Why be user-friendly when you can be the user-friendliest?
Let’s be real – pretty much every digital company out there is touting that their solutions are “user-friendly” (yep, guilty!). The term has become so synonymous with words like “software” and “website,” that a lot of people barely even hear it anymore. However, when we’re talking about customer portals, a nifty little tool that’s helping B2B companies communicate faster and better with their clients, it’s important to remember that the aim really is to make the platform friendly. As in, inviting, stress-free and, most importantly, intuitive to navigate.
Does it really matter what a customer portal looks like?
In the B2B world, particularly in industrial settings, it’s easy to think of your tools in terms of functionality only. If it works, who cares if it’s pretty, right? While that may be true of machinery, it’s not so when it comes to customer experience technology. In fact, people base roughly 75 percent of their judgement of a website’s credibility on aesthetics alone. Aside from causing trust issues, a customer portal with poor user experience (UX) design can:
Frustrate your customers
Bury important information
Limit upselling opportunities
Increase time-consuming customer service calls
Investing in any customer experience technology is a big undertaking. Before you begin thinking about portal design, it’s a good idea to sit down with your team and determine exactly what information your customers will be seeking and what specific actions you want them to take. Once you have a solid handle on that, you can ensure the time and cost of building a customer portal are well spent by implementing the following UX design tips:
1. Simple is better.
Try not to get caught up in fancy web design techniques. Your customer portal is not your brand’s website, and you don’t need high design, parallax scrolling or other types of digital eye candy. Your portal is a tool where existing customers can find their company’s information fast. A clean, simple grid layout can help customers immediately understand what they are looking at and where to go next.
2. Be generous with white space.
White space, or negative space, refers to the parts of the view that are left empty. It’s important to leave a lot of white space so that the user’s eyes can easily find important elements. Leaving ample breathing room also makes your portal less likely to overwhelm or stress a user. In other words, don’t junk it up. Clutter is the worst.
3. Allow multiple filter options.
One way to declutter is to employ faceted content models, which is just the hip, tech-geek way of saying let your customers apply multiple filters to easily create the data sets they want to see. Can they view their data according to asset criticality? Asset age? Location? Think through what would be most useful to your customers and arm them with options they can control.
4. Establish a consistent color scheme.
By being consistent with your use of color, you can help your customers feel grounded and know more instinctively where to click. Here’s a fun example: on our brand website, we use orange for any action items, aka clickable text links or buttons. And we don’t use orange for much else. So, if a user wants to take an action on our site, their brain can naturally scan for orange. Consider setting up a system where all headers are one color, all filter option another, etc.
5. Design for minimal clicks.
Basically, the fewer steps a customer needs to take to find the information they’re after, the better. How can you simplify the experience so that they can get detailed information in just a couple clicks? It’s better to spread the information out across more views, than to have a customer click deeper and deeper into the portal. It’s all about how you break up the data.
6. Amp up user customization.
Aside from filters, how else can a customer tailor their view? Remember, this is all about empowering the customer to prioritize the information they want to see. Can they select a default view? Can they drag and drop modules to rearrange information? Can they modify test limits and criteria to better reflect their business practices?
7. Research current trends.
No one likes a copycat, right? Wellll. That may be true in life, but in the UX arena, emulating trends actually makes things a whole lot easier for your customers. Research similar software. If you’re seeing patterns for how certain things are done, your customer may already have a built-in expectation. Copy what makes sense to copy and reinvent in places where you’re truly offering a better way – not just a different one.
We hope these UX best practices are helpful for you. If you’re interested in learning more about customer portals, important features, security measures and more, take a look at our white paper. Or, you can always get in touch with us!