When a prospect visits a page on your website, what do they find there? A landing page that’s built with them in mind? Or a lot of information about how great your company is at X, Y and/or Z?
In the world of B2B UX design, the B2B user experience on most websites is grim.
Yet, a poorly laid out B2B site that’s confusing provides little value to your customers. How easy your website is to use is significant. In fact, poor B2B website UX could be wasting money, losing sales and driving prospects to your competitors.
In this article, we’ll go over the following elements of B2B UX website design:
- The differences between usability, UI and UX
- Why B2B UX and B2C UX is different
- 7 B2B website UX best practices
What is B2B UX?
UX is short for user experience. But what does that mean? Is it the same as usability and user interface (UI)? Not exactly. You might see UX/UI used interchangeably. And, these ideas are related, but they’re not the same.
Website usability refers to how easy it is for a person to use it to achieve their desired goal. So, your B2B website must be easy to use. If it’s not, people will feel frustrated and leave.
User Interface (UI)
UI stands for user interface. UI describes the points where a person interacts with a computer, software or website. There are many types of UI, such as
- Graphical user interface (GUI) – GUIs allow users to interact with a device via visual elements like icons, menus or windows. Google’s Chrome OS, Microsoft Windows, macOS and Firefox are all examples of GUIs.
- Voice-controlled user interface (VUI) – VUIs allow a user to use their voice to interact with a device. Digital assistants all use a VUI. Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are all examples of VUIs.
- Text-based user interface (TUI) – TUIs allow users to interact with a device via text. Some TUIs require a specific type of code to work, and others work with natural language.
From the user’s perspective, UI is usually invisible. People only notice it when it’s confusing or difficult to use.
User Experience (UX)
Usability is an aspect of UI, and usability and UI are elements of UX. So, what is UX? UX researchers at Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) describe it this way:
“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
UX describes the entirety of the user experience of your brand or a specific product or service from start to finish – discovery to purchase and use.
Good UI doesn’t always equal good UX
And just because usability and UI are elements of UX, doesn’t mean that an effective UI will translate to great UX.
If your B2B manufacturing ecommerce site makes it easy for customers to find and purchase standard metal extrusions via an online shopping cart, then the UX and UI for that customer is perfect.
Yet, that same UX will be poor to a prospect looking for information on custom work if they can’t find it. Their impression of your B2B website and your brand could be negative.
If your company does offer custom options, you’ve now lost a sale to a competitor who makes it easy to buy custom products.
How is B2B website UX different?
Website UX design principles aren’t different for B2B and B2C websites. Any website needs to be easy to understand, navigate and interact with. Website content should be useful, relevant, informative and client driven. It should include details they care about. There should be content for every stage of the buyer journey.
Design best practices for B2B UX are the same. But B2B and B2C audiences have different needs and priorities.
Short vs long sales cycles
The consumer buying cycle is often short – minutes to seconds or less. But the B2B purchasing cycle is long – 4 months to a year or more, depending on the industry, product or service type.
Individual buyers vs purchasing committees
B2B purchasing decisions don’t involve one person, whereas most B2C purchases do. Unless the company is small, most B2B purchases involve anywhere from 4 to 12 people.
Simple vs complex buyer journeys
Not everyone on the purchasing committee will be at the same stage on the buyer journey. Some will be at the awareness stage while others will be at the decision stage. Sometimes, the same people will travel backwards to an earlier stage. Regardless, it can take some time before everyone gains alignment and the business agrees on whether or not to make a purchase.
Low vs high purchase cost
Most consumer purchases are minimal risk, low-cost purchases. Yes, a car or a house or a vacation costs thousands of dollars. But in general, B2C purchases range from $10 to a few hundred dollars. If you make the wrong decision, you can usually return it or get a refund.
Conversely, B2B purchases can cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars or more. Moreover, a wrong decision can be catastrophic, resulting in lost revenue or profits and fewer jobs, even layoffs.
B2B buyers want B2C-quality online user experiences but have different needs
Despite having dissimilar buying processes, B2B customers want the same quality website experience that they get as consumers. Yet, the types of information they need when they’re shopping for business solutions is different.
Consumers require less detailed content to complete a purchase
For example, if you’re ordering a sandwich online, you don’t need to please anyone but yourself. When you visit the deli website you need to be able to quickly find your favorite sandwich and purchase it.
