Is there a real difference between design for B2B vs design for B2C? How do enterprise designers simplify the complexity of big problems?
Join us for episode 2 of the Design Explorers in which we are joined by Mehak Sharma and Hanxi Lee, two of our Senior UX Designers at Agoda, to better understand the interesting and complex world of our supply partners through their work on hotel-facing products.
In enterprise design, understanding your domain is really a big part of the design process. Because unlike consumer platforms, it's hard to put yourself in the shoes of a user on an enterprise platform.
I'm really drawn to the part where I rely on simplifying complex processes and make them more human for a vast number of users.
Hello, and welcome to the design explorers a podcast by the Agoda design team.
Agoda.com is a global digital travel platform where you can book hotels, vacation rentals, flights and airport transfer.
In this podcast, we will be sharing the awesome work of our design team discuss interesting trends in relation to design and travel and talk about product design in general.
My name is Nahum Yamin and I will be your host for the show
is designing for enterprise and b2b any different from designing for consumer facing products? And what does it actually mean to design for our hotel users experience? Today we talk about all these and more with Mehak Sharma and Hanxi Lee, two of our senior UX designers who are working on the supply products.
Enjoy your listening and the show. Let's start.
Welcome to the second episode of the design explores I am here today with Mehak and Hanxi to talk about enterprise design business to business products and designing for supply partners. Mehak and Hanxi are both working on YCS a platform that helps hotels manage their properties. Hanxi and Mehak, welcome to our show.
Hey Nahum, thanks for having us.
Hey Nahum. Yep, great to be here.
Before we go into discussing our subject for today, let's give our listeners some background about who you are and your work here together.
Hi, everybody. I'm Mehak Sharma, and I'm a senior UX designer for Agoda. Currently, I'm designing the core features for enterprise solutions for desktop and mobile, to enable partners and hotels to be able to sell on agoda.com. Previously, I worked as an enterprise designer at SAP where I designed for data privacy, or GDPR. and project management. I also have experience working as a mobile designer for Samsung, where I designed for low and mid range phones for Indian users. Before that, I think my design journey began really early on. I've always loved sketching. And this naturally led me to study Communication Design. And later in my life, I did my Master's in industrial design, majoring in lifestyle accessory design. And all of these are different fields of design always focused on users centricity.
Thank you my Mehak. And Hanxi, you've been here for almost two years now. Right?
Yeah. So for me, I was initially from industrial design background. So I did my bachelor's in industrial design. But we were always trained to think in a user centered way. So I think transitioning to UX was pretty natural. Because of the raw UX is not just for digital interfaces, right can apply to service design, you can also apply to 3d products. And before Agoda, I was at KPMG, Singapore. So there I was designing a budget and resource planning platform for auditors. And here at Agoda, I work on hotel facing tools just like Mehak. And more specifically, I work on the tools that we provide hotels for them to improve their performance on Agoda.
we invited you today to talk about designing for enterprise and b2b products. And for those who are not familiar with agoda, or even with the idea of an online travel agency, it is important to explain that in our business model. We serve two key types of users consumers, which are the travelers and suppliers such as hotels. So while we have our main website and app where you can book your travel, we also have a few other products. One of those products is YCS Mehak. Maybe we can start by explaining to our listeners, what exactly is YCS and how is it being used.
So YCS stands for yield control systems. So YCS is a platform where properties that want to sell on Agoda.com can onboard themselves. Apart from onboarding hotels can do other actions as well. For example, they can check when they're getting bookings, they can change costs of their rooms, their availability, and upon successful booking, they can also get paid on YCS. We also have a range of other users on vices as well. For example, the support teams in Agoda that communicate with hotels to have a seamless Agoda experience
And Hanxi you are also a senior UX designer who works on YCS Can you briefly tell us about some of the areas of YCS that you have been working as well?
For me I work mainly on products, our we call them programs, that hotels use to improve their performance on agoda. So essentially, that means the things that they can do that can help them get even more bookings on agoda. For example, we recently launched the dashboard that can suggest hotels, what are some of the next steps that they should take, and how these steps can help them improve their visibility or their conversion on agoda. So for example, if we noticed that a hotel doesn't have the best and most competitive rates, then we can suggest that, hey, maybe you should set up a promotion to lower your rates on agoda.
Okay, so let's let's dive deeper into this world of enterprise and b2b products. First, I want to ask, what do you think are some of the key differences between designing for b2b versus designing for b2c, which is business to consumers?
