Credit for Gareth HarperI’m very happy that I finally started writing an English design blog. The design road I’ve walked is mostly based on consumer products. Two years ago, I started to dive into the full B2B design circuit. Throughout the process of designing both types of products, I’ve noticed many differences in compatibility and design. The business attributes are different, the target user group is different, the product positioning is different, and the design expression and business process are different. I would like to share these observations with you, and I hope to communicate and learn with others who like to design hybrid products.
What are consumer products and what are business products?B2C
B2C means consumer products, it generally refers to the products of mass users, products used by end users. Examples of B2C products include Instagram, Spotify, Amazon, Airbnb, Doordash, Alibaba, Taobao, etc.
B2B means business, business enterprise products, usually system software, tools, or platforms used by businesspeople or enterprises to solve business problems. For example: Salesforce, Google Cloud, Amazon Merchant Platform, etc.
Both products have similaritiesI struggled with this point at the beginning, and it is also a place where I can easily get lost when I first touch the B2B design process. In fact, whether it is B2C or B2B, the essence is to design for human use, and the design purpose is to make people’s life and work more convenient and faster.The core of product design is to solve the user’s problems and to understand their circumstances and purpose. No matter what kind of product is designed, we must take into account the balance between user experience and business. B2C and B2B designs are driven by the needs the users face, how design can meet the needs of the users, and how design can achieve the company’s development goals without compromising the user experience.Of course, despite these shared core principles, there are many differences between the two.The differencesTarget users & Usage scenarioConsumerB2C — is designed for the general public, a large variety of people around us, such as your parents, neighbors, grandparents who prefer newspaper kiosks, children, etc. User portraits are more detailed and do not limit age, occupation, education, income level, personal preferences, etc. These factors will affect the functional design. And when everyone can make optimization suggestions and leave product reviews, personal participation is higher.A core function of design is to meet the needs of most people. It solves their physiological needs, social needs, security needs, respect and self-realization needs. As long as these opinions can enhance the value of the product, they can be included in the iteration cycle. Compared with B2B, B2C design requires more consideration of the user’s stickiness, activity, retention, etc. When designing, you must use data from these indicators to design relevant functional features to attract more potential users, and let these users enjoy the experiences and services during the process of monetizing the product.
The B2C use scenarios are various, and the degree of freedom is very high. The product is designed around a core theme using the user’s fragmented time.
For example, user opens a music app on the way to work, opens a news app at the office, checks social media at lunch time, and opens a food delivery app before dinner. The products used vary based on times of day and changing needs and attention. The emergence of varied B2C products coincides with the user’s use of fragmentation time.A relationship sheet that explains the differences of consumer product and business product.BusinessB2B — serves enterprises, fixed organizations, merchants, and teams. These users often have a very high degree of uniformity in their professional roles. No matter their gender, age, and where they live, they all assume the roles of project director, project manager, and project executive at work.For example, take one of our products designed for use by an operations team. Miss A and Mr. B are both members of this team. Miss A has a lively personality, uses TikTok, likes to shop online, and prefers simple interface styles. Mr. B likes to watch movies, hike with friends, go to bars, and prefers hip/cool interface styles.But when designing a B2B interface, these are not product considerations. When designing a function, it is mainly based on whether it can help the enterprise can achieve business goals. The system functions are aimed at specific occupational attributes and specific occupational scenarios. Its use is generally mandatory because it is business leaders who pay, not individuals.
Therefore, the B2B user relationship is more concentrated and vertical. When designing, consider how to help meet business objectives, and to engage users through the timeliness, unity, and convenience of products.
The usage scenario on the B2B is just the opposite. Just as the product is aimed at a specific group of people, it is used for work or business purposes. Because of its strong compulsory and working nature, it will likely be in use for a long time. It is not difficult for users to change their own preferences. For example, the office usually has a certain collaborative system design to solve the seamless combination between different roles in different regions. The scene in B2B software is more rigorous, focusing on efficiency and convenience, and accurate data. It was born to solve work problems.
Design FocusWhen I’m doing consumer products…When considering B2C design, a large part of the product is designed around a core theme, and then the extended functions are designed according to the main core function. Therefore, when you first receive the design, you must think about which function is core to the product and the least likely to be discarded. That becomes the foundation of the product.
