” factors: technical factors and mobile design — two foundational SEO items essential to any digital strategy — plus ongoing SEO content publication and backlinks. That’s the only way to increase your brand’s digital footprint with Google: by publishing keyword optimized content that’s designed to rank. Whether it’s purchasers, engineers or CEOs, getting decision makers to your website is the first step to providing users with an experience they want.

Give Users the Experience They Want

Each user has different goals, needs or reasons for visiting a site. In addition, each user has a different perspective on what they are looking for, whether it’s researching, purchasing or simply validating your organization as someone they want to do business with.

Because of the varying paths required to ensure a site provides context to all users and delivers an intuitive experience, an essential tactic involves creating a friction-free journey all the way to task completion.

How do we do this?

It all starts with clarity. Clear writing in your brand messaging, whether you’re targeting older folks or younger, drives your audience communication. Remember, it’s better to write conversationally than to try and write for a rocket scientist (nothing against rocket scientists). That means you need a copywriter who understands your audience and can write to them.  

In addition to clarity, we as UX designers, must focus on simplicity. That means making every effort to minimize steps to user task completion. For example, two-page forms are often an enormous friction point for users. When it comes to form completion rates, targeting between 3 and 7 fields is the sweet spot for optimized completion rates.

In addition to clarity and simplicity, a laser focus on your subject is another important factor. For example, if you want a user to complete task A, introducing task B in the middle of task A is counter-productive. Keep users on a clearly defined path until they reach their desired destination, removing any roadblocks and eliminating detours.

Another important consideration involves engagement through interaction. If a user comes into contact with a static website lacking any sort of interaction, that user is less likely to complete an objective when compared to a user engaged though UX writing, interface design and micro-interactions that keep them engaged throughout the journey.

Your Ultimate Objective

What do you ultimately wish to achieve for users visiting your website?  Whether it’s data collection, product purchase or content downloads, getting users to convert is key. Bring them along the path of least resistance with minimal steps, and they are more like to answer your call-to-action and return to your website.

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