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Designing for enterprise, part 2: Knowing your audience

In the first part of this series my colleague Jef Bekes laid out some of the key ways in which designing for enterprise is still a different challenge than designing consumer products (go read that now if you haven’t already). One of those key differences is that in enterprise you’re often designing for additional audiences that may not be present in the consumer realm.

There are a few key personas that people often forget about when designing for enterprise:

Trial User

It’s frequently the case that the person who tries an enterprise product has a different or an expanded set of needs than the people who end up using it regularly. In some instances, the person tasked with evaluating solution options may not even use the product at all after the sales process is complete. It’s important to identify what their needs are and, if they are different than an end user, make decisions about how we support those needs.

For example, a trial user who demos a data analytics product may need to be able to quickly get some test data into the system to see how the product works and if it meets the requirements of their solution search. Uploading a local file from their laptop might be the quickest way to do this, even though in a “real” deployment the data engineers will have to go through a more complex process to hook up their data stores to the product. For that trial user, we might want to provide an easy upload option or even pre-load demo data to support their needs.


The person who makes the final decision to purchase a product for a company may not be the trial user or an actual end user who logs in, but it’s still important for us to consider their concerns. At the end of the day, if we can’t convince that person to write the check then all of our great work creating brilliant user experiences won’t matter because no one will be using it. Sometimes, this forces us to make compromises that hurt our designer pride and put features and experiences into the product that help with sales but offer little end-user value. An example might be a feature like a crazy visualization that demos well and catches the eye of the executive sponsor, but at the end of the day isn’t particularly useful for day-to-day activities.

Another variation of this sort of user comes in the form of the holder of the company credit card who never uses the product. They need to log in and pay for the service, but they won’t use anything but the billing section. It’s easy to overlook this user, but making it simple for them to find where and how to give your company money is a pretty important use case to support, even if it isn’t the focus of the product.


Many modern enterprise products utilize a free trial or freemium model aimed at end users as a way to “land and expand” within a company (also sometimes referred to as a “bottom up” approach). Often these approaches depend on creating a Champion (or ideally Champions) within a company who will make the case to their bosses that they need this product and convince them to buy it. If we want to support our sales teams and their work to keep us earning a paycheck, we should consider how we can help these Champions do that more effectively.

Sometimes this comes from features that help the higher-ups gain value from the product. An example of this might be a way for users to send pdf reports via email to their bosses so they can easily see the sort of unique insights the product can provide if only they’ll agree to authorize the spend. Other times it may be something we do outside of the product entirely, such as preparing “Champion Support Kits” that provide them with materials and talking points to take to their bosses (it’s always a good idea to include some good schwag to thank them for their efforts as well).

As a side note, if any of this feels like Sales or Marketing and not something we as designers should be doing, consider that perhaps the greatest user value for our Champions is to help them to be able to use the wonderful new user experience we’ve lovingly crafted to make their work lives better.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of additional user types that may be present in enterprise products, but hopefully helps to get us thinking outside of the often more limited world of consumer product design. For companies designing enterprise digital products, it’s crucial to their survival in an increasingly competitive enterprise market to identify these important users and to deliver value to them.

We can help with your enterprise software design. Contact us to get started.

Read the rest of the Designing for Enterprise series:

Part 1: Designing for Enterprise Users

Part 3: Balancing User and Business Value