I guess one word to sum it all up is complexity. Like, you know, in enterprise systems, they are much larger, they're more actions that the user can take on the platform, that means more user flows. So more contextual understanding is needed, because the workflow you're designing for is a lot more complex. And that also means that it has more variations, more edge cases, and therefore a lot more situations to consider. And I think that in enterprise design, understanding your domain is really a big part of the design process. Because unlike consumer platforms, it's hard to put yourself in the shoes of a user on an enterprise platform. For example, I'm not a hotel owner, neither are you, right. So it's hard to know, it's hard for us to know, like what these users will actually want,
Whereas for example, if you're working on a Agoda's traveler platform, it's a lot easier to relate to the travelers, because I guess at some point in your life, you will have experienced that you have been a traveler before. And of course, because of the complexity of the domain as well. So we do spend a lot of time understanding the domain before we actually start trying to design it. And on the user side, I think the key difference is that you are usually designing for expert users. So these are people that use your tool a few times a week, at least. And that is very different from someone who opens your mobile app maybe once a month, or once every few months, because they are a lot more familiar with our platform. And designing for these expert users will be very different from designing for consumers. And I think in Mehak works, she deals a lot with multiple levels of users, and multiple levels of permissions in one platform, right?
Yeah. So I think that's correct. As a designer for enterprise system, we must be constantly aware of the vast number of user roles that are interacting with the system. And different users have different goals. And we must always ensure that all of these roles should be able to achieve their goals without affecting any of the other users goals. So for example, YCS platform is permission based. So hotel owners see a set of controls. And the support team actually sees the same settings, but with added level of complexity. So it is our job to know how these settings are interconnected. And how there could be some cases where these settings could be offset it against each other, and cause trouble for another user. So it's especially very important for us to understand the needs of each user type their process flow, and already anticipate instances where any friction could occur, and cause the users some difficulty.
Right. And on the UI itself, I guess we can forget the point about data density.
Because the user is usually completing several different actions on one screen. So they will compare many different things at once. So like, for example, when let's say a hotel, General Manager creates a promotion campaign, on one hand, they will want to see like all the different settings of this promotion. What is it targeting? I mean, what are key travellers that they targeting, what's the promotion percentage they want to set? On the other hand, I guess they will want to look at the performance estimate of this campaign. Like, what are they going to get out of this campaign? How many travelers are they likely to reach? So you see, there are many different things that the user wants to see at the same time. So that makes the screen a lot more crowded. So I think that is pretty common in b2b design. Yeah.
You've been focusing most of your career on b2b products and enterprise products. And I'm curious to know, you know, what made you decide to work on this product? And in general, why Why are you so passionate about it?
Yeah, I think it really goes back to the complexity of it all. Like for me, as I mentioned, I was working at KPMG, which most people would know is an audit firm. So I remember when I was there, I will end the day at work and I go home feeling that my brain cells are very well spent. So there were just so many different ways and so many different formulas to calculate revenue and cost and profit and trying to understand all of that was just crazy, especially as a designer, you know, we're not too well versed in numbers. So yeah, to me, it was mind boggling. And of course, it's the enterprise UX designer, I think you'll soon understand that changing one feature on one platform and that you're affecting 10 other faces on the same platform. And that's because of how all the workflows are interconnected in one huge spiderweb. So I guess for me, I really like the fact that my brain was really well working, trying to connect all these abstract concepts together into one coherent map every day, that's not your user flows that you're looking at. And that's how I knew that the price design is for me, I guess.
Was it a similar journey for you Mehak?
Yeah, I think it was pretty much similar. So I started my career by designing mobile applications, which is a very quick and iterative process. And it is also focused more on the b2c aspect of it. So when I came across SAP work. my curiosity was aroused, when I actually saw like terms, like, you know, what is ERP? And what does onpremise mean? So I'm always like a curious person. So I try to get into the depths of what this actually means. And it was at SAP where I really started to understand all of these concepts and whys. You know, like, why is something very important to the users? Because you know, a huge businesses really dependent on it. And why is it important, as a user experience to get the experience, right, because, you know, the development cycles, in enterprise are really slow because of the complexity and the different users that are using it. So I think I'm really drawn to the part where I rely on simplifying complex processes, and make them more human for a vast number of users. And many businesses work in a very, very specific way. So it is a challenge for us to augment those natural flows, and not to really change them. And I think enterprise design also gives designers a chance to be able to think like product managers, by already forecasting challenges in the process, and explaining workable solutions to across many different teams, like other different project managers, and development teams, etc. especially true for a Agoda, where we have many stakeholders that we need to talk to, and you know, like, be able to communicate like how different ideas would affect them, and also be able to understand their process and what they need from this.
Since you were both intrigued by the idea of simplifying the complexity, what would you say are necessary skills for designers, you know, wish to work on such complex problems?
Yeah, I think before we, as designers really start to think about what users would see on the screen, it's more important to understand how the product would affect users. And what are the goals that they're trying to achieve? And how can they achieve them with in the straitest way possible? I think excellent communication skills are very important, because we really need to have the ability to understand the pain point, or the pain points of many users, and communicate the same information to many stakeholders.
