Designing TurboTax Snaptax for iPhone

SnapTax for iPhone

SnapTax is the first mobile tax preparation app, launched in California in December 2009. It was the #1 finance app in the iTunes store – and featured in 'What's Hot' – for 10 weeks. I was lead visual designer, and supporting interaction designer.

Teaching people how to use the phone on their camera to perform Optical Character Recognition on their tax forms was a delicate task

Using the iPhone to scan a W-2

Functionality. The ground-breaking feature of SnapTax is customers can take a picture of the W-2 form and we scan it in with OCR (Optical Character Recognition). Very cool. That said, it's tricky: OCR requires a very specific kind of image, and a poor scan could lead to a letter from the IRS.

Usability. We prototyped and tested with customers for months, trying to find the balance - instructions that helped inexperienced photographers succeed without being off-putting to everyone else. The result: a hand-illustrated step-by-step guide that helped OCR become our #1 customer 'delighter'.

We animated the OCR process to turn it from boring to amusing and even a bit informative

OCR and upload animation

Picture upload and OCR. Once the photo was taken, the upload/OCR translation process itself took 15 seconds or more. It was the only task in the app that took control out of the customer's hands for any length of time, so we took the opportunity to make it delightful.

Making a delay fun. I created possibly the most involved upload animation seen to that point (this was before iOS apps had video support), complete with sound effects. It turned an irritating wait into something so fun it was even mentioned in customer surveys.

We customized every part of the experience, including error messaging, calculations, errors, and help

Global experience

Custom components. We had to create custom widgets for some tasks that were unanticipated in iPhone interaction guidelines, We restyled every single screen in the application, all the way through to rare program errors.

Seamless experience. Our attention to detail worked. We sailed through the App store approval process in less than 48 hours, and SnapTax became the first tax application in the iTunes Store.

Media Mentions

"Nobody likes doing their taxes, which is why an upcoming iPhone app from Intuit called SnapTax is so genius." — TechCrunch

"…one surprising find was the Intuit table in the corner. The business and accounting software company was showing off its upcoming TurboTax SnapTax iPhone app." — MacWorld

Final Results

Customer delight. Our net promoter scores were among the highest ever received by an Intuit project. We also reached a new customer base of young, simple filers on the platform.

Media attention. SnapTax were featured in 'What's Hot' in the iTunes Store for ten weeks. It was also one of the featured projects in the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries.