Gamification, social sharing, incentivization - they're not just for consumer apps anymore. In the brave new world of business to business apps, startups are taking cues from their business-to-consumer counterparts and designing with people, not corporations, in mind.

That's right, business to business is finally making its technology more attractive and user friend. These forward-thinking companies are doing it by combining design and development centered around the user experience, typically scene in consumer apps, with the money-making sensibilities they already bring to the game.

Breaking out of the Business-to-Business box

When it comes to marketing and product development, business to business is traditionally known for being a step behind business-to-consumer. Bold moves, rapid prototyping, and creative branding and storytelling have long been the hallmarks of successful consumer-facing startups - not characteristics used to describe business-to-business technology.

This is no longer the case. business-to-business organizations have begun to simplify their companies' messages, dressing up previously dry content with engaging, offbeat and relevant messaging. And the key is, it's being built for the customer experience. Just like it should be.

This shift toward the humanization of business-to-businessapps has evolved with app design that's rife with character, aesthetic, messaging with personality, and "hooks" that incentivize repeat use. And this is important, as user experience has become the expectation rather than the delightful surprise - even in business-to-business settings.

Thankfully (and somewhat amazingly), companies need not look exclusively at business-to-consumer apps for inspiration anymore. In fact, there are some business-to-business apps that feel so consumerized, they're downright fun.

Slack. The queen bee of business-to-business communication. It all starts with the name and unfurls from there. From the Google-esque crisscrossing colors to the friendly Slackbots with their tongue-in-cheek greetings, Slack offers a service we've known for years (intra-network messaging) and makes it feel completely novel. The relationship with the service is so personal, it actually improves interpersonal relationships in the office.

Evernote. How does an app that deals in clutter manage to feel like a breath of fresh air? With design. By tracking its users' journey from their initial gathering of information to their final team presentation, Evernote was able to bake every conceivable feature along the way right into the app itself.

Mailchimp. Again, it's all in the name. This app never talks about itself to users in terms of what it actually does under the hood. That would be boring, and put it in line with any number of email software companies. Instead, it relates to its users on a human (or chimpanzee) level with clever quips that never feel like they are generated by an auto-response robot. This company nails it with their meticulous attention to detail in their messaging and tone.

Dropbox. While the design of Dropbox is intuitive and clean, what really sets this app apart is its incentivization. Much like games and other consumer apps will tempt users with more lives or free features if they share the app with friends, Dropbox rewards sharing by offering more file space. That's another example of prototyping at work - Dropbox figured out quickly what its users really want, then had them scale a very climbable hill to get it.

Github. Engagement is great. Retention is better. When users become so loyal to you that they grow attached, you're gravy. Github created the lovable Octocat mascot to serve as an app guide, customer support specialist and, yes, friend. Its thinking here was simple, and strategic: who would ever abandon Octocat?

Asana. This project management tool seemingly sprouted out of nowhere and quickly spread its roots across businesses in nearly every sector. Aside from it solving a very real business need, part of what hooked users was the design and functionality.

From the clever quips that flash on the screen as the dashboard loads, to the unicorn that leaps across the screen when you check off a series of tasks, these feel-good touchpoints are part of what solidified Asana's ever-growing community of brand advocates. It's also apparent user feedback continually influences new features and design iterations.

FreshBooks. It's hard to believe this cloud-based accounting software was hatched in one of the co-founder's parents' basement and now supports more than 5 million customers. While the software was built to solve a personal need, it's evident the evolution of it has been steeped in their core proposition: help customers get paid faster.

That proposition was derived over time after conversations with early users, and it helped shape FreshBooks. Every feature and design choice in the software - from the easy navigation and messaging, to the mobile app - it shows they've taken the customer into account every step of the way. As it should be.