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Success Story: Taxslayer.com

Expert Review. Fix problems and test.


Taxslayer.com developed an online tax completion/filing application with a small team of developers. Customer accounts grew steadily every year since the product launched in 2003.  However, research analytics showed that a large number of potential customers dropped out of the process before completing their tax filing.

The developers did not know why they lost customers, particularly young filers in their 20s.

They approached us for help in understanding the user experience. 

Two-faced solution

As it was March, and the current tax application was up and in heavy use for the April 15 filing deadline, we agreed that an expert review by Usability Center experts would be a good starting point to help the developers focus on the key issues to address in redesigning the application for the new filing season.

Phase 1: Expert Review

Two usability experts, working independently with the application, completed a return for a married couple, filing jointly, both working, with two dependents, and several other typical forms.  We each noted the strengths and weaknesses of the process, with most of our attention focused on a list of significant barriers to usability.

These issuers were documented and illustrated in a lengthy report with a list of high-level and very specific recommendations.

The client told us that they were glad to have the external review, particularly in its ability to confirm a number of issues they knew they had with the application but had not acted on.

Now, they were ready to act on as many of these recommendations as they could in the redesign of the application for the new tax season.

Phase 2: One-day usability study

The developers worked on the prototype of the new application, and got it to a point where it had sufficient functionality to be tested by users . . . and still leave enough time to build the solutions to problems uncovered by users before the January launch of the next version.

A review of the prototype was conducted during the web-conferenced planning meeting several weeks prior to the testing day.

With a list of goals from the client that focused on the critical new elements of the redesign, six participants were screened to match the important 20-something demographic the client was most interested in. 

In one-hour sessions with questions posed to participants before, during, and after the usability study, and all sessions logged and recorded, the findings meeting at the end of the day quickly produced consensus on the top issues that needed to be addressed.

By the next morning, the developers were back at work fixing these issues.  One day, six carefully screened participants, scenarios designed to match the users’ real goals and experience, and findings that overlapped consistently to show what worked and what still needed work.

That’s the beauty of a small study, when done right.


The client can now measure improved retention and more completed tax returns.