Specifics, Challenges, and Insights in B2B SaaS Enterprise Software Design
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Demand for B2B SaaS enterprise software continues to grow. The design process for these solutions presents unique challenges and opportunities that differentiate it from the design of B2C apps or small and medium-sized business (SMB) apps. Enterprise software applications are typically more complex and scalable. They are often supposed to store and work with vast amounts of data to serve the needs of large organizations. So, designers working on enterprise-grade software must carefully consider all the nuances and tailor their approach accordingly.
As a design agency working with SaaS products only, we at Eleken are well aware of the challenges that come with enterprise application design. Check out our article on what makes a good SaaS product if you're not sure where to start. As for this article, let's dive in together to learn how to navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with creating enterprise software solutions!
What are the specifics of B2B enterprise apps?
Let's start with the basic theory: how exactly is design for enterprise different from B2C and small-scale B2B?
One key distinction between enterprise software and B2C apps lies in the scale and complexity of the target audience. While B2C apps typically cater to individual consumers or small groups, enterprise software serves the needs of entire organizations. This introduces complexity, as the software must fit different requirements and workflows of multiple departments, users, and stakeholders within the organization. Simply put, many different people with different jobs will use the app, and it must work for all of them.
Scalability is another crucial aspect that sets enterprise software design apart. Unlike B2C apps that may experience varying levels of usage, enterprise software has to handle large volumes of data and simultaneous user interactions without sacrificing performance. The design must address the scalability needs, ensuring that the software can grow alongside the organization and support increased workloads and data processing requirements.
The sheer amount of data that enterprise software deals with also presents unique design challenges. Enterprises generate and handle extensive datasets, requiring sophisticated data management and analysis capabilities. Designers must consider how to present this data in a way that is meaningful, actionable, and easy to understand for end-users. Effective data visualization, filtering options, and advanced search functionalities are just a few examples of design elements that can enhance the usability of enterprise software.
Key differences and challenges when designing for enterprise
When it comes to enterprise product design, there are several key differences to consider compared to other types of software solutions. These differences significantly impact the design process and require a unique approach to meet the specific needs of enterprise users.
Enterprise products are used by working professionals, and their mindset and behavior patterns differ from casual users. Designers should invest in research to understand users' job context, workflows, and environments.
Designers must account for different user personas and their specific needs. Enterprise software UI design should be straightforward and cater to a wide range of users with varying levels of technical expertise. This may involve providing customizable interfaces, role-based access controls, and intuitive workflows that accommodate the preferences and requirements of different user groups.
Different access levels and permissions are also crucial. Organizations need to control and manage user access based on roles, departments, and so on. Designers must develop a user interface that allows administrators to define and enforce access controls effectively. This includes designing permission management features that enable administrators to assign and revoke user permissions, ensuring that sensitive data remains protected and only accessible to authorized personnel.
To illustrate the point, let's take a look at the dashboard for PublishXI we designed. This enterprise solution design offers three access levels for different roles: for managers, for content creators, and for users. And often it's only the tip of the iceberg. So, this distinction is something that should be taken into consideration from the very beginning.
Enterprise software UX design often involves creating intricate workflows, multiple data states, and integrations with different software systems. To address complexity, designers should adopt a user-centered design approach. By conducting thorough user research and understanding the needs and goals of end-users, designers can simplify the design by focusing on critical tasks and features.
For example, enterprise UX design of products like Salesforce CRM successfully tackle complexity by providing customizable dashboards and streamlined workflows that cater to specific user roles and requirements.
From our experience, when we were redesigning Enroly, we first and foremost created a system of filters which allow organizing the significant amount of data the app contains.
Maintaining UI/UX consistency
Consistency in user experience is crucial in enterprise software design. It helps users feel comfortable and familiar with the product, reducing confusion and facilitating easy navigation. To achieve UX consistency, the development team should establish a design system, patterns, guidelines, and standards across the software. UI design for enterprise applications should support UX consistency through maintaining stylistic unity.
Real-world examples of UX/UI design for enterprise software that prioritizes consistency include Google Workspace, Dropbox Business, and Microsoft Teams. Similar design elements and interactions are applied across their respective platforms.
The takeaway is, if your product has more than one app or platform, it's a must to ensure the user's don't have to learn every single bit of them from scratch.
Security is a paramount concern in enterprise software design. Enterprises handle sensitive data and must comply with industry regulations and data privacy standards. Product teams must prioritize enhanced security measures, including secure authentication mechanisms, encryption, and data access controls. The design should also incorporate audit trails and logging capabilities to track user activities and detect any potential security breaches.
