Generational Biases and Design Conflicts
TL/DR:- There is a generational divide brewing in product design rooms. Understanding your own biases/intuition can help guide better decision making
A few days back, I conversed with an old acquaintance (a product manager) who was grappling with the design choices for adding a payment system in their self serve motion.
Working for a series C, B2B cybersecurity startup, his conflict was whether to add stripe or to redirect the user to complete purchases at the AWS marketplace. While he was really excited about the idea of adding Stripe, the sales leader was rather keen on adopting AWS marketplace.
Stripe vs AWS (or Gen X vs Millennials)
As it turns out this choice was eventually shaped by how one defined the persona of end user/buyer.
The sales leader thought of the buyer as someone who had approval to consume their company’s AWS credits. Sales leader had worked with such buyers in a top-down sales motion for the past ten years, and was very excited about the prospect of tapping back into such model albeit now in a self serve scenario.
The product manager had a different thought process. He imagined the buyer as a young millennial, virtually trained by mobile app stores (try before buy), someone very comfortable with B2C purchase process and usage of Stripe payment platform. To the product manager, Stripe came across as a natural fit for a B2C trained buyer while AWS would require a learning curve.
Regardless of their approach, both product and sales leader relied on their own intuition to lay out their preferences.
The power of Intuition
Intuition is a very powerful phenomenon. Most of us have over the years trained ourselves on certain behaviors that we have automated as part of our muscle memory.
I recently came across a very insightful book “Life and Death Design: - What Life-Saving Technology Can Teach Everyday UX Designers”.
In this book, author Katie Swindler talks about the power of Intuitive design and why it is empowering for the end user. She recommends that UX and Product designers should never break the automaticity of the end users (unless you are introducing a new concept).
People use muscle memory to perform numerous tasks. So if you introduce something new, it will take time and learning for people to build a foundation before they can make it intuitive behavior. In some cases, people will simply give up if the task deems itself too demanding.
So, in the end, the question of Stripe or AWS was in fact a question about how one’s own biases (a special kind of intuition) were informed about the definition of what the end user truly desires.
Generationally, there is a lot of data to suggest that millennials are in fact transforming the B2B landscape. If you are a product manager or UX designer from millennial group, you may be biased (and may be right) in perceiving that Stripe being a better option for your buyers.
On the other hand, a Gen X sales leader whose sales career might be chasing the tail end of Gen X buying behavior might still be wedded to seeing the large buying center as the obvious choice for presenting the product.
This is not to say that such a sales leader would be wrong in their assessment. There are still a large amount of B2B sales (notably specialized and enterprise) that are run through a top down process. Furthermore, there is nothing to suggest that the top end of B2B buying spectrum is seeing a large scale change in traditional buying behavior.
Rather, this generational fight is just heating up.
We recently had two product/business leaders representing two generations stirring up the pot while having a discussion on the viability of PLG in Cybersecurity. You can read up the two view points here:
If you go deep in personas of the authors, you would see this generational divide informing their respective view points. I expect more such discussions to dominate the product design space.
In other things
Phenomenal adoption of UPI technical stack in India has made it as the leader in digital payments in the world including overtaking China.
Here are my recommended articles for this week.