Lessons in understanding a two-sided marketplace

A UX study of Thumbtack’s customer app experience

Abigail Kathleen
Nov 28, 2016 · 6 min read
Photo cred: Aral Tasher

My Story

I’ve taught yoga on and off for the past couple years. Earlier this year, a friend suggested I use Thumbtack to attract new customers. Thumbtack is an app that connects people who need to accomplish a project (Customers) to service professionals with the skills to accomplish it (Pros).

Design Process

I used IDEO’s Human-Centered Design and Lean UX philosophies to figure out opportunities for connection between Thumbtack’s Customers and Pros.


I decided to focus on the Customer user experience to explore insights I may not have had as a Pro on the app.

Thumbtack’s Values

Thumbtack has revolutionized the hiring model to give more power to Pros. Their website is full of Pro success videos and their marketplace model is built on the foundational idea that everyone has value to give. The process looks like this:

  1. Review 5 free quotes from Pros within 24 hours
  2. Hire the right Pro for you

Usability Testing

I tested the customer experience of needing to hire a Pro for a specific service with six first-time users.


Synthesize & Analyze

I first synthesized and analyzed key insights from the six users. I then categorized these insights into 8 major themes.

Current Task Flow to Hire Pro (red squares outlining major pain points)


How might we solve these Customer pain points while also sticking to Thumbtack’s core values?

Solution Task Flow (green squares outline possible solutions)

Prototyping Possible Solutions

Here are my first proposed prototypes to solve user pain points 1 & 2.


While validating my solutions, I received some humbling feedback:

  1. Users were still unsure of progress throughout form.
  2. The purpose of the “Pro” tab was unclear.
  3. Users weren’t sure of the differences between the Pro tab and Project tab.


  1. I changed the walkthrough to a single explanation screen
  2. After the form, users are sent to their Project tab and prompted to Pick their favorite Pros.
1 & 2
  • Quotes: Users can see their custom quotes from their favorite Pros.
3 & 4


The ultimate question in this experiment turned out to be:


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