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Lithys 2018: Thumbtack - Digital Design Excellence

Lithys 2018: Thumbtack - Digital Design Excellence

Company: Thumbtack

Company background: Have you ever tried to hire a plumber? How about a house cleaner? If you have, chances are it took you way longer than it should. In the era of instant-everything, it’s crazy that you still have to waste an entire afternoon researching, calling and vetting local service professionals whenever you need one. The market for hiring them is huge — $700B in the US alone — but the process is inefficient and largely offline.

Thumbtack is transforming this experience end-to-end, building a marketplace that matches millions of people with local pros for almost any project. In making these connections, not only do our customers get more done every day, our pros are able to grow their businesses and make a living doing what they’re great at.

Contact: Jason Berkenfeld

Title: Pro Community Manager

Related URLs:

Lithy category: Digital Design Excellence

1. What are your digital goals? And how does your community platform and/or social media management platform support your overarching brand experience?

Without a doubt, we built our Lithium Community with one core purpose: to connect our pros to each other, so they can share experiences and advice in order to build thriving businesses.  Simply put, our community empowers our pros -- in all industries, anywhere in the country -- to help, support and inspire one another. Thumbtack is transforming the way people hire local pros for almost any project; our Community aims to bring these local pros together.

Coincidentally, we began work on our Lithium Community in tandem with the launch of our new Thumbtack brand.  Although this created a host of challenges, it also presented us with a real opportunity. Our Community was uniquely positioned to become the very first company asset built entirely with our new look and feel.  While significant efforts were underway to tweak and rebrand every user-facing and employee-facing touchpoint, the Community team could start entirely from scratch, designing something from the ground up and putting our new brand to the test.  We didn’t let the opportunity go to waste.

Ultimately, the new Thumbtack is based on a single promise: we make it easier to get more done.  In using Thumbtack, we want our pros to feel 3 overarching sentiments:

Ease: Simple design and language makes Thumbtack delightfully easy to use.

Possibility: Our pros are good at everything.  We highlight them to inspire possibility.

Accomplishment: That feeling of crossing something off your list? We want to tap into that.

As a company and as a brand, we want our pros to see us as more than just a lead-generation platform.  We want our pros to see us as a trusted business partner -- one that can provide them with all of the information, inspiration and support they need to be successful.

With a thoughtful design, we knew our Community could communicate this sentiment and make it real.  Like our product, the Community had the potential to become a place to easily find answers, cultivate inspiration, and get more done.

2. What design elements make your community/website/social channels unique and stand out from the rest?

With a clear set of goals, we partnered closely with Eric Ellis and the rest of the UX team at Lithium to design a Community that represented the best of the new Thumbtack brand.  Looking at our Community today, there is no doubt that we accomplished everything that we set out to do -- we designed something that is special, unique, beautiful and deeply, innately us.


Above all, we designed our Community to be simple, clean, easy to use and easy to navigate.  We wanted our Community to be immediately accessible and welcoming to any new visitor. Online forums and discussion boards can often look chaotic and overwhelming.  We structured ours to be streamlined and inviting -- the type of place you’d keep coming back to.

More specifically, we implemented the following design elements:

A brand new layout: we introduced a brand new layout throughout our Community to minimizes extraneous information and reduces clutter.  Our homepage, for example, spotlights the content we want to feature. Below, we placed a single, one-column, Community-wide activity feed -- much like what you’d see on other social media platforms.  We also did our best to maximize the amount of white space, so as to make the whole thing feel clean and calming. The white space offers a compelling backdrop for splashes of color and fun, and helps to highlight the most important calls to action for our pros.

The overall feel is familiar, organic. There is no unnecessary noise.

Our Community homepageOur Community homepage


Our Community activity feedOur Community activity feed

Seamless integration with other channels: while we knew the Community would be its own channel, we also knew that it had to be part of one Thumbtack.  Simply put, we had to make sure all of our pro-facing touchpoints were integrated -- both tactically and aesthetically -- so that our pros could rely on a consistent experience, regardless of the channel they found themselves in.

Towards this end, we invested in designing a global top nav, which is now used across platforms, so that our pros can easily navigate to any resource they might need.  This global top nav rests above every Community page, and plants our Community squarely within the rest of the Thumbtack ecosystem. At the end of the day, a pro in the Community can easily get to wherever he or she needs to be -- our Help Center, back to the product, etc.  And from any of these channels, he or she can readily navigate back to the Community, too.



In addition to being clean and simple, our Community highlights the variety and breadth of our pro population.  Thumbtack has pros in every industry, all over the country.  Our pros range from sole proprietors and first-time entrepreneurs to veteran small business owners and franchisors. Some of our pros have amassed fortunes through Thumbtack; others use the platform much more casually.  We wanted our Community to showcase what is possible for pros on Thumbtack. For pros, the sky's the limit; we wanted our design to hammer that message home.

More specifically, we implemented the following design elements:

Custom designed blogs: we custom designed blogs that would better showcase our pros’ stories and bring them to life.  In short, our blogs help to communicate the determination and grit, passion and heroism of our pros -- the small business warriors of America.  The blogs purposefully emphasize illustrations, and have a look and feel that is both professional and eye-catching. The ‘popular blog posts’ component in the margin of the blog similarly draws on that illustrious design to encourage browsing. And the ‘Our inspiration’ component on the homepage allows us to put our pro stories front and center.

