Filing a federal tax extension grants you 6 more months to complete your taxes, but you still have to pay any estimated taxes owed by April 15 in order to avoid penalties and fees. My main focus this summer was to re-design TurboTax® Easy Extension, a product used to quickly e-file the federal extension form. Side project: My team won a prize at the Intuit Intern Summit in which we were tasked with creating innovative solutions to an issue facing Mint (ask me for further details).

Taxes are a complex design space, and that’s what I enjoy about it. Intuit has also done a great job of building a culture of design, which I encourage all designers to read about in this article from the Harvard Business Review. As an interaction designer, I:

  • performed a design audit of the current extension product
  • analyzed last year’s usage data
  • completed a competitive analysis of other online extension products
  • put together a new information architecture flow
  • designed “mobile first” screens
  • moderated remote usability studies with real customers
  • worked agilely with the development team
  • engaged with content and visual designers
  • thought deeply about how my product fits in with the greater TurboTax® vision

In other words, how do you turn this form from the IRS (along with 3 more pages of instructions):
irs-form-4868

into a beautiful mobile and stationary web product that is easy for the user to understand at a time when the user is extremely stressed about not having their taxes finished. 75% of these extensions are filed within 2 days of the tax deadline.

Easy Extension was not up to par with the rest of TurboTax’s products even though it has great revenue-generating potential. The fact that it is a free service is a great way to attract new customers to the site. Unfortunately, many of those new customers don’t come back to finish their taxes. And, prior to my arrival, no one had taken the time to talk to these extension filers to find out.

oldscreens-01

The 2014 tax year product is shown above. The biggest roadblocks during my redesign were 1) meet/temper the customer’s expectations of what filing an extension means and 2) effectively guide the customer through estimating their taxes when they clearly feel they are not able to do so.

I created a mid-fi, InVision, mobile prototype and tested it with 8 customers who used our extension product in April 2015, but had not yet finished their taxes by the time I interviewed them. The biggest takeaway from those interviews was that we need to build in a proper amount of flexibility. We were focusing mostly on the persona of a customer who has never filed an extension before and wants to extend because they owe a lot of money. In fact, I discovered there are just as many new extension filers as experienced (many who file extensions every single year) and also just as many who are expecting a refund and simply want more time to find deductions.

I created 20 screens from scratch that encapsulate the entire process: what an extension is and how to get it, create account/sign in to TurboTax®, enter personal data, estimate taxes, pay estimated taxes due, submit extension, confirmation of submission, and explain next steps. The product is now live online, but you will need a TurboTax® account to view it.

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