Web 3 for B2B: Using UX Research to Inform Blockchain Solutions

November 21, 2022

Why should UX research give special attention to designing Web 3.0 applications in the context of B2B?

When we talk about Web 3.0, we primarily talk about the technology that enables it - the blockchain. Blockchain is essentially a technology that has a very high potential of disrupting entire industries in areas such as finance, supply chain management, and even the art world.When we hear the words “Web 3.0” many of us think immediately about private consumers making transactions in assets such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs, or simply the world of business-to- consumers (B2C).

In reality, just like the internet in its early days, I believe that the blockchain is a technology that’s primarily going to change the backend technological stack, and that will likely impact the world of business-to-business (B2B) first.Web 3.0 is reshaping B2B UX and product design. Those who work in professions that involve monitoring and reviewing audit trails and examining provenance and origins of transactions of any kind are probably those who will see the majority of blockchain B2B use cases.The blockchain was created to ensure higher speed of transactions, as well as , transparency , reliability , and traceability of related information such as the provenance of raw materials in a supply chain, origins of transactions in digital currencies, as well as information about the origin of artwork.

More specifically, Web 3.0 is primarily about changing the way backend applications work, which could change the future of work of certain professions such as accountants, art dealers, and supply chain managers work due to a different format of the information they currently consume.Therefore, UX professionals (and UX researchers in particular) have an opportunity to leverage their expertise and contribute to the design of blockchain applications that will make the life of these professions much easier than what they are right now with potentially more reliable ways to verify information.

Web 3.0 for B2B: Using UX Research to Inform Blockchain Solutions

Using UX research to inform Web 3.0 designs in the context of B2B

Beyond generative research that involves interviews and contextual inquiries to understand the domain and the main problem space, we can think of two approaches that can help UX researchers work in the solution space and inform design decisions for Web 3.0 applications.The main two approaches that can be the best practices of f B2B UX design and research are:

  1. Co-creation -  By this I mean designing the experience with professional users and getting ideas from them throughout the design process
  2. Evaluate the design with professional users - Running usability and content testing to understand if the new solutions will be easily adopted by professionals who transition to using them from using current professional tools and methods

Also, you should keep in mind a few things before you move into using these research methods.First, my suggestion is to still start with a problem-space generative research to understand the pain-points of people working in a particular domains, their personas, and areas that can be improved. You can read about it in this past article.Also, before you start jumping into co-creation, I’d involve a subject matter expert (SME) in the design team to give input about the design elements that absolutely have to be included in a Web 3.0 application for professional users in a particular field.Remember, these applications inherently contain a level of complexity that’s higher than B2C applications and that’s totally acceptable since professionals users in B2B expect that.The last thing to think about is the participants you want to involve in your co-design exercises and your evaluative research (e.g. usability testing, content testing, etc. ).When it comes to B2B UX design, since there are professionals with different levels of experience in the market, I’d recommend on including a good sample of them in your studies.To make it easy you can think about these arbitrary levels in terms of years of experience. For example, anyone with less than 2 years of experience would be considered entry level , 2-7 years can be advanced, and 7+ years can be considered expert (I’d like to thank Laurence Moscardini for helping me to come up with an easy way to evaluate levels of expertise among professionals).You can make your own criteria, but this is the general idea. Continuing on that path, if you were to include 15-20 participants in a co-creation exercise, you’d ideally have participants with different levels of professional experience in this group. Let’s delve into the actual UX research methods.

Co-creating the experience with professionals

Co-creating the experience with professionals

In the past, many companies believed that they knew best what their potential customers wanted, and they pretty much worked on coming up with solutions in isolation from their customers.According to the 2023 Global Consumer Trends report by Mintel, there’s a clear shift towards giving back power to the customers and co-creating solutions with them. It’s exactly in that area where UX research can make a difference by using these methods to harness different perspectives from existing and future customers.When it comes to co-creation or co-design methods, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few examples:

  1. A workshop where all participants are drawing or writing down ideas in a structured way (e.g. Brainwriting, Brain Dumping, Collaborative Sketching, etc. )
  2. Prioritization exercises and maps
  3. Crowdsourcing campaigns where people have to create an artifact (physical or digital) and then upload it somewhere (e.g. website, social media, etc. )

The one important thing to keep in mind is that not all the solutions generated in such forums are going to be viable, but you’ll get many perspectives from experts and start to see common themes emerging from them that will help you speed up your design process.Let’s look at a few examples of how we can apply these methods in the field of Web 3.0 for B2B, shaping the future of work for professionals in different industries.

Blockchain in accounting

How can blockchain be used in accounting? Since accounting is a rigid field, as a first step you can basically work with an accounting SME and a technical person to define the must have UI elements that are also connected to the backend technology to be part of your accounting tool.You can then do a prioritization map exercise with a few accounting professionals to determine what UI and interaction elements in blockchain accounting software need to be prioritized first and why. What is their meaning? How do these elements help accountants do a financial audit better than other UI elements?Pay attention to how answers differ between experts and novices. This could help you come up with ideas for designing a solution such as a block explorer that could support different levels of expertise with the current accounting methods and knowledge and help professionals transition to Web 3.0.


