For professional users

Every time I hear the phrase “professional user” my heart sinks a little.

It’s nearly always a Trojan horse for lazy thinking and assumptions.

The type of phrase that gets combined with things like more training materials, better comms leaflets and pages jam packed with noise. Or questions about how accessible we really need to make something.

Just because your user is paid to do a thing, doesn’t mean the thing should be difficult. Or inaccessible.

A common issue I hear is about having multiple things on a page. Rather than splitting up a journey.

But whether someone is paid to do a thing or not, doesn’t tell you anything.

When it comes to interfaces for professionals teams need to ask:

  • Is your user doing this thing 50 times a day? Or once a month? Or lots of times in one month then potentially never again?
  • What is a single thing to this user. One question or one whole record or case?

When a user does a thing 50 times a day, you can make things more compact. More dense. (Though it may also be worth thinking how you can do most of that 50 things for them). But this doesn’t mean more complicated.

But you also need to respect the task they’re doing. And not just throw 8 conceptually related things at the page.

But not all professional-facing services are like this. Though they’re commonly designed like they are.

A while back I helped review a product which was for professionals. The team assumed everything on one page would be more efficient. It was not.

Their users only did this part once a year. They were domain experts but would never use the system to be experts with it. They would visit several times in a short period but not for another 9-10 months.

Users completed about two fields in to a page before they had to quit.

They had an assumption and they hadn’t tested it until they had built a complete product. They had spent a lot of money. And they’re going to have to spend a lot more unpicking work or patching it up.

Just because someone is paid to use your software, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to use it.

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