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B2B Software: It’s time to treat employees like users

From expense reporting applications to database management systems, the world of B2B software is rife with bad design not only in terms of user interface but user experience as well. These products are developed with laser focus on functionality which means UI and UX become merely an afterthought. According to Enterprise UX Industry Report 2017–2018, 53% of all 3157 respondents reported a full-time UX role has existed for less than 3 years.

It has to be believed that in software industry employees are not considered as consumers. Because if they were, the focus on design and user friendliness would have been much more evident. The shape most B2B software are currently in is not something humans want to use. They begrudgingly accept it to earn their honest paycheck but given the choice, they’d rather have a software program that is aesthetically appealing and takes human intuition into account.

REASONS WHY B2B SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT LACKS DESIGN

While the criticism is well earned, it is pivotal to identify the causes that lead to such lack of visual and experiential design in B2B software.

Limitations of Legacy Software

There are many pieces of software that were originally programmed in late 90s and early 2000s when boring, grey, and inconsistent design language was widely acceptable. From there on, their developers have simply piled on the functionality and features without putting any effort in aesthetical improvement.

That resulted in heavily bloated software that can’t be overhauled from design perspective because of practical and financial reasons. This is especially a problem in big enterprise where 61% companies having 5001 or more employees, legacy technology is a UX challenge. It poses risk of breaking functionality on which many multi-million dollar businesses depend on, demands vast human and financial resources, and requires a highly stretched timeline for development and testing. By stacking lines of codes over lines of codes without paying any heed to design, companies have painted themselves into a corner where the only choice to improve design is to write the software from scratch.

Users Don’t Purchase the Software

In many businesses, it is not up to the employees to pick the software. Instead, it is the IT department that is tasked with the job and being the technical people, pretty much everything appears straightforward to them. Besides, IT departments don’t really assess the software from usability perspective as they are highly focused on function over form.

This means people who have to actually deal with the software everyday end up with a solution that is strictly designed to get things done completely disregarding the subjects who would be getting things done.

Function Over Form Culture

Apart from above glaring issues, most companies that develop B2B software don’t have a strong culture where design is respected and appreciated. They mostly consist of teams of experienced hardcore developers who know their way around algorithms and problem solving but have little to no idea as to how to present the functionality in a visually appealing and meaningful way.

That culture is now changing but we are still very far away from embracing design as one of the core features of B2B software.

HOW LACK OF DESIGN AFFECTS EMPLOYEES

Absence of Aesthetical Motivation

Being human beings we are drawn to visual charm, it is how we have evolved and that can’t be denied or changed. When the software you are working with is a mish mash of visual inconsistencies with actionable elements scrambled all over the place, it’s not something that employees are going to get excited about. By leaving a first poor impression, bad design fails to motivate employees from the word go.

User Hostility

Any software that is not user friendly automatically becomes user hostile. Yes, people go through a learning curve and eventually learn how to use the software but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s not only a difficult phase they go through but more often than not, are forced to carry out multiple steps to get something done that can be achieve in fewer steps.

Moreover, when new employees come in, it remains a hassle to train them and they also need time to get used to all the features and settings.

Comparative Software Focuses on Design

It doesn’t take a genius to notice how vastly different social media applications and business software are, in terms of design. One is intuitive and user friendly while the other is exactly the opposite. The comparative design superiority of consumer centric software makes employees believe that either their employers or software developers don’t really care about ease of use in the workplace which can be demoralizing as well as demotivating.

The clear gap highlights how consumer centric companies take human element into account and respect it with inclusion through design. On the other hand, B2B software companies fail to do so alienating people from their software.

The Emotional Aspect

Humans tend to develop emotional attachments with whatever they use, from devices to apps to software. They develop tastes and preferences. Similarly, people usually have their favorite social media app but that’s not generally the case when it comes to B2B software. Yes, social media app is used for entertainment and there’s a lot going for it but B2B apps don’t help themselves by completely disregarding human intuition, quality of experience, and user friendliness.

CONCLUSION

It’s important that B2B software companies should start focusing and directing human and financial resources toward visual and experiential design of the software products they offer. Modern alternative forces have already started to rear their heads and they’re coming up with solutions that respect UI and UX design. Currently, the top challenges that enterprise UX leaders face include:

· Improving UX consistency (56%)

· Testing designs with end-users (52%)

· Clarifying requirements (45%)

· Collaborating between teams (44%)

Software companies need to develop a culture where design is appreciated through hiring of dedicated UI and UX teams and making them a crucial part of the entire workflow. That way good design will seep into the finished product which will not only increase employee satisfaction and productivity but would make for an easier sell. It’s far more convenient to sell products that have visual appeal.

If you’re looking to learn more around how UX and Design can improve you’re business productivity and reduce security risks, please reach out to sam@osakalabs.com