True. And I think another point is to know when to stop designing. Yeah, and I say this because we know enterprise systems are large business needs are complex. And you might know the ideal solution. But when you take into consideration the feasibility of it, or timelines, resources, then the ideal solution might not be the best solution for today.
And, as you mentioned before, like domain knowledge is very important, especially if enterprise design interests you as a designer. For example, if you're interested in healthcare, it's really important to understand the business better. Always be curious about, you know, what the different user roles, or for example doctors would do, or how hospitals work as a business. And keep reading about the latest developments and look at it from different perspectives. And similarly for the hospitality industry as well. Keep an eye out for the latest trends. And just be curious and do your research.
Yeah. And I think on top of it all, you got to be really comfortable with complexity. Do you enjoy taking apart difficult and multifaceted problems? Then if you do Welcome to the world of enterprise UX!
Okay, so so maybe you can explain our listeners and describe your design process when you're tackling such big problems?
Yeah, I guess first we would understand the context well, and I mean, take out every nitty gritty detail from the stakeholders, the users, and then map out all these different process flows. So and take your process flows and go through them with the stakeholders and users to ensure that you haven't left anything out, make sure you don't just have happy flows, you have all the unhappy flows, the edge cases, and the different user roles. And now that you have the big picture, I guess you can then start going into the usual design loops like wireframing, UI, checking in with the users and so on.
Yeah, I think these are some really great points already. And the one point that I would like to elaborate on is that it always helps to understand the effort and time relationship in some projects as well, especially in Agoda, where one of our values is to move fast, it is important to understand where we can move at smaller fixes, which which could have a great impact, and where we really need to push back. And I trade for the best user experience.
Yeah, true, like spend 20% of the time for 80% impact, right?
Do you have an example in mind that can, you know, help us illustrate some of the complexity when we're designing for such products.
So as I mentioned before, like YCS is a permission based platform. And whenever we design a new solution or redesign a feature, it's important to know which user is going to be using it and how will they use the specific setting. And sometimes like a feature that is not really important in some of the regions maybe very, very important, the other regions, I think one very interesting example of that would be in Agoda's Japanese market, there are differences in the way guests booked their rooms. So their hotels or Ryokans, as they're called, are actually linked with seven course meals that need to be really detailed out to the guests in order to get better bookings. So that meant that we had to design the rate plan page in such a manner that it could cater to all of the standard settings that we had on the page. And plus, also easily give way to the Japanese hotels, to be able to enter all of the details necessary to get bookings really fast. So I'd say that we are constantly focused to design in a way that could handle different requirements from special use cases without affecting the flows and this system for others.
And I think this is a great example because it shows how your work on the extranet affecting our consumers and travelers
Sure. Yes, I think even as an enterprise designer, we are doing a lot of thinking about how the settings should behave. It's very important for us to also know like what the end result would look like, on a Agoda.com. And also vice versa, if some of the users make any changes on Agoda.com, like what is information that is coming back to our extranet platform,
Right, So hopefully, by now we managed to spark the curiosity in some of our listeners. And some of them, you know, they might be curious to learn more about this type of design work. What are some good tips or you know, any advice that you can give them to start this journey?
Right I think a good way to start would be to put an example of a b2b tool with great UX beside one, which you think has well not so good UX side by side, and then ask yourself, what are the differences, what makes the one that has put us so good to use and the other one terrible to use? I know that well designed b2b platforms are few and far between, because most of them are just legacy tools, right? So examples that I like to draw from are usually those from the FinTech world, because that's where we get a lot of new products, and a lot of startups tackling those problems. And because these products usually have high data density, so they will be more relevant to enterprise design. And I think you could also look into the productivity tools that you use day to day at work. So for example, I love the application Notion. So it's all in one workplace, as they call it might say it's similar to Confluence a lot simpler. You can also say that it's an all in one note taking app, but with so much more. The beauty of it all is that it's fully customizable. So as a user, you can use it for simple note taking. And you can even use it as a Kanban board for your product roadmap. And I think what Notion has done really well is to combine all these layers of complexity into a platform that is suited for every user. And they've done it really well. So I think what I'm trying to say is compare two applications, one good and one bad, preferably pretty similar ones, and ask yourself, what would you change in a one that doesn't have good user experience? Perhaps you want to try to redesign a part of it and I think that will be A good starting point to begin your journey in the enterprise UX.
Yeah. And I would say just stay curious and always put yourself in the shoes of the user
Alright, thank you, Mehak and Hanxi, I think that was a very interesting talk. And, you know, we don't hear a lot about these tools about enterprise tools and b2b products. And you helped us today to understand how complex and interesting these product can be.
Thank you Nahum
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