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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Setting the Right “Taxpectations”

It’s that wonderful time of the year again – Tax Season. Depending on your situation, you either look forward to doing your taxes or dread the thought of filing them. Either way, if you do your own taxes online like I do, you’ll notice that the interface of the tax site you use seemingly changes each year in an attempt to make filing easier.

I like to use Intuit TurboTax. Changes I noticed from last year included better icons, less wordiness, and better preliminary questions about my tax situation to help customize my experience when filing.

TurboTax - Initial questions

Those preliminary questions were followed by a brief recap of my answers to ensure I made the appropriate selections trailed by an overview of the next steps in the filing process. It’s this overview that set my expectations – or rather, “taxpectations” – of what was to come…at least that’s what I thought.

After I reviewed my answers to the initial questions, TurboTax proceeded to show me the tax forms I needed on hand to complete my tax return. (See example below)

Each form name (e.g. W-2) appeared one-by-one in a list format (see red box), leading me to believe I would be asked about each form in this chronological order during the filing process. I thought, “Wow! That’s a nice feature…and efficient! I’ll organize my forms in this order before I continue…”

Based on this preview, I organized my tax forms in the order I assumed it would ask me for them. I was wrong to do so. Once I got into the process of entering my information, the order in which each form was requested did not match the initially presented order, forcing me to fumble through each form to make sure I had the right one. I found this frustrating and, worst of all, I felt duped. Why set my taxpectations for a particular tax form order only to ask me for them in a different order later? So much for being efficient.

Was this a deal breaker? Did it hinder me from being able to complete my taxes? No.

Was it annoying and did it add additional time to something I thought I was saving time on? Yes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Turbo Tax is a great product and easy to use which is why I’ve been a customer for years. However, it set false expectations and caused frustration for the unfun process of doing my taxes.

If a preview is presented in a step-by-step format, such as this was, you are setting expectations for those steps to display in a chronological order. In their next iteration, I hope TurboTax displays the forms I’ll need in the actual order they’ll be presented. This small change would go a long way in making the filing of my taxes more efficient and improving my overall taxpectations.

-Tony Moreno, Senior UX SpecialistUsability Sciences


Storyboard exercises during usability research are a great way to understand the processes users expect to go through, and online site-intercept research can uncover these points of frustration. Contact us to learn more.

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