The Professional Alternative
Building a Highly Engaging Learning Platform
Web, Design
The Professional Alternative is a subscription-based content platform providing expert guidance, learning, and practical tools for professional services firms.

The way businesses operate is changing, largely in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing challenges in technology, and increased competition. There is also an increasing focus on CPD for many organisations. As such, there was a massive gap in the market for the Professional Alternative.

There needed to be a one-stop-shop for easy access to an array of business expertise, training, and resources across the professional services industry.
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In order to bring this platform to market, the Professional Alternative team needed a digital partner to help them deliver a strong user experience. They turned to Cantarus to launch a platform that would really cut through the noise.

The first step was to conduct an intensive Discovery phase including interviews and workshops with key staff and stakeholders to get a deeper understanding of technical requirements and product needs.

As this was an entirely new product, we needed to work closely with the team to develop a solid foundation of user stories for the initial build of the platform.
People lead busy lives and don’t have the time to traipse through tons of content to find what they need. We wanted to make sure content was easy to access and consume for an optimal user experience. As such, we created a ‘Recently Viewed’ functionality making relevant content quick to find, without the frustration of repeated searches. In terms of search functionality, we ensured this was highly efficient too, including filter options such as Media (e.g., podcast, video, written), Channel (e.g., technology, clients) and even the length of the content piece (from 0-5 mins to 60+ mins). A content card system was also created, allowing for bespoke artwork to be added, as well as key taxonomies to further help users find what they want with ease.

Users can even rate content so Professional Alternative knows what’s been most useful. The team has regular content audits, and if anything is rated lower than expected they know it needs changing – this also helps to see which content is most interesting at any given time, making it easier to choose which content to promote and see what’s trending.
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Instead of needing to store passwords or manually log in every time, users are sent a ‘magic link’ to log into the platform which is only required every few months. Authentication is also tied to access; so for instance, if an employee leaves their company, they can no longer access the platform.
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As an Umbraco Gold Partner with certified developers sitting in-house, Umbraco was our CMS of choice. We guided Professional Alternative’s staff so they were fully equipped to manage their content with ease and without the need for any development effort.

Essentially, we have built an engine that will allow Professional Alternative to access information on various individuals' CPD activity and use that data to give their customers value and inform them on how much time their staff are spending on CPD. We can deliver raw data that the Professional Alternative team can evaluate and see what the best metrics are, which in turn will enable us to build a custom dashboard for their users.
Professional Alternative came to us with an ambitious plan to create a website that doesn’t feel like any other website. To deliver on this, our Experience Design team crafted an app-like experience that drew on influences from content giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+.

We engineered a vertical navigation system that locked to the left of the user’s screen, freeing up more space for content consumption and scrolling. The navigation itself was designed to be intentionally minimalistic, with each menu item represented by a clear icon only. When the user hovers over the menu area, it expands to reveal the full menu item name. This was a decision to maximise the screen space and make the experience entirely shaped around content browsing and consumption.

When we drilled down to the content pages themselves, we reversed out the colour palette to make it easy for users to see they were now out of browsing mode and into consumption. The navigation presentation was also adapted to accommodate this.

We have delivered an effective, visually attractive platform consistent with the existing brand design, that truly encourages users to engage and explore. The Professional Alternative team were involved every step along the way, with regular progress calls to talk through design concepts and prototypes.
Within just 5 months, we designed and launched the fully branded platform for Professional Alternative. This was a platform built with Professional Alternative, rather than just for them, and was very much a collaborative project from start to end. We’re delighted by the response to the platform so far and have received some excellent feedback regarding UX and design from Professional Alternative’s clients and users.

Going forwards, we’ll continue our relationship with Professional Alternative and develop the platform even further to ensure constant new value is being delivered to their users.
Our users are increasingly busy people, and we knew we needed a platform that would support them in their continuing professional development. Cantarus was a fantastic partner to work with, ensuring that from discovery phase through to implementation we felt close to the project, and ultimately felt confident in our platform. We’re excited to see the platform thrive and develop even further, and especially to see how it will help our client firms accelerate their businesses for the future.
Sarah Katherine Bagshaw, Co-Founder & Director
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Give us a call on +44 (0)161 971 3200