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I work as medior backend developer in a small company (~ 30 people), where we build an online multi-tenant B2B SaaS application for energy management.

I would describe our app as having many cool features, which are not well presented. The overall UI design is like from 2005, and overall user experience is sometimes confusing even for me, when I should clearly know what's going on in there.

My problem is the following:

  • We've developed features that we were told "our customers needed", but I have recently found out that the features are not used by anyone, even after several months.

  • Our CEO/Sales person does not want to invest in better UI/UX design because, by his words, "design does not sell in B2B", even though we've never performed any customer satisfaction survey.

  • My attempts at gathering user feedback were postponed, because it was "low priority".

  • I was told that feedback from our users is not important, because most of them are not the one who pay for the service.

  • The only solution provided by management was to enlarge our base of sales people.

So, how would you convince anyone who does not believe that UX design (and design in general) are important, to send a survey to users?

My goal is to perform a survey to get feedback. If the feedback is as bad as I think it will be, and our management still keeps their statement, then I am ready to resign. But I don't want to give up yet.

I read numerous articles about B2B design, but most of them are about website design available to everyone, so SaaS could differ. Also, I get that it's hard in B2B to reach the right people to gather feedback from.

I would be happy for any suggestions.

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The sales team is your best ally here. If your company is throwing more money at sales people, it means that the priority is acquisition. You probably have decent retention already due to leadership's lack of interest in surveying existing customers. That doesn't mean you have a good product, it could mean that there's a lack of options for leaving.

See if you can connect with sales (beyond your CEO) and ask if they believe that the product's look and feel, and general user experience, is impeding their goals. If they say yes, ask if they would be willing to help you advocate for a survey. It might need to be modified to include some questions that fit their needs.

If you can get some better designs in front of the sales leaders, they might be great at selling the need to your leadership.

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It will likely be a very long and hard process to convince people like that.

I'm currently going through something similar as UX designer at a b2b company trying to fight for resources to implement my designs. My approach is gathering evidence through analytics, which I assume you'll be able to implement as a developer. There are many free tools you could use.

It's hard to argue against hard evidence and in many ways it's better to track what users are actually doing as supposed to asking them in a survey. You'll be able to track all your users and see what they actually do instead of relying on the few that respond.

The second thing I do is shadow users where we take 2 or 3 hours where the user shares their screen and I ask them questions as they do their normal work. We do this all remotely at the moment but it works really well. You might need to persuade some people to allow you to do that but it's really worth it. I write reports for each session and share the key insights with the entire company, often stirring discussion. You can ask if you may record such a session and can make compilation videos that you can share to spread your insights further.

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    We've never performed any customer survey, so I prepared one (NPS) to tell us basic user satisfaction with our product. What percentage of responders would you expect to actually fill the survey? I would like to know some number so I can compare that later with actual results. Also about the sessions with users. It sounds like a briliant idea to me. Is it usual to perform this type of testing on users from companies? Because if I tell our CEO about this idea, he will think I am crazy, that I want to bother employees from different companies with this kind of research. – dom Nov 2 at 22:08
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    I don't know what are common response rates to a survey. Our team did one and only got about 20 respondents with 150+ users. So not all that useful. Sessions with users is fairly common, think about case studies and such. That's also something where a client takes the time to help you promote your product. Helping to improve is not that different. – Martyn Nov 2 at 22:14
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    @dom articles.uie.com/… This made me feel a lot better about my efforts ;) – Martyn Nov 4 at 17:19
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    I am glad you feel better, but I just feel worse now. You basically told me to quit 😀 but thank you for the feedback. This is something I can work with. – dom Nov 4 at 20:35
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Please note: I do not have an UX background but I do appreciate usable applications.

The reasons may vary from application to application, but I'd argue a key factor is that, when a product is designed with some respect for the users, work can be done more efficiently and with less errors. In some environments, errors can be deadly or nearly as important. Some examples come to mind:

  • the fake missile alarm incident where many people received an incoming missile alert on their phones due to a poorly designed menu.
  • some documented errors in voting machines (e.g. a touchscreen so badly synchronized that the vote is always cast for the candidate above the one actually touched by the voter).
  • The Uber self-driving fiasco: a person was paid to monitor one of Uber's self-driving cars. However, Uber failed to account for the fact that in such a job a single person would be prone to distractions. That distraction, combined with bad luck and poor technical decisions by Uber, costed the life of a pedestrian.

Day to day, risks are not that high, but errors pile up. If people are not able to spot errors because, say, the application gives little to no feedback about an action or the language is so inexpressive that you can't be sure whether you're following the right set of steps, errors will multiply.

Those are reasons to acquire a well UX designed application, but not to produce one. At that point, as @Izquierdo said, the sales team is essential: you need to show that a product with a good UX design will be more attractive than one, ahem, organically developed. And you need to show that the increase in value will offset the cost of redesigning an application to make it more usable.

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