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TaxExact

Digital Product & Marketing Website
We helped turn a cumbersome Excel spreadsheet into a delightful consumer-ready product and brought it to market.
The Challenge

TaxExact is a cloud-based web software and tax verification solution that revolutionizes the 1040 review process for accountants. However, when our client came to us, they had little more than a complex Excel spreadsheet and a great idea.

That Excel spreadsheet was what their team of accountants was using internally each tax season to manage their workflow, minimize review time, reduce errors, and verify the accuracy of every tax return. Our client’s goal was to optimize that system and bring it to market in the form of a SaaS product (Software as a Service).

Our team was tasked with naming the product, designing a logo and brand, designing and building the digital product, designing and building a custom marketing website, and generating leads so we had an audience to sell it to on day one.

Bringing a new cloud-based web software to market is a massive risk. There are many ways to fail and few paths to success. It’s incredibly expensive and the process requires trust and dedication from everyone involved over an extended period of time. TaxExact was by far the longest and most complex project we’ve ever been trusted with and we’re extremely proud to say that it was a huge success!

(One of many pages in the original Excel spreadsheet — our starting point for this complex project!)
Project Roadmapping

Before our client committed to such a large and risky project, we recommended a unique service we offer called Project Roadmapping. This is where we spend 2-3 weeks working closely with our client to:

  1. Gain a thorough understanding of the product requirements
  2. Validate the idea through market research
  3. Create a plan to execute the project from start to finish

We combined all this insight into a beautifully designed strategy document and wrote a formal proposal for the project. After just 2 weeks and a $2,500 investment, our client had a clear understanding of the cost, timeline, risks, and execution strategy which set clear expectations and greatly reduced the risk for our client.

Our 52-page strategy deck and project proposal also helped our client secure a loan from the bank to fund the project!

(TaxExact Strategy Deck)
Naming & Branding the Product

With over 12 months of work ahead of us, we hit the ground running. While our client refined and optimized the fields and formulas in the Excel spreadsheet, we got to work on naming the product and branding it.

We conducted a thorough brand strategy session, but ultimately it was our client who thought of the name “TaxExact”! From there, everything seemed to click. We constructed a logo that would not only represent the product well, but serve as a timeless and memorable trademark for the entire brand.

Our client fully trusted our design expertise and loved the logo, which was approved almost immediately and with no revisions needed!

(The brand presentation we created to demonstrate the quality, effectiveness, and flexibility of the logo across various applications)
(Construction and full application of the logo on a dark and light background)

While we don’t necessarily consider ourselves branding experts, we’re extremely proud of the logo and brand we created for TaxExact. It’s simple, memorable, timeless, and captures the essence of the product. It’s also differentiated from the many other tax software products on the market.

The checkmark signals success and validation as does the green color we chose to anchor the brand. The two diamonds represent the original tax return and the verified return created in TaxExact. When those tax returns match exactly, accountants can be sure they haven’t made any mistakes during the review process. This is what makes TaxExact such a revolutionary product and why it was so important to capture the meaning in the logo.

Landing Page

Before we started our extensive design process, we designed and built a landing page in collaboration with conversion copywriter Annie Maguire. With her help, we were able to design a captivating landing page optimized for conversions that would help collect emails from potential customers and place them on a waitlist. That way, by the time TaxExact launched, we’d have a list of hundreds of interested buyers — which is exactly what we were able to do!

(We used a simple flowchart software to capture the required screens and organizes them into logical navigation groups.)
Product Design

Tax data can be extremely complex, cumbersome, and time-consuming to work with. With few well-designed products on the market, accountants expect poor interface design and a lack of useful features from the tax products they use.

We set out to not only bring a new product to market, but set the bar much higher for quality tax software throughout the accounting industry.

For this project, we deliberately chose not to spend time on wireframes and instead decided to jump straight into product design. The time we saved on wireframes was spent on revisions to the designs and the feedback we got from our client was much more effective. In total, we designed about 80 screens for this project!

(Our Adobe XD file used to design each screen required for the product)
(TaxExact Dashboard Interface)

Excel is powerful, but its features are quite limited compared to what can be done on the web. Before we could transform the cumbersome Excel spreadsheet into a simple and intuitive consumer-ready product, we first had to make sense of it ourselves. Thankfully, we’re experts at understanding large sets of data and, with the help of our client, we were able to imagine how this new product could work by harnessing the power of cloud-based web technology.

(TaxExact General Income Screen)

It was important for us to remember that TaxExact is intended to work with existing tax software used by accountants, not replace it. Because TaxExact is a validation tool used to create an independent expectation of every tax return, we didn’t need to design or build advanced integrations with other systems or manage submissions to the IRS.

In fact, our goal was to create a design that accountants would find intuitive and approachable and allow them to recreate the returns as quickly and accurately as possible. We also designed the summary page to match popular layouts from other tax software systems to make it easy to compare the results!

Since accountants are never going to prepare tax returns from their phones, we made a strategic decision not to design or build a mobile version of the web app.

(TaxExact Schedule C Income Screen)
Product Development

For this project, we needed the most talented and reliable web developer. That’s why we worked closely with one of Rochester NY’s finest. Jon won a “Developer of the Year” award and his resume boasts software engineering experience at IBM and Lockheed Martin (an aerospace and advanced technologies company).

With Jon working as an extension of our team and our designs placed in his capable hands, we began working on the designs for a custom marketing website that would eventually become a fully editable custom WordPress theme.

Marketing Website

While the new cloud-based web software was being developed, our lead designer, Matt, got to work on designing a custom marketing website to help sell TaxExact to consumers. The marketing website is a potential customer’s first impression of (and introduction to) the digital product. Its goal is to effectively communicate to accountants and accounting firms why TaxExact is the right fit for their business and generate as many leads as possible.

For this website, we decided that the primary call-to-action should be “Request a Demo”. TaxExact is an unusual tool and it’s not obvious at first glance exactly why it’s beneficial or how to make the most out of it. By encouraging users to request a demo, we could generate high-quality leads while educating potential buyers on the benefits of the software. We decided to include the following pages:

  • Home
  • Features
  • How It Works
  • Company
  • FAQs
  • Blog
  • Testimonials
  • Request a Demo
(Screen designs for the TaxExact marketing website)
Easy Editing in WordPress

As with every custom marketing website we create, TaxExact was built from scratch as a custom, easy-to-edit WordPress theme. We used a few powerful plugins to enable custom post types and custom fields, which let us completely customize the WordPress back-end to match the content displayed on the website.

By making all the text and images on the website easy to edit, we gave our client ultimate control over updating and maintaining their content, but without compromising the integrity of our design work. In other words, our client can edit anything they want on the website without making it look bad.

(Content editing in our custom WordPress theme)
Project Summary

The TaxExact project is an incredible testament to what can be accomplished when a trusting client hires an expert design and development company to bring their greatest idea to life. We partnered with our client and took their idea from conception to launch in just over a year.

This was a fixed-price project, so all the revisions were included in the price. We also divided the total cost into monthly payments, which gave our team the flexibility we needed to move parts of the project around in the calendar and optimize our process in real-time.

We’re extremely grateful to have been entrusted with such a large and complex project and look forward to working with TaxExact team as the product continues to evolve!