Integration capabilities are also essential in enterprise software design. Organizations often rely on a multitude of software systems and tools for various functions. Both a designer and a software engineer need to consider how their software can seamlessly integrate with existing enterprise systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and other third-party applications. This involves creating lots of application programming interfaces (APIs), integration frameworks, and data exchange mechanisms that facilitate interoperability and data synchronization between different systems.
Slack is one of the most obvious enterprise software design examples that comes to mind when we talk about integration capabilities. In fact, you can hardly imagine any CRM LMS or else that can be integrated with it.
Enterprise software design must prioritize scalability and performance. Organizations expect their software to handle growing volumes of data, increasing user loads, and evolving business requirements. Designers should incorporate architectural patterns, such as modular design and distributed computing, to ensure that the software can scale horizontally and vertically, accommodating future growth without compromising performance. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a notable example that provides a range of scalable and performant cloud services, allowing enterprise software to handle increasing workloads efficiently.
By understanding and proactively addressing the challenges we’ve covered, you can make enterprise application design process much smoother and capable of catering effectively to the complex needs of organizations and deliver a seamless user experience.
Insights for approaching B2B SaaS enterprise software design
Approaching B2B SaaS development requires considering the evolving expectations of users and adopting iterative processes to continuously enhance the product. Here are some general insights for approaching B2B SaaS enterprise software design:
Prioritize user-centric design
Users now expect enterprise software to have intuitive interfaces and visually appealing designs. Consider the user experience as a key factor in the product design process, focusing on simplicity, ease of use, and aesthetically pleasing UI. Minimize the need for extensive documentation and make the software self-explanatory through thoughtful design.
SaaS onboarding, even with complex enterprise products, should be as easy and intuitive as possible. If there's a need in a product tour, make sure you provide only necessary information in a concise and clear manner. For example, this is the onboarding we developed for Gridle. Short, clear copy and a lot of white space make it easy for user to digest the information step-by-step.
Emphasize usability and efficiency
Enterprise users value software that helps them accomplish tasks quickly and efficiently. Optimize workflows, reduce cognitive load, and streamline processes to enhance usability. Provide clear guidance, contextual help, and well-designed interactions to empower users and enable them to navigate the software seamlessly.
For example, our role in redesigning the interface for Ricochet 360 boiled down to organizing and grouping input information in a way that will minimize mistakes and make the user experience smoother. As a result, it significantly reduced the learning curve for the users.
Here’s how it looked like
and here’s how it looks now:
Conduct user testing and gather feedback
Regularly test the software with real users to identify pain points, gather feedback, and gain insights into how users interact with the product. Incorporate user feedback into the design and development process to refine and improve the software iteratively. Utilize user analytics to gather quantitative data that can inform design decisions and prioritize enhancements.
Introduce adaptability and customization
Enterprise users often require software that can be tailored to their specific needs and workflows. Design the software to be flexible, allowing users to customize and configure features, settings, and workflows to align with their requirements. This adaptability ensures that the software can cater to diverse organizational structures and individual preferences.
Stay updated with industry trends and best practices
B2B SaaS enterprise software design is constantly evolving. Stay informed about emerging design trends, best practices, and technologies in the industry. Regularly engage with user experience communities, attend conferences, and participate in design discussions to stay ahead of the curve and incorporate innovative design approaches into your software. If you don't know where to start, check out our article on B2B SaaS design trends.
Foster collaboration and communication
Enterprise software often serves multiple users within an organization who need to collaborate and communicate effectively. Design features that facilitate teamwork, real-time collaboration, and seamless communication. This can include features like discussion threads, notifications, and integrations with communication tools to promote effective collaboration within the software.
For example, Asana wouldn't be half as effective without the robust integrations it offers. The same is true for Slack we've already mentioned and many more popular platforms.
Maintain a scalable and extensible architecture
Design the software with scalability in mind to accommodate future growth and increasing user demands. Consider the scalability of the architecture, databases, and underlying infrastructure. An extensible architecture enables the software to integrate with new functionalities, APIs, and third-party systems, allowing for future enhancements and adaptability to changing business requirements.
By incorporating these insights into the design process, B2B SaaS enterprise software can meet the expectations of users, evolve over time, and provide a compelling and efficient user experience.
Designing B2B SaaS enterprise software presents both challenges and opportunities that set it apart from other software applications. The complexity of enterprise systems, the need to understand the employee mindset, and the importance of maintaining UX consistency are just a few of the key considerations in the design process. But by adopting a user-centered approach, prioritizing usability and efficiency, incorporating user feedback, and staying updated with industry trends, designers can create enterprise software that is not only functional but also visually appealing, intuitive, and flexible enough to meet the evolving needs of users.