Designing for Professionals (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!


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