The user experience a B2B site provides can have a serious impact on lead generation. If a potential client can’t find what they need — or is frustrated by a confusing site structure — they may click away.
The negative experience they leave with may make them reluctant to research your brand again, even if you make your business available through other channels — like a contact email or phone number.
Providing a website with great accessibility and easy navigation, on the other hand, may help streamline the research process and encourage potential clients to get in touch.
However, just applying standard user experience best practices to a B2B website isn’t always the best strategy. Many B2B clients have unique needs, meaning you may need to structure your website differently to offer an optimal user experience.
These strategies and examples show how simple adjustments and design tweaks can significantly improve the user experience on a B2B website.
1. Keep Site Design Consistent
Consistency in site design is a great way to streamline navigation.
For example, most site designers will keep navigation elements in the same location, no matter which page a user is on. Similarly, they may keep the logo in the top left corner on every page, providing a visual landmark and quick link back to the site’s home page.
Good site designs are typically learnable — meaning they’re structured so users can get consistent results with consistent input. Keeping the navigation experience mostly the same across a site will help smooth out a user’s experience, helping them find information and learn more about your brand with minimal friction.
2. Give Users Maximum Control
Avoid taking away control from users while they’re browsing your site. Popups, autoplay videos, and other automatic design elements — like a carousel that rotates between multiple pieces of content by itself — may help grab the attention of a user, but they can also be extremely frustrating in practice.
However, it’s best to limit your use of these popups and deploy them only when they are absolutely necessary for your site’s design.
3. Break Out Client Needs
It’s not unusual for B2B businesses to serve clients with a diverse range of needs. Sometimes, these needs may not overlap significantly — meaning you need to find a way to structure your website so clients can access information on only the services they need.
For example, see this page from Advantage Outfitters, a van shelving supply company.
The company provides a wide range of shelving products — however, clients with different vehicle types can only use a certain selection of these products. To handle this problem, the company has broken out different shelving types into easy-to-access page categories.
Each of the pictured links will deliver visitors to relevant product catalogs that include products guaranteed to fit their particular vehicle type.
This kind of structure can help reduce questions about product compatibility and reassure customers with highlighted vehicle types that the company can meet their needs.
4. Always Let Buyers Know Where They Are
Good navigation tools are essential for any business website. Most B2B businesses use a simple navigation header with additional dropdown options that appear on hover.
The website for Dstillery, an audience solutions provider, shows off how this can work in practice.
The navigation header includes links to all essential pages — including the site’s contact page, about page, and pages related to business offerings.
Two of the header options also include dropdown menus that provide additional navigation links.
5. Provide Value With Digital Tools
If possible, you can also provide some significant value with digital tools, like product customizers or visualizers.
For example, see this online product design visualizer from Packlane, a commercial packaging supplier.
The tool allows users to customize boxes for shipping — allowing them to choose between different materials, shapes, and sizes. They can even apply custom designs to the box, letting them see how their branding could look on one of the company’s shipping products.
This kind of tool can provide major value to potential customers. A package design tool like this may help them brainstorm potential uses for products or get a sense of what a business’s products can offer — before they’ve even contacted that company.
6. Reduce or Simplify Friction Points
Friction points are site design elements that make the site more painful to use. These may be overlong form fields, cumbersome contact forms, or anything else that causes a user to navigate away from your site.
Web analytics can help you identify these friction points. If you notice that users tend to bounce or click away from a specific page, form, or menu, that could be a sign that the particular site element is frustrating or confusing.
Simplifying these friction points can go a long way in making a B2B site more usable.
7. Communicate Clearly
Clear communication helps make sites easier to navigate and can streamline the research process for potential clients.
For B2B businesses, clear communication often means meeting your audience where they already are. A highly technical audience may feel more comfortable with industry jargon and may find unnecessary explanations off-putting. Another audience may get bogged down by overly complex language.
In any case, clear communication at a level your audience can handle is extremely important. Good copy can be almost as valuable for site usability as technical considerations, like how you structure your pages or build your navigation system.
8. Measure Your Work
Once you’ve made major changes to your site, it’s a good idea to check your work. Measuring user behavior on your site will help you know if your changes were successful in making the site easier to use.
You may also experiment with in-house site usability testing. These tests allow you to see first-hand how people are really navigating your site, allowing you to catch potential friction points.
Optimizing Your B2B Website’s User Experience
These strategies are some of the best ways to ensure a smooth user experience on any B2B website. By making info easy to access, breaking down content or product pages based on user needs, and smoothing out friction points, you can provide a much more enjoyable experience for potential clients.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.