You don’t need to spend hours or days studying information. You aren’t looking for blogs, white papers and eBooks about sandwiches. Nor, do you need to download case studies or sign up for a sandwich capability demo. All you require is a menu and the ability to order your sandwich.
Businesses look for detailed information tailored to their business needs
However, if your organization needs to decide between an on-premises server or migrating everything to the cloud, you’re most likely not the only individual making the decision.
That business purchase is a significant investment and impacts an entire company. It’s going to take research. There will be many internal meetings before your business makes its final decision.
Instead, you might read some blogs, download a whitepaper to show your boss or colleagues, then have a meeting and determine your company isn’t ready.
At the same time a person in the IT department might be further along on the customer journey. Perhaps they already know what the company should do. They’ve read case studies from potential partners. And they’re ready to present their recommendations to key decision makers.
Seven B2B UX best practices
There’s more to providing a great B2B website user experience than understanding the nuances between usability, UI and UX and the differences between B2B and B2C audience needs.
The following seven UX best practices will help you better understand how to develop an effective website UX strategy.
1. Focus on your customer
The structure, design and content of your website must satisfy your website visitors’ needs. It must solve for customer needs–wherever they are on the buyer journey. Making a website company-focused instead of customer-first focused is a common website UX design mistake.
For this reason, your website should include content for every B2B audience member – from end-users to primary decision makers.
You can do this by ensuring your website has a variety of content types – e.g., blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, videos, testimonials, case studies, etc.
2. Consider the who, what, why and how
Everyone involved in website UX from strategy to content and design must consider the following:
- Who – who’s visiting the website
- What – what they came there to accomplish
- How – how you can answer their questions or provide the information they need
- Why – why they should partner with your business or purchase your product
Remember, your website must solve for customer needs first.
3. Keep it super simple
Sometimes the latest website design trends provide overly complex user experiences. It’s best to keep the language, the design and the navigation of your website simple and easy to use and understand.
Your B2B prospects shouldn’t have to feel like they’re solving a brain teaser to find answers or information on your site. If they’re confused or lost, they’ll get frustrated and go somewhere else for answers.
Instead, lead website visitors along a clear, but short path towards a call to action (CTA) that’s impossible to miss.
4. Keep content clear, relevant and concise
Related to simplicity is copy that’s not overly complicated and full of jargon. Use short sentences. Break up long chunks of content. Employ numbered lists, bullet points, white space, video, charts, images and graphics.
And don’t try to sound formal or academic. Good UX writing is similar to great digital copywriting; it’s conversational. Yes, in B2B, there’s a purchasing committee. But, you’re still marketing to individual human beings. Also, using a person-to-person voice displays empathy and engages the reader.
5. Focus on educating instead of selling
Your website isn’t a brochure or buy-now billboard. Yes, your end-goal is to make sales and increase company profits and revenue. But that’s not your customer’s goal. They want to get answers or find a solution for their business. To help them, have your UX team do the following:
- Use “you” and other customer-first language instead of general or “we” and company-focused copy.
- Make the customer the hero with your business as their trusted sidekick or partner.
- Know your audience. Today, most B2B buyers research online before initiating a sales conversation. Some prospects prefer a self-service online experience – including for big-ticket items.
- Use research and gather data, so your website provides the user experience your customers prefer.
6. Limit landing page goals to one
Keep goals to one per page. Don’t ask visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, contact sales, buy a product and apply for a job on the same page.
If there’s more than one goal you’re trying to accomplish on a landing page, you risk frustrating your visitors.
It’s ok on some content to include a secondary goal. For example, you can ask a blog reader to subscribe to your newsletter and download an eBook on the same topic. Use contrasting colors, so it’s easy for them to find and choose the option that’s most useful to them.
7. Preview your site on all devices
Consider your website UX quality on multiple devices. Does the quality go down when a customer visits your site on their smartphone?
Your B2B prospects might find you on their desktop, but then go back to download an eBook later from their phone. Is their experience the same on mobile?
If your mobile website experience is lacking, you risk losing the sale. View your site on different sized screens, including desktops, tablets and smartphones.
Effective B2B UX strategy isn’t easy
Your B2B website UX strategy involves collaboration between strategists, developers, designers and writers with an in-depth understanding of today’s B2B purchasers. To get the best results, it’s critical you partner with an agency that understands how to develop B2B websites that provide a flawless customer experience. Contact us to learn how Elevation can help you develop a website that speaks to your customers and drives sales.