For example, the core function of music apps is to listen to music, the core function of reading apps is to read, and the core function of game apps is to play. The core functions affect the characteristics, positioning, and tonality of the product.Reasonable auxiliary functions will preserve and increase the value of the product and enhance the differentiation between products. If these additional functions are removed, the product experience will be affected to a certain extent, but it will not actually hinder users from using core functions (e.g. if the comment function is removed from a music app, users can still listen to music). I suggest that the designer should be able to participate in the initial product concept construction period, so that you can have a bird’s eye view of the product to be designed, and have a clear direction when implementing the design.
Moreover, the B2C design is more often tailored to meet the daily needs of users. If the design purpose is to promote, retain, transform, etc., analytical tools like competitive product analysis, data analysis, and user behavior analysis can dig out valuable interaction needs. Because the design is for everyone, many users simply do not know what their real needs are, sometimes because they are bored, or want to shop, or want to find someone to chat and gossip with. The design must first attracts by showing a series of activities, promotions, and other operating modules, and finally must generate the desire to pay. Profitable design methods can be summarized as: value-added services (membership, personalized design, permissions, card coupons), content payment, advertising payment, platform selection, etc.
This is one of my consumer App work sample I’ve done when I was in China.B2C has a lot of design freedom, including emotional design, voice interaction, etc., as long as it does not deviate from the core function, it can provide a certain experience enhancement and value.
The homogenization of B2C products on the market is very serious, so it is important to find a way to emphasize the brand characteristics and features when doing core function design. It is the most important way to stand out from others. Then by improving the design extensibility to meet the different psychological and emotional needs of various users, a balance can be achieved between new and retained users. The design should focus on experience and visuals through interesting interactions, intimate prompts and jumps, icons and logos and other details.
But when I’m doing business products…The business and needs of B2B customers are generally much more straightforward, and the design is more focused on stability than playing up various performance attempts. Because the user group has strong professional verticality and the user’s own purpose is clear, users pay more attention to their sense of control of the product, so the design will generally consider the unity of the product, the efficiency of the interaction and the fault tolerance, the visual identity, and reusability.
For example, when designing, more emphasis is placed on the operation flow of the main executor. There is no need for a particularly fancy expression, no need to play mind reading games, no guessing what the user will do when opening the product this time, and no need to recommend similar content. I think no one likes to spend more time on the workflow than necessary. Simplifying and improving the workflow is the mission of most B2B designs.
One of my favorite illustrator from Pawel Olek by Google Cloud. This present well on how different characters collaborate by using business tool.In design and implementation, the designer should focus on the compliance of the interaction and clean and concise visuals. Compliance means maintaining consistency in product use. Allow users to have a sense of familiarity when using your products and understand what results their own operations will bring. Give prompts when users are in doubt, give help when they encounter difficulties. Allow users to learn and explore. Clean and concise vision can reduce interference, reduce user fatigue caused by long-term use, and increase immersion. Quiet and stable colors are generally the first choice in B2B design. So many B2B products like to use blue, green, and black, which can reflect the professionalism and rationality of the product, and wont irritate the eyes too much.
At the same time, designers need to have a certain professional understanding of the product’s industry characteristics. The products created for the financial industry are different from those in the retail industry. Obviously, if the product is only for a single industry, the designer only needs to understand the characteristics and needs of the corresponding industry.
But if it is a platform product that needs to face multiple industries, then the designer needs to understand the characteristics of all target industries, find the similarities and differences of each industry, and analyze the specific needs of users for different use scenarios. This will test the learning ability of the designer. In a short period of time, it is necessary to study and analyze multiple industries and multiple majors, and in the long term, it is necessary to dig deeper into all of the various professional needs.
If you are used to B2C design, when you switch to B2B, you really need to quickly adapt your design skills, from mining user pain points to the application of professional vocabulary. When I first started doing B2B products, I was very uncomfortable. I thought a lot about why we weren’t doing deep dives into the user’s daily life and why I couldn’t easily do competitive product analysis. In order to understand their needs, I had to learn the professional vocabulary of that industry. The learning curve is very steep and very challenging. The design is also more convergent, and you have to put aside some of your B2C skills and focus on linearly solving the fundamental problems. However, when I went through several end-to-end product designs, I obviously felt that the design capability had a qualitative leap, and I could understand how back-end manufacturers and companies collaborate. Only through this cooperation could there be front-end users. The platform has a more thorough understanding of the business, and the sense of accomplishment is no less than in B2C design.
My product design path: consumer to business was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.