I’m very fortunate to have worked with some of the most creative and talented graphic designers in my career and thank goodness I have, as I can’t imagine I’d have gotten far with my stick figure drawings and wonky wireframes!

Bad design as a service (BAAS)

Is it just me or does 90% of the B2b software we use on a daily basis look hideous? I imagine that percentage creeps even higher if you think of legal and professional software (‘hello eyesore!’). The roll call for BAAS, bad design as a service companies features many of those well known software companies you sacrifice hours of your days to between Monday to Friday.

As a man who is more suited to functionality and practicality, the lack of design fundamentals is fine by me…but I do wonder what those less graphically challenged than me must think, watching their colleagues spend their days staring at glorified spreadsheet cum database ‘solutions’ with the aesthetic attraction of Frankenstein’s monster.

Maybe I’m part of the problem. Instead of just thinking ‘well it is B2b software, of course it’s going to be ugly’, perhaps it’s time to canvas for greater designer input on B2b user interfaces.

So why is B2b software so ugly?

The reality isn’t that good designers do not exist, or are not present at these companies, it is often just overlooked as an element of the software that is not a priority, certainly not more important than it working correctly or meeting the needs of the end user.

Whilst that’s not the case for all end users, many who have become used to cosy aesthetic and functional UI’s from other more innovative software they use in other aspects of their day to day business, often the decision maker who decides on whether the software gets purchased or not is not the person operating the software, therefore they couldn’t give a monkeys regarding the visuals as long as it does what they need it to do.

B2b software development success so often comes down to how you prioritise and spend your development budget. Development can get expensive quickly, so I reckon in many cases the no doubt well considered and well researched UI ideas from the design team just do not make it high enough up the food chain to get implemented.

I can hear the haunted echoes of disappointment in the Agile sprint now…’we’ll add it in version 2′ …’let me put it on the road map’…when the reality has become that it is in the long grass now for the foreseeable, at least until anyone can make a strong enough business case.

Would you really sacrifice feature requests for design UI as a product manager? Even worse, what if by making your software easier to use you completely mess up the feature-set?

I don’t think there is an explicit bias to not have better design for B2b software but there certainly becomes overwhelming intrinsic bias and pressures and that is why B2b software is so ugly.

FeedbackFans.com Managing Director - Chris Barnard

Chris Barnard has spent over 15 years delivering exceptional digital marketing performance for leading businesses in the UK, Europe and North America as an independent business consultant.

FeedbackFans provides a unique next-generation managed technology and marketing platform that delivers outstanding and outsized results for businesses in sectors such as finance, retail, leisure, and professional services.

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Chris Barnard is Managing Director of FeedbackFans