Designing for Professionals: A New UX Playbook

Alan Baumgarten & Ben Judy

Designing for Professionals at SXSW Interactive 2015

SXSW Interactive is a global conference featuring five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology. Over 30,000 people from 82 countries attended the conference in Austin, TX, in 2014.

Alan Baumgarten, Principal UX Strategy Lead at Sabre Airline Solutions and Ben Judy, Senior Interaction Designer at Intuit, co-presented Designing for Professional Users: A New UX Playbook.

“Almost all of the advice, methods, and ‘best practices’ you hear promoted within the UX community today are oriented towards designing for a consumer user base," Ben says. “Based on our years of experience as user-centered designers, we believe that highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals — tax preparers, for example — have unique needs. We need to adapt our user-centered design approach accordingly."

“The session at SXSW was confirmation that designing for professionals is an under-served topic at design and technology conferences. We had a packed conference room with a wonderfully engaged audience in Austin. Clearly it was a conversation they were eager to have."

Alan (left) and Ben pause for a selfie shortly before their session.

SXSW wasn’t the first time these two spoke about the topic.

“After presenting this talk in 2014 at our respective campuses — Intuit in Plano and Sabre in Southlake, Texas — we showcased it at the Big (D)esign Conference in Dallas. That’s where we became convinced there is a real hunger for thoughtful exploration of what makes professional users different.

“There are countless designers, product managers, and software developers involved in creating the digital tools that professionals use worldwide. But if they operate from the same playbook they use when designing for consumers, they can really miss the mark. For example, how is the emotional journey different for a professional doing a job, compared to a consumer shopping online or playing a game? Does ‘easy’ mean something different to a professional in regard to interaction design and information density? How can you design for someone with over twenty years of industry experience when you don’t have any domain knowledge in their field? These are some questions that become critically important when you are designing for pro’s. Alan and I both enjoyed bringing our perspectives to this important conversation."

Being selected to speak at SXSW is a highly-competitive process. Over 3,300 entries were submitted and the criteria is weighted heavily on an individual¹s industry expertise and influence. Congrats to Alan and Ben!


Slides from our presentation at Big (D)esign Conference 2014

Thanks to all who attended our presentation at Big (D)esign! We had a blast.

As promised, here are the slides:

See You At Big (D)!

Come see Alan and Ben deliver our presentation Design for Professionals: The Expert's Playbook at Big (D)esign Conference 2014!

We’re on at 3:30 PM on Saturday, September 6 in the Addison Lecture Hall.

Check the details:

Tebow Time

What works fabulously in college fails in the NFL.

Tim Tebow was a heck of a runner in college. Watch him run:

Admittedly, the video clips above are carefully selected to make a point. But the stats don’t lie - the “Tebow Time" playbook had legs. Consider Tebow’s accomplishments as quarterback of the University of Florida Gators.

"Tebow Time" in College:

  • Team record: single-game quarterback rushing yards: 166
  • SEC record: rushing touchdowns in a season: 20
  • 5 rushing touchdowns in a single game
  • Heisman Trophy winner, 2007
  • BCS National Champion team member: 2006 and 2008

This was as a quarterback, mind you. Not a position typically associated with rushing records in American Football. (That’s why they have “running backs.")

Tebow’s success with running plays in college led to his selection in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.

So he went to the pros.

Suddenly Tebow was on the field with professionals who got paid millions of dollars to be the strongest, fastest, most competitive athletes in the world.

This happened:

"Tebow Time" in the NFL:

  • Longest sack in NFL history (that’s the clip above)
  • Dumped by the Broncos for veteran Payton Manning - who doesn’t run
  • Cut from the Patriots before the 2013 season began.
  • Total length of NFL career: three seasons (much of it spent sitting on the bench for three different teams.)
  • Now an ESPN analyst.

Why was Tebow's Time so short at the professional level?

It’s pretty simple. As one commentator said:

…offensive coordinators had to change their entire offensive scheme to revolve around Tim Tebow, focusing on the rushing attack and the read-option. So any NFL team wishing to make Tim Tebow starter as a quarterback would have to revamp their entire offensive scheme.

At the pro level, coaches can’t just rewrite the playbook for a single player. For one thing, doing so would negate the value of many other talented players. More importantly, opposing coaches will figure out your team is built around one guy’s special abilities. They will find a way to shut him down. The game at the professional level is a lot more nuanced because the gap between the most capable and least capable player on the field is much narrow than it is at lower levels of the sport.

What does this have to do with designing for experts?

When designing software for expert professionals, we can’t use the same playbook we use when designing for novices or non-professionals.

You use the same old plays - the 'best practices’ that work so well for non-experts - you’ll get creamed when designing for experts.

We need a new playbook. That’s what this site is all about.