Product Management :: Product Marketing

11 January, 2013

Litmus Test for B2C User Interfaces

A while ago, I was discussing the User Interface (UI) / User Experience (UX) with a friend who was building a B2C internet service. We're discussing the user process flow through the service's most critical feature.

Whilst building a B2C service at Midentity, I was handed some painfully humiliating lessons about the level of (in)competence of my users / what they understood about my product and its features / how much information they retained when they moved from screen to screen.

I emphasised to my good friend the very high standard of the user experience that is required for a B2C service. It has to be crystal clear.

My user experience litmus test

Here's the ideal usage scenario vs the actual scenario
Ideal UsageActual Usage
User is focussed on the task in hand
User is insanely multi-tasking:
  • Intermittent interruptions on the computer - possibly Skype logins popping up or irritating pop-ups due to the number of browser taskbars / browser extensions or adware
  • Fanatical Facebook or Twitter usage: following posts, commenting on pictures, Facebook IM etc
  • Constant text messages interruptions - all of which require immediate response.
  • Emails arrive that need to be responded to
  • Possibly telephone calls as well - these might on a desk phone as well as the mobile phone.
  • Background music - or if the user has headphones on, it might be 'foreground' music
Timely Completion of Task
  • User concentrates on the task in hand without huge gaps between each step
Intermittent Usage
  • Significant breaks in usage
  • User walks away half way through registration. They return 30 mins later (ie their machine requires them to log in again). They look at the screen and wonder, 'What on earth am I trying to achieve from this service again??'
User has clear understanding what the service provides  Very hazy comprehension of the service
  •  User skim read the home page and thought the site looks cool, so ploughed into the user registration
  • If it doesn't follow their preconceived expectations, the user will exit and say that 'the service was confusing to use', when, in truth, the user failed to follow instructions however clear they were. 
Clear understanding of what parts of the user will benefit from User discovers the product's benefits by using it, not be reading about it.
  • Access to help must be very close at hand
  • Service must protect the user from their own silliness (ie lots of defensive logic and error checking)

What's the difference between B2C and B2B UX?

B2B users are paid to use your product or service. They are much more compelled to read the instructions / follow the process / get it right. They may have distractions but, in general, these will be much less than in the B2C environment.


  • Use your product in the Actual Usage mode above - even better get your love one to use your product in the  Actual Usage mode - and prepared to be depressed!
  • Every screen needs to be self supporting ie don't conclude that the user knew what button they pressed to get to the current screen OR why they pressed it originally. 
  • Revisage constant restarts (eg multiple registrations, forgotten password requests half way through registration). 
  • Watch 'virigin' / untouched new users as often as you can.
  • Use focus groups.
    • BUT be wary, users will say they want X functionality, but once produced never use it.
    • Groups are also susceptible to Group Think ie one person makes a suggestion and the group conforms to that opinion, even if all the individuals individually don't profess to have that opinion.
  • Track what users actually do, not what they say they do.
Any suggestions from elsewhere?

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