Functionality of B2B eCommerce Site Design Mockups

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Appealing design and high-performance functions build credibility into inbound marketing, sales generation and collaborations, but the process requires doing a virtual walk-through of the plans in the same way that a builder would consult the owner, architect and outside stakeholders before building a custom home. Each point-of-view must be considered in home building such as utility company guidelines, zoning regulations, engineering best practices, landscaping, fire department requirements and other related home-building best practices. Builders must design blueprints, incorporate appliance connections, plan room dimensions, select color schemes and perform hundreds of other processes before starting construction. The prospective homeowner wants to see detailed blueprints, CAD drawings, material samples and other particulars before approving the plans.

Building a high-performance eCommerce platform should work the same way. Statistics show clear benefits in developing a cohesive design strategy. Specific concerns for B2B strategists include slower download speeds in the United States than Japan and most European countries and customers who only wait a few seconds for websites to load before bouncing to another site.[1] Design issues and customizations are critical to get people's attention, and savvy designers are investing in their futures by building more versatile and personalized B2B eCommerce platforms.

During the build, wireframes and workflows define how the website will look, what it will do and how it will customize user experiences, but design mockups go even further by incorporating all the design details so that decision-makers know exactly what they'll be getting when the developments go live. These details include design features like typography, color schemes, company logos, images, video files and other design elements.

 

Interactive B2B Website Design Mockups

New processes, workflows and tools are critical in the evolving marketing ecosphere. It’s no longer sufficient to use Photoshop to design a live eCommerce website and forward it to a development team to fill in the details. Developers increasingly play critical roles in the design process by helping to design function-mapping wireframes, interactive mockups and even browser prototypes that can trigger live functions and generate Web pages that look just like the final development will appear.


Best Practices for B2B eCommerce Platform Design Mockups

Functionality wireframes, design mockups, custom workflows and other development tools generate costs that can be credited to back-end ERP and CRM systems as necessary expenditures for doing business online. Using the right planning and development tools and partners generates substantial savings by eliminating false starts, increasing platform efficiency, jumpstarting inbound marketing efficiencies and significantly reducing the costs and challenges of collaborating with vendors and other third-party resources.


Starting Points for Adding Design Details

Generic best practices are great starting points for determining final design details, but these can change based on many details of a company's business model, ideal customer, level of back-end integrations and other criteria. Typical B2B design best practices include:

  • Leaving Breadcrumbs
    Breadcrumb navigation informs site visitors where they are at all times and shows where they've been on the site. Visitors can review how they came to a given section, backtrack and follow another path to their desired destinations.
  • Progress Bars
    Page-loading, downloading and uploading indicators can show visitors how long they need to wait for various menu options or connecting with third-party business associates.
  • Providing Business-Friendly Tools
    B2B customers might access special tools like calculator, click-to-call, click-to-email and social media widgets to make cost-profit calculations, research RSS feeds, customize products and connect with their own digital constituencies to generate grassroots support for new products.
  • Page Header Design
    Page headers should look like the links or navigation headers that people use to arrive at the page to reassure the customers that they have arrived at the right place.
  • Confirmations
    Any action that a customer takes should be confirmed with a Thank-You message or confirmation of the action.
  • Highlighting
    The visitor should be able to determine where they are and where they want to go with automatic highlighting, underlining or bolding of links and headers.
  • Using Custom Images
    Regardless of company, stock images are poor choices for eCommerce websites. Use photos, images and illustrations that are unique and show real products, company staff and business situations and locations.


Industry-Specific B2B Mockup Best Practices

Design awareness determines the best practices for designing mockups or prototypes. The particular business model of a given B2B company might be selling to resellers, businesses that sell to consumers, companies that need services, buyers for large companies, office designers and buyers or manufacturers needing supplies, materials or equipment. Each of these business models has its own industry standards, regulatory challenges and needs for specific types of eCommerce features. Design teams should incorporate specific best practices based on the relevant industry, business model, customer profiles and other criteria. For example, a B2B company selling high-end office furniture would place more focus on design aesthetics than a company selling parts and equipment to contractors, but both would want clear, high-resolution images to showcase their products to best advantage.

