From Usable to Handy: CEO Mental Model for To-Business Products

2019-09-29 15:44:00
Aurora Li

What is a typical To-Business(2B) product in your mind?

Complex and difficult to use, complicated operation, old-fashioned interface...

How would you optimize a 2B product?

What a designer would do is nothing more than changing the interface, choosing a set of matching theme colors, and adding some guidance for actions ... More radical designers might say "Let's refactor the layout!"

2B products have undergone so many adjustments and iterations, and the underlying logical structure has long been perfect. Reconstructing the layout will not only subvert the user's past operating habits, but may even lose a batch of users.

What would a UX Designer do to optimize the user experience to a powerful and a To-Business product?

Designing for a 2B enterprise management software is not only the designing about a process but also about management. CEO Mental Model, a thinking model refined by AIUX, is prepared to optimize the design of 2B products.


Why does the sense of control have to be involved in a 2B product?

Suppose the user is at the starting point, and the task that he tries to do is to get to the endpoint. What would you do to get to the endpoint from the starting point?

A common practice is to ask for directions.

Standing at a strange crossing and asking for directions, you will usually be told by an enthusiastic passer-by to turn left at a crossing and then turn right at the next one. In the end, you end up asking another enthusiastic passer-by.

Why is this happening?

Your view is limited by, and so is your cognition.

You might reach the end point, but it might take you a while.

Let's see it from an aerial view

An aerial view brings you completely different information. The directions of the road, every building and even every plant are in your sight as a panoramic view. This is also what the users of a 2B product want, a sense of control, which can show you each phase of a task, as well as what is done and what to do, so you can easily plan for tasks.

Below is another example.

Can you find the delayed tasks in the lists?

A list is often used in the modules of a 2B product. Usually, designers would only arrange the information in the order of states or chronological order. When the users landed on this page, they will see all the information.

Users will miss the target of the page and lose the overall control of the page, because the extremely high similarity among the modules, which makes it difficult for the users to get the most important information in a short time.

What would a UX designer do?

Based on creating a sense of purpose and control, a module of statistics as shown below has been added, which is not just an overview of data.

First of all, a UX Designer would analyze the important data that flow in the product, such as my task, my bug, my story, etc.

Secondly, conduct an in-depth discussion of the data. Take the data of a bug as an example. Besides the total number of bugs, what do users care about? It can be categorized briefly as,

1. Whether the bug to be fixed is delayed; 2. How many bugs have been added; 3. How many bugs have been resolved?

Finally, the data overview of the added module is generally completed. It creates an atmosphere that the users understand the whole situation of bugs once they land on the page through the overview of key factors and tags. (What bugs I am going to deal with? What are they? Is any bug delayed?...)


Before talking about efficiency, let's talk about the process of making coffee. Some love the mellow taste of handmade coffee, and some prefer instant coffee.

It takes about 10 steps to make a cup of handmade coffee, but for a cup of instant coffee, it only takes one. For different purposes, consumers choose different coffee. In a sunny Sunday afternoon, enjoy the handmade coffee and its mellow taste; on a busy working day, instant coffee can quickly refresh you.

It is also true in UX design. Users' current scenario is analyzed and a suitable "coffee" is then selected for them. It is the purpose of 2B product design to improve efficiency.

The efficiency of a 2B product is more reflected in quickly obtaining valid information and completing tasks. Features such as editing are added in 2B products, but users' ability to quickly and directly land to the feature is overlooked.

My team optimizes the UX of a 2B product which is for enterprise management.

This product has a lot of batch actions for different stages and modules of each workflow. However, the hierarchical design of batch actions is relatively deep (as shown in the original path below), for users who have just started to use it, so it is difficult for them to find the right actions quickly and accurately.

Based on the research and interviews with users, we learned that in the actual use scenario, the user first completes the entire requirements document online, and after confirmation, the relevant person in charge is uniformly entered into the system.

Based on the research and interviews with its users, my team learned that users first completes the entire PRD (product requirements document) offline and then the manager will enter the requirements into the system after getting confirmation within the team.

Based on the analysis of various aspects and scenarios, the conclusion is that “batch action” is an important action with a relatively high-frequency. The solution is to enhance the presentation of batch actions, display the batch action in a more conspicuous position and shorten the path for users. Therefore, the efficiency of the users' action is improved.


In 1956, George A. Miller discovered "The Magic number 7 (plus or minus two)' which provides evidence for the capacity of short term memory. It proves that most adults can store between 5 and 9 items in their short-term memory. If there are more than 9 items of information to remember, the human mind is prone to error. Therefore, the magic number 7±2 rule is often applied to the interaction design of mobile applications, e.g. design no more than 5 tabs for an application.

Based on this finding, my team believed that the error rate increases when the users select the same target for too many times, and it becomes relatively weak to accurately perform the corresponding action and control it. Let's call it a weak operable action.

For 2B products, the operability is closely related to scenarios, which also affects the psychological state of the user. A useful and practical 2b product enables an easy schedule for users and handles them conveniently. Therefore, it is essential to design the operability of 2B products.

The above image is a "list" module of a 2B product, which contains a lot of actions. My team has processed the information. The gray bars represent the name of the object in different states; blue bars represent the "assignee"; the blue action represents the "action". It is obvious the actions corresponding to the object in different states are slightly different, which is mainly reflected in whether "the action can be executed in the current state".

What issue do you see in the list module above?

1. The object has too many actions. For new users, it is easy but also can be discouraging. It is possible that they feel it very troublesome and give up. For long-term users, too many actions mean high memory costs and not so operable;

2. Considering the workflow that users use and listing all those often-used actions, it seems to be convenient and direct, but might be not so.

How to optimize this list?

1. Analyze what is the substance behind “actions” and classify them according to the analysis. Actions can be categorized into the following three categories,

2. Considering the workflow used by users and positioning the classified actions.

  • “Assign” action is highly relevant to “Assignee”. Create a stronger sense of the scene by integrating “Assign” action with “Assignee”;
  • Integrate three actions regrading state changing, according to the state of the object, the priority of display, and the "hover state of the mouse". Hide other actions regarding state changing;
  • For common and relatively independent actions, keep them on the list.

3. Design according to the analysis above. The revised version is more concise. Considering users' actual workflow, three important actions are remained, which improves the overall operability and lower the challenging to remember for users.


The essence of UX design in 2B products according to the "CEO" model is reflected in two aspects.

1. Abstraction of standard workflows

Abstracted standardized workflows enable employees in the company to work more professionally at a lower cost, and more efficient flow between tasks and workflows.

2. Production of management thinking

Management philosophy is demonstrate in a product/system, and work is done with basic controls, such as forms, buttons, labels, etc.

"CEO Mental Model" is not the only design method, but a product design thinking for the 2B product. Designing for 2B enterprise management software is not only about a process, but also about a management method. I hope that "CEO thinking" can be enlightenment.

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