Designing B2B Experiences with a Multi-Phase UX Research Approach

Businesswoman using tablet and laptop at desk

Posted by Ben Hoopes on May 1, 2024

Designing successful B2B software websites is a challenging task, and the stakes are high. In 2022, the global business software and services market was valued at USD 474 billion and is expected to grow rapidly over the next 10 years. In such a competitive space with vast opportunities, getting your UX right is a critical step in your product development.

When designing B2B software websites, sometimes also called enterprise software, there is much to consider. Buyers are often looking to find a lot of information on the site in a limited amount of time and you have to reach them with the right information at the right stage of the journey. How do you design a site that appeals to multiple types of users, and gets them the right information for whichever phase of the buying process they are in?

While this may seem like an intimidating ask, there are tried and true UX research methods that can help your business navigate these challenges. Often, taking a multi-phase, multi-methodological approach can help you start from the strategic big picture, and then subsequently, focus on more tactical, usability questions. In this article, we share a 3-phase research approach to help you design a better enterprise site for all of your key users.

Phase 1:
Early Stage Foundational Research

Early foundational or exploratory research can help you understand your users on the macro level, uncover their needs and wants, identify new use cases, and explore their customer journeys. Methods we recommend in this phase include persona development, jobs-to-be-done, and journey mapping. These three methods are sometimes combined into a single qualitative study, or can be separated into multiple studies. There are benefits to each approach. Combining the methods into a single study can be valuable for time and budget constraints. However, breaking these methods out into their own studies can allow for even more robust insights that build and layer on top of each other. For example, if you conduct a standalone study focused on persona development, you can then conduct a journey mapping study, where you recruit for specific quotas of each persona, allowing you to ensure a robust sample of each segment when considering the journey map.

Research can help you answer a few key questions in this stage:

  • What are the stages of the buying cycle?
  • What jobs need to be completed by users on your site during each phase of their journey, and how quickly?
  • What are the different types of users within each buying process?

Phase 2:
Diving into Information Architecture 

Once you have a good understanding of the primary tasks each user is trying to complete on your site at each stage of the purchasing journey, you can begin to focus on information architecture using quantitative research methods. Card sorting and tree testing often happen in tandem and together can offer you a comprehensive way to understand how your users are responding to your site architecture. We recommend starting with quantitative card sorting, a collaborative design technique that helps you understand how users expect the information on your site to be grouped together. You could also conduct a qualitative card sort, depending on your sample size or tool availability. Once you have a baseline information architecture from your card sort research, tree testing helps you validate if that design is intuitive for users. You can leverage everything you learned in phase one about your user journeys, jobs-to-be-done, and personas as you design your card sort. Details about your users’ needs, primary concerns, and use cases can help inform who you recruit and the questions you ask, 

Research can help you answer a few key questions at this stage: 

  • Which information or tasks make sense to be grouped together?
  • What should each CTA, piece of content, task, or page be called?
  • How do users prefer to learn about key tasks or information?

Phase 3:
Testing a Prototype 

Now that you understand your user personas, their needs, their purchase journey, and how they expect information to be laid out on your site, it’s finally time to put the rubber to the road and get a design in front of users. Creating a low- or high-fidelity prototype will allow you to have research participants actually try out the site and give their feedback in a more tactical, one-on-one research session. Along the way, you’ll get valuable feedback on usability, comprehension, and anything that might be missing and would prevent the user from engaging with your brand further.

Research can help you answer a few key questions at this stage:

  • Can the buyer find what they need based on their mental models or expected user journey?
  • What do they expect to happen if they click? What is their reaction to what they see after they click?
  • What information do they gravitate towards? What’s missing?

It’s important to note that each time you complete one of the above types of research studies, you’re capturing a snapshot of a moment in time. Research captures how your users behave and what they expect right now. But just like your product evolves, users evolve. Roles within businesses morph and the capabilities and needs of users in those roles change. Your competition also evolves, especially in a fast-paced market like SaaS and enterprise software, with vast numbers of competitors constantly trying to top their competitors. 

When your competition changes, it impacts what your customers expect on your site. The beauty of iterative design is that once these steps are completed, the process can be repeated on an ongoing basis so that you can continuously hone in on a site design that meets the moment.

Understanding B2B customers and experiences requires a unique, tailored approach to research. Our team leverages deep expertise and decades of experience to help you uncover what your business customers need, want, and value. Learn more about our B2B capabilities.


Written by

Ben Hoopes

Ben Hoopes, a member of our AnswerLab Alumni, led research as a Principal UX Researcher at AnswerLab, helping answer our clients’ strategic business questions and create experiences people love. He is passionate about the power of UX research to shine a light on unseen paths forward.

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