So you’ve been nailing amazing experiences in the consumer product space – be that as an internal or external designer. Awesome. Your last project comes to an end. Next! A new challenge floats onto your plate and the term ‘enterprise product’ is dropped in the initial briefing. You do some googling. A wild definition appears:  

Enterprise user experience is product design where the users are employees, as opposed to customers. 

Your google search

Ok, but how does this exactly change things?

This was me a couple of years ago. Over this time, I’ve made a handful of observations that hopefully go some way in answering just this question and subsequently, will let you craft considered, quality enterprise experiences. 😎

1. Employees are often living double lives

Look under the ‘most popular’ category in any app store these days and you’ll generally find slick, addictive apps offering up hyper-personalised, usable experiences. Poke your head inside most large organisations and – even today – you’ll often see the polar opposite. Employees are living double-lives – forced into using bulky, out-of-date tools with a wisp of usable UI, as well as bloated, unstructured, do-it-yourself spreadsheets. Slowly but surely, enterprises are realising that improving the UX for internal tools and processes is not only good for external business, but also plays a role in making life as an employee that much easier. The best part? In the research phase, these documents are a trove of juicy tangible clues just waiting to be investigated, analysed and improved upon. 

☝️ Why knowing this matters:

A small amount of design love will be a complete revelation for all those involved when they realise that the products they use for work, can be just as gratifying as those they use outside of it. 

2. Think adoption, not acquisition

In the workplace, employees aren’t paying to use these tools themselves – especially in the case when the tool is created by an internal product team. Teams have existing processes and tools that, in some cases, have been used for more than a decade. Employees have become accustomed to seeing 10 options in a dropdown field, 6 of which are relics from an ancient time and have since been abandoned. Managing the change is important. An agile, transparent, user-centred, design process is key to maintaining healthy relationships with users, ultimately becoming routine to the point where user testing doesn’t need the intro ‘we’re testing our designs, not you’ spiel. Which leads into the next point…

☝️ Why knowing this matters:

Old habits die hard. You want people to actually use what you’re designing. You might have met the needs of users but the communication methods and relationships you build with them are crucial to making a smooth transition from old habits to new.

3. Users are generally accessible, but in short supply

Building such specialised tools, for a specialised audience by definition means there aren’t many users to go around. Employees also have full-time jobs to get on with too – meaning research and validation time is sacred, even if you’ve got a great relationship going. I find myself actually injecting some variation into this (outside of a structured interview/testing session), by setting up slack/hangouts channels where I can ask questions and they can reply whenever they have the time. 

☝️ Why knowing this matters:

It keeps relationships healthy – their time is sacred and respecting this will do wonders in ensuring you’re able to comfortably glean all those valuable insights, resulting in higher quality solutions.

4. We’re not designing sucky black-holes of attention

Alright, that may be a pretty visceral title…but many of today’s tech consumer products are participating in the attention economy – vying for a precious slice of time in your valuable life. Admittedly, many products don’t start out this way and many also operate with genuinely good intentions. And maybe this comes from a designer who’s recently deleted Instagram and Facebook, but it just feels good knowing I’m designing products employees use as tools to improve their work-life. 

☝️ Why knowing this matters:

Employees need to spend their time using these tools regardless – why not empower them, save the business money and feel better while we’re at it?

And that’s it – a handful of my observations to date. Hopefully these four learnings will better prepare you for an enterprise product and ultimately ensure your experience designing is just as good as the ones you end up creating.