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Brand plays a huge part in crafting memorable, delightful products and services. It drives big things, like color and photography, but it’s also a guide for the more subtle decisions, like the writing of error messages or the emotiveness of interaction behaviors. This is why part of our process is to look to the brand first for clues when crafting a new experience. In this case, however, TaxChat hadn’t yet defined their brand. So we started there.
Working through a rapid brand strategy phase, we helped TaxChat’s founder make some determinations about what TaxChat was, and what it wasn’t. We knew that we had a strong competitive challenge to face. The tax preparation space is cluttered, and most primary colors have an ownership association to a major brand. We also immediately recognized that TaxChat wasn’t about technology; it was about people—namely the connection between the client and tax professional, and the convenience and resulting lifestyle that the service provided for users.
In service of both of these points, we discarded with the sterile cool grays, blues and greens so often utilized by technology-focused startups. Instead, we honed in on a bold yellow primary tone, and then progressively developed a palette of warm grays and and browns. Alongside this, we were crafting the TaxChat identity system, including selecting typefaces, crafting the logotype, and determining the illustration style. Across the board we were looking to emote the same thing—a struck balance between warm approachability and trustworthy precision.
The end result was a brand system that TaxChat’s founder loved, and we continue to be immensely proud of. TaxChat feels modern, but not youthful or cold. It feels refined without feeling like it wears a bow tie. It’s a warm and unique brand in a difficult and crowded vertical.
While the brand development was underway, the other half of the project team was busy working on expanding the initial sketches of the TaxChat service into fully-considered customer journeys. We created lightweight personas to represent each of our identified user types—some cases easier filings, some more complex. We then brought the entire team together to theorize potential pain-points that might occur in using the proposed MVP functionality.
We designed the user experience for the consumer application over the course of three week-long design sprints, each focused on a key section of the customer journey and the potential service wrinkles we had uncovered in strategy. By rapidly wireframing and prototyping interactions, we were able to conduct quick hallway tests with family and friends to determine the best interaction patterns for these potentially sticky experiences.
The other side of the market
This being a two-sided market, finishing the client app was only half of the work—we also needed to create a web-based dashboard application for the tax professionals. Even though this app wouldn’t be consumer facing, we knew that the tax preparers were people too, so we put a lot of effort into making the experience beautiful and user-friendly. We also devised a number of features and interface cues to help prevent data entry mistakes and minimize wait times or accidental oversight.
Throughout the process, for both sides of the business, we were focused on making sure that TaxChat worked for even complex returns. We continuously sought out the edge cases and proposed complex scenarios to ensure that the service was designed properly from day one.
With prototype testing in a good place and a defined brand, we set about designing the final application interfaces. We scrutinized colors, margins and type sizes on every screen, slowly developing a thorough design system that spanned both applications. We crafted a custom icon set and illustrations and, finally, we brought it to life by building native iOS motion prototypes where we dialed-in the timing and physics behind each major interface behavior.
This project was a sizable and rewarding challenge. People only file their taxes once a year, and the tax prep space is full of stiff competition, so we quickly discovered in working with the team at TaxChat that the definition of “minimally viable product” was going to be a higher bar for this launch than for most products. We rose to that occasion, and helped build a product we believe was truly ready for the space.
We are really proud to be part of TaxChat’s team, and we’re excited to see them grow as users gravitate to this innovative way of getting their taxes done.
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