Neglect your UX now, and your business will suffer

When I started my career as an interaction designer in 2003, the world of B2B interfaces was quite curious; mainly made by engineers and technologists, with proud focus on functionality. Cutting edge interfaces looked like this:

The change during these 15 years has been remarkable. Nowadays, most innovative tech companies have already shifted their development projects toward being more design-driven. This is partly inspired by the smart phone revolution, where the focus on UX is imperative for the value propositions. Which is good news for people of my profession, of course; born to craft experiences and meaningful innovations in times of digitalisation.

We can try to explain this disruption by looking at three important dimensions:

  1. Generation Y grew up. These people were born and bred interacting with screens, and have completely different expectations than the generations before them. These are now entrepreneurs and decision makers - both in our organisations and among our clients.

  2. The perfect technology storm is over us. AI, XR, Blockchain, IOT (&IIOT), 3D-printing are all happening simultaneously. Many of us are drowning in complexity and buzzwords. The game changers are the ones who manage to work holistically, simplify, and create value that is meaningful to people.

  3. Globalisation is a megatrend. The world is anyone’s market. Borders become less relevant. The most powerful institutions are organisations with global impacts, rather than nations. This changes competition, and forces local players to raise the bar – quickly.

Whether you are a developer, engineer, manager, marketeer, business developer or entrepreneur; you had better place exceptional user experience in top part of your agenda. This will reinforce your brand, boost your competitive edge into the future and create an attractive display for your value propositions.

UX for professionals vs UX for consumers

You are wise to appreciate the differences between the two worlds, because they can fundamentally skew your objectives. I suggest five dimensions:

If there are design skeptics within your B2B shop, my guess is that they either have a narrow understanding of designers’ repertoire altogether – or that they made the unfortunate mistake of working with a B2C designer for a B2B job. Be aware of these differences, and you’ll have a better chance to nail your UX objectives, and bring the right people to your team.

It is particularly interesting to observe how digitalisation has increased our capacity to affect users' actual behaviours through clever software design. This has been used to manipulate consumers for a long time, but now we can also enjoy this opportunity to guide professional behaviour - related to for example safety, efficiency or sustainability.

Interface for Rolls-Royce Marine, with visual incentives for environmental savings and awareness of poor performers - Designed by EGGS

The four cornerstones to make your UX lovable

Spinning around the mandatory build-learn cycle, I propose four cornerstone perspectives to boost your chance to be part of a UX-fuelled success story.

Dare to influence

I am a great fan of Mike Monteiro, who taught me the criticality of selling your work and making sure your stakeholders know what you need to succeed. My favourite quote:

Anything that helps you do your job, is part of your job.
Mike Monteiro

This is a bit of an attitude preach, since influencing is not an obvious ingredient in a crafter’s toolbox. But this is particularly important when it comes to design-driven innovation within B2B. The quickest way to fail, is by flipping over to the resistance of your organisation, or fail to feed the right kind of ambitions to the ones who pull the strings.

Remember that in the midst of this perfect technology storm, most organisations are dependent on young and adaptable minds to get their arms around the change factors. “Reverse mentoring” is a trend now, where senior mentees are choosing younger mentors to stay in touch with fresher ways of thinking. Good leaders will listen, if you dare to influence.

Zoom out

Designers are becoming increasingly good at mapping complexity, visualising overviews and contribute to tearing down silos within organisations – with many tools and methods on the repertoire. My recommendation to anyone is to leverage on this opportunity.

Allow the teams to work with value creation holistically rather than just deliver on a brief. If you don’t, it could be much like trying to assemble a puzzle with pieces that belong to different pictures. Invest in zooming out, and in return you get a better focus on value creation, alignment of projects, alignment of people, and perhaps even an over-all motivation booster.

Leadership can be the difference between building a cathedral and lifting rocks.
Famous mantra
Zooming out for a project we did with a bank some years ago

Zoom in

Details matter. If you make every pixel count and make every micro-interaction work consciously to guide the user elegantly and consistently through the task flows, it makes the difference between half-made and excellence.

Visuality is not about decorating. It is about finding the sweet spot that both enhances the functional purpose of the application, while at the same time reinforcing the desired brand expression of your company. Sounds like a plan?

How I appreciate developers with the flair for visual detailing! And I know that developers appreciate designers who will walk the extra mile for them as well. A very good approach to achieve a top notch result, is when designers and developers work together – for example by building a design system. A design system is a bit of an investment, but is a very practical platform to achieve brand loyalty and GUI consistency across multiple applications over time.

Design system for Ulstein’s automation applications - Designed by EGGS

Look for X-factor

If you are a visionary, you should express it through your products and services rather than traditional marketing. If doesn't even have to be purely functional or directly valuable.

Remember that moment when Elon Musk sent his Starman-Tesla into space? Of course you do. It is because Musk is the master of X-factors.

Not everyone can go to space, of course. But surely you can take a moment to consider what part of your interface you can make worth remembering; that edge that represents the ambition you stand for. Link it visually to your brand, et voila; you just gave your interface a proper identity.

From our project with Ulstein. The strongest X-factor is the alert star, where operators can monitor their alerts in a way that includes the time dimension.

Let's get started

My goal with this text is to empower and equip you to advocate for UX-fuelled success stories - even more than you already did. Do you feel empowered and equipped?

In any case, I would love to hear your opinion. Please chip in on the debate, and let's get started making lovable user experiences.