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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anti-Pattern: Needless Fanfare (Turbo Tax)

I mostly love Turbo Tax (except when it tells me I owe a tax payment :-). But here is one that I found to be very annoying and a good example of an anti-pattern Theresa & I write about in our book... Needless Fanfare.

While doing my taxes back in April I was constantly going back and re-entering information that would hopefully bring my tax payment down (numbers below are not my actual tax payment :-)

Here is the real time version.

When turbo tax recalculates your tax burden it plays the Biggest Loser TV show's game of running the values up & down in a random fashion. The change in the videos below is from $10,533 down to $9,177. However at one point it goes all the way up to $98,000! Now we all know that "inside the computer" calculations are not done this way. Someone thought this would be cool way to call attention to the change happening.

But let me tell you this is a horrible experience. It gave me a heart attack as it ran up & down playing with "my money" till it finally said "ok, ok it went down". But because it does this nonsense it makes it hard to see what change actually happened (a variation on change blindness).

Now watch it in slow motion to see what it is doing.

There are other ways to signal a change. The most common is to spotlight the change for a brief moment usually using a fade anything technique (see these examples.)

Torturing me is not a good user experience. This is as fake as the Biggest Loser scale.


Glen Lipka said...

A few years ago I worked for Intuit and did some work for Turbotax on their public site. One experiment was to give a slot machine effect.

( It's a tiny bit broked, but Click the checkboxes and click refresh)

Anyway, it looked better than what they are doing as you demonstrated. However, it had a "Vegas" sort of feel so eventually scrapped it. They really should do something that looks more like "calculating" and less like "Hey mama needs a new pair of shoes!"

This was a higher fidelity version without the slots.

Christine Morrison said...

Christine from TurboTax here. Thanks for the feedback - I'm checking with the development team about your experience with the product. I'll be back in touch as soon as I have more information to share.

BTW if you would care to help shape the way the future versions of TurboTax look/act, I invite you to join the TurboTax Inner Circle. This year more than 30 features in the product came as a result of this influential group's suggestions:
Christine Morrison, TurboTax

Bill Scott said...

Hi Christine. Awesome. As I mentioned Turbo Tax is the place I normally point people to for great design ideas. Obviously I am not a fan of this one approach :-)

I will definitely join the inner circle!

BTW, Rochelle one of your former VP, UX joins me here at Netflix as our Creative Director.

Thanks for reaching out.

christine morrison said...

Christine here again. Just to clarify, you used the Mac product, right? Can you pls email me so I can follow up off-line with you? (Do you have my contact info via my registration here?)

BTW I am a huge Netflix fan - your CEO spoke at the Intuit "Creating the Offering" forum a few years ago - most enlightening. Also I've long been impressed by the Netflix Prize competition- genius!

Unknown said...

I had that EXACT same experience last year right after I added my K-1's to my taxes. It sucked big time. I had to watch my refund number fall from a very nice green 4 figure refund to a red 4 figure payment I owed. It felt like it took an eternity to finally settle in on the number. Uncool.

I'm happy you picked up on that though. I'm even happier that TurboTax seems to have taken note.

Bill Scott said...

@Christine email me at b DOT S-C-O-T-T _aT_ Yahoo . C_OM_

Unknown said...


This was actually an issue on the online version for me. I'm not trying to turn Bill's post into a public gripe session; I just wanted to clarify.