Our "Stories of the Self Made" blogOur "Stories of the Self Made" blog

 Featuring our pros on our homepageFeaturing our pros on our homepageOf course, we don’t rely on blog articles alone.  Our design also makes use of video to more richly express our pro stories and prove what’s possible for pros on Thumbtack.  One of these videos graces our homepage; it’s one of the very first things a visitor sees when they land on our Community.  Over time, we plan to constantly rotate videos in and out in order to provide new material - new examples of what’s possible.


Intuitive wayfinding and navigation: because our pro population is so varied and so diverse, we invested heavily in a Community structure that showcases the breadth of opportunity available on Thumbtack.

In short, we created spaces for pros to find others like them.  For new pros is a space dedicated to both new and prospective professionals, who might need help getting started.  Using Thumbtack is a space for all product-specific conversation and dialogue.  Small business talk is the place to discuss the ins and outs of managing a small business, beyond Thumback.  And finally, the Pro lounge is meant to be the place for everything else -- random stories, big ideas, and so much more.  Taken together, our structure gives pros a destination no matter where they are in their journey -- whether they’re just starting out, or preparing to take their business to the next level.  

Overlaying this structure is a custom filtration component based on labels that allows pros to filter board content based on their industry (e.g., Home, Wellness, Events, etc.).  We also created geographic meta-data by state, so that users can filter by location, too. Again, we have pros in every industry, everywhere in the country. The labels give us a way to connect any pro to others like them, no matter how they define their peer set.  Pros can readily find the content that’s most relevant to them. Without this solution, we would have needed to multiply the number of discussion boards many times over.

Geo-based and industry-based labels on forum postsGeo-based and industry-based labels on forum posts 


Finally, we wanted our Community to evoke a sense of accomplishment; we wanted the design to make our pros feel like they’ve achieved something. We knew gamification would be a key tactic in our Community management.  But going beyond gamification, we also wanted our pros to feel a sense of pride.

More specifically, we implemented the following design elements:

Beautiful badges: Our design team invested significant effort in creating a breathtaking suite of badges to reward our pros for the activities they take within the Community.  More than anything else, these badges are meant to surprise and delight, and they do exactly that. They help us celebrate our pros for their posts, their replies, kudos given and kudos received.  We also created badges to celebrate other milestones and moments, such as being a Founding Member of our Community, or becoming a Top Pro on Thumbtack. All of these badges are featured prominently on pro profiles within the Community, as well as in our triggered email notifications. Indeed, our email templates have the same look and feel as the rest of our Community, replicating the brand experience we worked so hard to create.All of our Community badgesAll of our Community badges

 An example of a triggered email notificationAn example of a triggered email notification
Giving our pros a personality with profiles: We designed our profiles within the Community to encourage our pros to share their personality and highlight their business. Lithium SSO allows us to use pro profile pictures from the product, so that pros have a consistent identity whether they’re on or  Additionally, we link to public-facing pro profiles on the Community profile, so that any pro can see any other pro’s business; in other words, our pros can readily show off their work and everything they’ve built on Thumbtack.

We also give pros the opportunity to summarize their experience and expertise, and by reducing component clutter, we’re able to focus attention on the pro’s previous posts, their badges, and what they’ve accomplished within the Community.

An example of a pro profileAn example of a pro profile
3. How did you execute your design? Share metrics to prove the success of your design excellence (e.g. visitor increase, kudos increase, social engagement increase, number of posts and mobile traffic)

We worked closely with the Lithium team to bring our designs to life and build a Community that is simple, warm and welcoming for our pros -- a Community that showcases the best of our new brand.  

In fact, we even decided to couple the launch of our Community with the launch of our new brand, setting both live on the same day.  We also presented the Community at our very first, large-scale pro event in San Francisco, with over 450 people in attendance.  This event was our chance to onboard our first users - our Founding Members - and get their feedback.  The excitement around the Community was readily apparent in the survey responses after the event.  As one pro wrote, “I absolutely love how Thumbtack has helped me build my business and gain access to more clients than I could find otherwise. I also love how you are starting to invest more into building a community of pros...through the [new online Community site].”

Only 3.5 months after our launch, we’re seeing extraordinary engagement on our Community.  Lithium properly prepared us to expect growth to be slow and steady, but we’ve been heartened by how quickly our pros have adopted our new platform.

As of Monday, August 13th, we have over 3.7K registered users and average about 15K unique visitors per month.  We currently average just under 80 forum posts per day and just over 200 kudo clicks.

To be sure, some of our pros are currently frustrated by recent changes we’ve made to our product, resulting in some negative sentiment on discussion boards.  But the fact that they’re coming to our Community to air these frustrations makes it clear that they’ve already accepted this new channel as a place where they can connect with each other and make their voices heard.  Their posts are critical but constructive, making it clear that they want to work with us to find solutions. In other words, they’re starting to see us as the trusted business partner we set out to be.

Our design is warm, clean and inviting; it is innately engaging and easy to use.  Our design showcases the possibility of our platform, and it highlights our pros’ achievements and accomplishments.  It is the new Thumbtack; it is our new brand. And it’s working.

We are so grateful to Lithium for their partnership and their guidance in designing this Community and bringing it to life.  And we cannot wait for all that’s to come.