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.

Incorporating Business Needs into Designs

B2B companies have their own management needs that their platforms need to support, and the more aggressively designers incorporate enlightened self-interest into eCommerce platforms, the better the results of customer integrations will be. Initial discovery and design processes can proceed simultaneously, but they'll need to be completely integrated when producing the final mockups before the development teams are authorized to begin coding the platform. Business needs might include special considerations like developing changes on a limited budget, producing new content, fine-tuning existing content, meeting aggressive deadlines and other business modalities.


Fostering Better Internal Communications

It's easy to see how the lines of communications connect and intersect in wireframes. ERP and CRM software have their own design features, but these can be customized for better functionality and expanded communications options for key user stories such as those related to company processes of collaborating with production, managing inventory, determining timelines, managing project changes and triaging processes when things go wrong. Better communications help staff deal with internal drama, manage company processes more efficiently, meet tactical and strategic objectives and handle special projects like drop-shipments, split-shipping, product customizations and customer support.


Intuitive Designs that Facilitate Work Projects

Unlike customer-facing design features and areas designed to attract attention, the areas where staff work should have a logical structure for performing daily business tasks, and customizable interfaces for staff members are a big advantage for people who work with these features and processes exhaustively each day. Dashboards are valuable tools for staff members, customers and third-party associates. Designing the dashboard blends functions and design features, which users can customize. For example, an insurance company that insures invoices usually requires access to customer financial information to underwrite credit limits or assess insurability. If insurance underwriters connect with the site often, they might prefer using their own reporting styles and company features to make standardized comparisons of financial data easier.

Vendors might supply further research, product details, demos and white papers on materials and product compatibilities. These custom connections are extensions of a B2B brand, so design features and colors should match those of the B2B platform company with fewer instances for customer-generated customizations. However, vendors should be able to customize their own dashboards to optimize productivity. These kinds of assessments move down the line of third-party integrations for vendors and manufacturers. Some stakeholders might want to use their own logos and colors while others are perfectly willing to accept the website’s design details. Carriers' shipping integrations definitely have their own logos, formatting styles, content and presentation styles that are well-recognized by B2B customers and should be included in integrations.

Bringing Everything Together in a Comprehensive Mockup

Each user story has both a functional and design component that a detailed mockup -- or even a working prototype -- can build so that decision-makers get no surprises later. The mockup should show exactly what the platform, website or customization can do, how it will look and how it can address marketing, sales, collaborations and internal management issues. The benefits of designing wireframes and complex mockups include spotting miscalculations, providing a highly specific blueprint to development teams and specifying multiple user stories, website interactions and features that the development will address. The potential returns of customizing an eCommerce platform are enormous because if designs can't reach mobile and desktop computer users, B2B operations can quickly become marginal in today's competitive marketing environment. Mobile digital time now accounts for 51 percent of Internet use in the United States, and traditional office computers still are used 42 percent of the time.[2] B2B companies can't afford to ignore either of these business opportunities for customer engagement.

Design Mockup and Prototyping Tips from B2B eCommerce & Integrations

Designing an eCommerce platform can be the fun part of the development process, but the work is especially challenging for B2B companies because design depends on functionality and serving multiple stakeholder interests. At B2B eCommerce & Integrations, we work with all stakeholders to incorporate their best interests, simplify using the platform when it's online and ensure that the system handles business while providing intuitive navigation and appealing design aesthetics. We bring highly detailed mockups, templates and prototyping capabilities to the process so that you know all the details and can troubleshoot any problems or design errors before customers use the platform's expanded features. Call or contact us today for a consultation on how a deliberate and comprehensive planning and mockup process can save money and accelerate developing a high-performance eCommerce platform.


 

References:

[1] Inspiredm.com: 12 fascinating web design statistics inspiredm.com/web-design-statistics-infographic/

[2] Smartinsights.com: Mobile marketing statistics 2016 www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/