Researching Customer, Staff and Stakeholder Needs
Research is critical to write a user story for each stakeholder, process and feature that decision-makers decide to incorporate into their eCommerce platforms. Ask the staff what features they would like to have to facilitate their work, and do the same for third-party website users, outside marketing teams, carrier companies and vendors. Design preferences can be considered if they don't conflict with the overall platform design and theme.
Customers present challenges in determining their needs. Focus groups and surveys are one option, but buying behavior, profile-specific integrations for each customer and design features for the ideal customer are better indicators for customizing design features for each customer persona.
Supply chain management is crucial to B2B success, and shipping and warehousing options, logistics, geographical areas where the business operates and other defining characteristics of the supply chain determine what features are needed.
Design Elements to Support Platform Features
Each stakeholder and customer persona have a unique set of functions that an eCommerce platform can provide, and B2B goals and stakeholder needs define functionality, which is roughly mapped by wireframes. Design elements include the physical characteristics of the site such as company logos, complementary colors, easy-to-read typefaces, font sizes, bulleted-list designs, images, navigation buttons, characteristics of features like highlighting and many other particulars. Some design work can be done in conjunction with the discovery and research process where developers work to determine a fully functional blueprint that includes each feature, image, event, navigation path, trigger and connection that stakeholders will use on their journeys throughout the platform.
Catalog design is a major concern, and many platforms have multiple catalogs or subcatalogs that might include custom stores-within-stores, showcase areas for manufacturers and other catalog customizations. Key catalog design decisions include whether to keep products static, show multiple product views and deliver snippets of content when cursors hover over each product listing. Determining how extensive descriptions are and what expanded information and specifications will show when people click on a product are also major design decisions.
Content, which includes descriptions, support information, company information, instructions, articles, FAQs, testimonials, reviews, images, photos, videos and illustrations, should be laid out in an aesthetically pleasing way where each paragraph, list, caption, headline and illustration complements and defines the other content elements.
B2B design elements should never be boring, but they can be conservative, edgy, creative or unusual depending on design decisions of the team. Just because the platform targets B2B customers doesn't mean that companies can't use bold colors and startling imagery, but these elements should complement design and appeal to the platform's ideal user regardless of whether he or she is a Millennial, Baby Boomer, international business buyer or youthful techie expert. Content language, images, design elements, page layouts, type sizes and other details should speak to each customer persona and enhance the business processes that website features optimize for customers.