We believe in smart partnerships, helping companies large and small to unlock innovation and drive productivity. Part of our own approach is to combine the best thinking from different sectors – we think diversity of experience is critical to a great user experience. The more viewpoints we have ourselves, the better we can design for others. Our latest team members come from online fashion retail, which while unusual for a company in the B2B industry, actually makes complete sense. The e-commerce industry has to serve logical, user friendly and appealing experiences to thousands of visitors, to make shoppers feel at ease (and to help them shop). We want to bring this same level of attention and customer focus to you when you work on contracts every day. To achieve that, considered and user-centred design is paramount. We strongly believe that the B2B industry deserves better products – software designed for everyone – rather than a handful of people. Products that are not fit for purpose create dissatisfaction, slow down day-to-day work, damage productivity and end up being avoided. We believe in better. Our latest addition to the Indigo& team is a pair that have worked together in the past to deliver fantastic and performance driving products: Head of Product & User Experience Lena Lindstrom and UI designer Ngaire Tan, both with background in e-commerce and usability.
So how do Lena and Ngaire approach design? And what impact can be delivered by taking leading design thinking from B2C (Business to Consumer) to B2B? Introduce yourselves Lena: Hello! I’ve worked in product management for the last 10 years, almost exclusively for e-commerce start-ups including Farfetch.com, MOO.COM and Wool and the Gang. I joined Indigo& in September and am very excited to take my experience to the B2B industry and build great products. Ngaire: Hello! My background spans UI (User Interface) design, UX (User Experience) design and front-end development. I aim to make sure that products and interfaces are easy to use, beautiful and engaging. Clients I have worked with in the past include reed.co.uk, Oasis Fashion and most recently Wool and the Gang where I met Lena. What made you join a B2B company? Lena: Before joining Indigo& I had spent more than a decade in e-commerce product management, usually joining at start-up stage. I have a deep passion for e-commerce, but I also knew that I wanted to explore new ways of building products that bring real value to customers. I was keen to join an early stage start-up, but wasn’t quite sure of what industry or vertical to explore. An ex-colleague of mine, Indigo&’s John Cinnamond, reached out and asked if I might be interested in joining. The thought of working with John again thrilled me, but I was still feeling a little hesitant, as I had never worked for a B2B company in the infrastructure sector. Would my background be relevant? Would I enjoy it and would it make sense for my career? From conversations with John and our CEO Elspeth Finch, I had no doubts that the team was ambitious and had the right skills and experience to build something fantastic. The more I found out about the problems that Indigo& is tackling, and the sheer scale of opportunity, the more I realised that this would be not only a relevant next step for me, but a great place to focus on solving real problems – even if it was a brand new ‘area’ of work. Also, as it became clear that design was going to be a key ingredient to the growth of the platform, I got even more interested. Ultimately by understanding the opportunity, getting the chance to help build a business from an early stage and work with such a frankly impressive team, that’s what sealed the deal for me. Ngaire: Having previously worked in design agencies and as an in-house designer for various B2C clients, I wanted to challenge myself and create experiences for all types of users and understanding their wants and needs. As B2B sites are content and information focused, I think it’s beneficial to understand how we need these sites to work, how design is used and how it can be applied to B2C sites and vice versa. Should B2B clients value usability through design? Lena: I think in this day and age, you can’t afford to let any customers down. The B2C and service industry has seen disruption and start-ups come from nowhere and change traditional markets almost overnight – think Uber and the like. Is B2B going to be ‘safe’ with dare I say dated, hard-to-use tools for long? I’m not sure. Also, I think that users of everyday apps and devices have higher standards and levels of expectation nowadays than in the past. We know we can have better, and slow clunky software irritate. Basically, if the tools you give your staff is preventing them from doing their work, then that should set off alarm bells calling for change. Ngaire: Considering the time people are spending at work, carrying out tasks, their time is really valuable. If they’re spending a lot of time using a product to get something done, they need to be able to get that something done! It’s finding that balance between an incredibly easy to use site and building a design around that, that works. What have you made of the B2B industry so far? Lena: I’ve been blown away by the importance of network and connections in the industry. Also, the influence and importance of the policy and industry groups that influence and guide the industry. It’s a big change from e-commerce, but a healthy one I think. Ngaire: I agree, I’m still so new to it! What similarities do you see between B2B and B2C, within your realms of work? Lena: I actually see a lot of similarities. At the end of the day, we are designing for people carrying out ‘jobs’ and tasks. Usually, helping people save time and effort in carrying out tasks is one of the most satisfying and useful things you can do. At MOO.COM I learned techniques that help me understand users and what they really want, something I look forward to applying in this new field. I’m keen to meet with people across all levels in the B2B industry, to ensure that I know as much as I can of what they’re really trying to get done. Ngaire: There are many similarities between B2B and B2C, designers must think about what the client is trying to achieve, how they want it to feel and does it work. B2B platforms are built (or should be built!) to help users find information as quickly as possible and guide them. The design and usability of data tables is crucial to help teams get insight into deep data, and also to make every day interactions and usage more helpful. Why does design matter? Ngaire: Design shows that you take care of your company’s brand. By creating a user-interface that follows a strong style guide, that is visually consistent and easy to navigate, this help build trust in your company. Design is about creating an environment that is comfortable and familiar. Also, ‘familiarity’ is a mantra that is core to e-commerce websites, where structures are adhered to and help drive sales. If a customer is unable to work out where to find products of a certain category in a matter of seconds, where to add them to their cart and where to check out, they’re not going to make a purchase. That’s why online retailers spend so much time designing the use of buttons, links and effective messaging to allow the user to perform tasks quickly without having to think. ‘Don’t make me think’ is commonly heard when designing e-commerce interfaces. Lena: It’d be interesting to see how ‘Don’t make me think’ can be applied to B2B platforms. Ngaire: Yes! Today’s interfaces also need to work nicely on various desktop screens and devices. For tablet users for example, you need to ensure that the design works (nothing looks odd or breaks) when switching between portrait and landscape mode. Lena: What makes designing interfaces so interesting is that there’s also a lot of psychology involved, based on observing and understanding human interactions. Knowing for example how we read documents in the western world by starting top left. That’s also how we read interfaces and websites. The subject of cognitive load – how us humans can only absorb a small number of visuals in one go. That’s why data-table design needs so much attention. So that it really supports users and help us humans process information. Ngaire: Exactly. I think this is what makes the B2B design opportunity so exciting. There’s a lot of work to be done… What trends do you see in usability? Lena: A trend that’s already rife is facilitating conversations and usability through voice-commands and chatbots. Many of us now use products such as Amazon’s Echo to control our environment through voice. There’s also been an explosion in messaging robots, to help people self-serve, some better than others. Ngaire: Yes. Again, using design to help people save time and effort. The Google Chrome functionality that inputs saved data into form fields is a great example. Lena: As a principle, if you can help customers by doing the ‘heavy lifting’ and giving relevant help and options up front, you’re so much more likely to help customers get the job done and ultimately make them enjoy their experience. If you enjoy an experience, you will want to use that service again, and hopefully recommend it to friends and colleagues. There’s real business benefit through great design. Ngaire: Another trend is personalised interfaces. I take it for granted that flight comparison tools pick up where I am, remembering previous entries. I also expect exercise tools to remember what I’ve done and help me build up useful data. Lena: It’d be interesting to explore how this applies to B2B tools and services online. Why should B2B interfaces not be smart enough to pick up my most frequent and regular actions? If you would like to find out more about Indigo&, and our approach to design, get in touch with our team.