Blockchain for art dealers

Unlike accounting, the art dealing world is a lot less regulated, and there are high hopes that the blockchain could help professionals in the field verify provenance a bit more easily since there’s a lot of forgery in this world.In a way, NFT was a good test case to let us imagine how that would work with a blockchain-based registry of physical artwork.In this case, you would gather a few people who work in the field as independent art consultants or in more established auction houses, and even art banking for a co-creation workshop where you can use a method like brainwriting to let them feed ideas off of each other for a blockchain solution that will allow them to verify the provenance of artwork.Fun fact, the word “provenance” was originally mostly used in relation to the origin of artwork.


Blockchain for supply chain managers

Much like the world of art dealing, supply chain involves a lot of manual documentation to check provenance, pay duties, and complete transactions.These are some examples of how blockchain can be used in the supply chain: You can get together a group of people who work as supply chain managers, duty officers, etc. and run them through a storyboard where they describe their ideal and most frictionless process to have all their documents secured and verified digitally.You can even have a professional joining to help sketch the experience as they talk or write down their idea to help bringing ideas to life.If you read up to here, you got the idea. The method does not matter so much, it’s the artifacts you create together and the perspectives you capture that will help you design better solutions for experts on Web 3.0. The choice of method is up to you and your available resources and expertise.The next section will talk about the next step of evaluating the solutions you created based on the information and perspectives you gathered during the co-creation stage.

Evaluating Web 3.0 designs of B2B products with professionals

In the previous step, you’ve gathered as many perspectives as possible from your clients and created a prototype (or a number of prototypes) of a solution based on it. Now is the right time to recruit some professionals and run some usability tests with them to get their impression.When you run your usability tests, you can linger on specific areas, and one tool that can help you benchmark the usability of your new product against existing solutions is the System Usability Scale (SUS) or its shorter version called UXUM-Lite.They both contain a set of questions about usability that your participants can go through at the end of each test. What you can also do is find some SUS benchmarks by industry (See example here) and see how your solution compares to that score. In a Web 3.0 reality, you do not want to be too far off.The one thing to remember here is that usability correlates positively with loyalty, and in an emerging industry such as Web 3.0 , usability can be a big differentiator.Let’s look at a few examples of how this would be done in specific industries.In all these cases, you have to design a flow that allows a professional to run through such scenarios, let them go through the process, rank the system with either SUS or UXUM-Lite questionnaire, and give you some feedback about things that are a bit ambiguous for them.

Blockchain accounting software

Accounting tools are likely to look significantly different in a Web 3.0 reality. All of a sudden, transactions will become faster, and accountants will have to understand what concepts such as smart contracts and one’s losing their cold wallet keys mean from an accounting standpoint.For instance, Koinly is an existing app that helps accounting professionals calculate tax on transactions in cryptocurrencies. Even though there’s a lot of automation happening there leveraging the blockchain, the audit trails must be easy to understand and monitor by an accounting professional.Usability tests can help evaluate the usability of such tools.

Blockchain in art sales

In a world that has a blockchain registry with artwork from around the world, art dealers and consultants will have to understand how to check provenance and how that is different from the current processes they go through, as well as who to contact in case of suspicious information.You can come up with a test that simulates a scenario like this and gather usability feedback from professionals in this area.

Blockchain in supply chain

In the world of supply chain there’s currently lots of manual work around documentation and registration. If you design a system to solve for that issue, you have to think of a few flows that change that situation significantly (based on the blockchain technology) , and test them with real users from the field.This way you’ll know how your solution compares with the current situation of these professionals.To enhance the B2B user experience, remember to include experts with different levels of expertise in your usability tests, and after running these tests with at least 5 participants from the same segment (e.g. 5 junior professionals, 5 intermediate, and 5 experts) you should get solid results and see what trends emerge around usability issues.One other thing you can do at the end of your usability test, is to have a bit more of an informal discussion around whether your Web 3.0 and B2B solution makes sense from an audit trail standpoint.Would a professional actually feel comfortable with the information they get from it?Could there be a situation where the information presented on the UI you designed is not enough? This is your opportunity to ask.

Conclusion - Involve your users as early as possible to create the best B2B blockchain solution for them

Conclusion - Involve your users as early as possible to create the best B2B blockchain solution for them

Professionals working in B2B organizations are the ones likely to be impacted first by a Web 3.0 reality. If you can understand that early, you have a higher likelihood of designing solid solutions for them.UX research can help you include the user perspectives within this process, both as contributors in a co-creation session, and both as evaluators in usability tests.The most important thing to remember is that the blockchain is a very new technology that can change the reality of many professionals, so if you want to create great solutions that will work for them, you need to use UX research and involve them early on in the process.

FAQ about Web 3.0 designs of B2B products

What does provenance mean?The place of origin or the earliest known history of something. That could be artwork, or raw materials in the supply chain, or even finished products.What is an audit trail?Audit trail is a chronological record that can be used for security purposes. For example, a log of transactions, or a log of bugs in any technological system. In many financial domains, maintaining an audit trail is a regulatory requirement.What is art forgery?Art forgery is the act of creating and selling works of art which are falsely credited to others, usually more famous artists.

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About the Author

Yaron Cohen

Yaron is a professional in UX research and digital strategy. His expertise in user research and digital analytics contributed to design, product, and customer success teams in multiple industries, including banking, e-commerce, and Saas.