[Translation] 6 key differences between usability B2B and B2C

    Jeff Sauro (pioneer in the measurement of usability, founder of Measuring Usability LLC.) Identified 6 key differences between usability of B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) systems. We’ll talk about them.

    The user is most often not the buyer.

    When after buying some software or application, users encounter problems using it, they will probably stop using it and most likely will not buy it again. When they cannot find the product they need or the information they need on the website, they simply close the tab and go to another website. Many paid downloadable programs have a free trial period during which users form an opinion about the usability of the product. This reduces the risk to the buyer.

    When acquiring B2B-programs, potential buyers act a little differently. Usually, business needs are assessed, the necessary functionality is formulated (often by RFP, request for proposal), and then some solutions are selected that vendors offer them (software suppliers). Companies take into account the needs of potential users when it is necessary to decide on the purchase of software, but many details are lost until they reach the addressee. Moreover, the business has to prioritize, take into account the budget and the need to integrate purchased software with existing software in the company.

    The feedback is slow - in large companies it often takes time for your feedback to reach the addressee. Also, who wants to be known as “the one who complains to management”? Workers can tolerate a bad interface for years.


    When I worked at Oracle, we tested large software products - accounting and HR systems, for example. There was one thing that we often heard from usability testing respondents - the interface they tested was not the same as they were used to in their companies. And the main reason for this is customization. IT departments are forced to customize the software to fit the business processes and needs of the company. It is very difficult to find two companies that do business the same way. For this reason, it is almost impossible to test the software for free, as huge investments are required in the introduction and customization.

    This is why Keystroke Level Modelingso necessary and useful. If you can make a prototype of an interface before you spend months developing it, and if you know exactly what users will do (especially if it will be repetitive actions), then you can measure the time to perform this or that action in your new interface , and then make changes in accordance with the findings. The effectiveness of the interface does not fully describe usability, but it can often be of great use.

    It’s hard to find users for usability testing.

    It is almost always difficult to find usability testing participants when it comes to B2B software. All of these accounting and other complex systems require participants to have certain skills. You can’t pull ordinary people out of Starbucks , put them on a computer and tell them to "test!" The time we need for the participants is more expensive, and their experience is more valuable. You can search for the people you need at conferences and business expositions or just conduct usability testing at one of these events.

    This is one of the reasons why heuristic evaluationcan be such a useful tool. Having two or three experts in usability, you can find many shortcomings in the software. Expert reports are not a substitute for usability testing, but this approach can be a good alternative if there are no other options.

    Switching to a new system is expensive.

    Even when customers know that it takes time and especially money to solve usability problems, switching to a new system is still difficult. If it takes years for customization and staff training in the new system, the transition to the new system will cost the same. Moreover, new large systems require new servers and workers with different specific skills. And it is not always clear that training and customization will actually make using the application easier.

    At the presentation of an enterprise-level product, everything looks beautiful, and the product seems easy to use. But you won’t know where the grass is greener until you get to the other side.

    User training.

    Most websites can be used by users who do not require specialized skills. It is impossible to imagine that users were forced to read manuals or attend training courses that would help them simply use the website. However, often this is exactly what happens in B2B. Sophisticated manufacturing processes, architectural plans, and state-regulated accounting procedures mean that employees cannot just use their intuition to use software in their work.

    Some training is expected and often necessary. This often affects how usability testing is done. Even if you find the right number of respondents for testing, it often does not make sense to expect from them that they will use an unfamiliar interface. One of the most common complaints that I hear from developers regarding usability testing results is that many problems were not identified, because users were not adequately trained. And they are right, without preparation it can be difficult to separate real problems from false real ones because of the artificial test environment .

    However, the necessary training is not an excuse to blame the bad interface on the specificity of business rules and workflow. One of the most effective methods that we have found to work with this problem is to introduce a learning element into your tests . The problems that remain even after preparation and repeated attempts by respondents to deal with the interface become very valuable and trustworthy for the overloaded development department.

    In general, usability is worse than B2C.

    According to statistics, B2B software has 10 times more usability problems than websites for ordinary users. But is this a surprise? When we deal with users who don’t make decisions on software purchase, having a slow feedback, custom interfaces that are rarely tested on scarce users, usability often suffers.

    One of the most effective solutions for processing and testing functionality is A / B testing .

    B2B is not a losing business. Although improving the usability of office systems is not as glamorous as working on a trendy mobile application, there are many possibilities. As many applications become cloud-based, it becomes easier to update and test software, which improves UX in B2B. Indeed, companies such as salesforce.com have made it their mission to improve UX by reducing implementation and customization costs.

    I hope many organizations find ways to evaluate and improve usability for their end users.

    - Posted by Jeff Sauro, Founder of Measuring Usability LLC.
    Source .

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