TurboTax doesn’t exactly have an easy job when it comes to content. Think about it—who really wants to spend time on taxes?

Most people would rather do just about anything else, and we all know why. Submitting tax forms is a tedious task that’s difficult to decipher, mind-numbingly dry, and often bewilderingly complicated.

Yet the online tax prep service has managed to transform filing your taxes into an approachable, engaging process that’s even—dare say—a bit fun.

How? By employing a number of smart techniques in their support content. These techniques add up to a positive user experience. Let’s take a closer look.

Web Content Best Practices in Action 

Clarity and Everyday Language 

As a tax prep service, clarity is of the essence for TurboTax. Customers must feel confident in the accuracy of their returns or risk the wrath of the IRS.

TurboTax understands that its instructions must be far simpler and easier to navigate than the IRS version, or people would simply do the task on their own or hire an accountant.

With every direction or question along the way, TurboTax uses simple language, avoids bureaucratic jargon, and provides clear explanations.

Consider this note explaining in simple terms the difference between a deduction and a refund.

TurboTax reufnd screenshot showing support content techniques
TurboTax uses everyday language to explain the difference between a credit and a refund.

Here’s another example, this one explaining whether someone with business income needs an employer tax ID.

TurboTax EIN screenshot showing support content techniques
TurboTax provides a simple, straightforward answer to a common taxpayer question.

Layering Content

The example above also illustrates another content best practice: layering.

If TurboTax provided all of the potentially relevant tax information to you up front, you’d face a giant, un-navigable mess. But to be useful, TurboTax has to have content for every possible tax circumstance and question, even the uncommon ones. What to do? Layer by providing a small chunk of content and link to more details.

Looking again at the employer ID screenshot, TurboTax asks “Any uncommon business situations?” before listing links to detailed content about on those situations.

Let’s look at another example. Here, the service uses pop-up windows to layer definitions of dependent and support for those who are either unfamiliar with the terms or have unusual circumstances on which they need guidance. For others who don’t need this help, the section is not cluttered with lengthy explanations and details that aren’t relevant to them.

TurboTax dependents screenshot showing support content techniques
TurboTax sidelines definitions of terms, making them accessible for anyone who needs them while not distracting others.

Motivational Language That Taps into the User’s Perspective of Benefits

The entire tax prep process at TurboTax is set up as a dialogue between the service and the customer. All the questions, instructions, and explanations are directed at “you,” creating a connection between the user and the service. But TurboTax goes even further, presenting topics in terms of benefits to the taxpayer.

Take another look at the dependent example. “Let’s see if we can get you a $3,900 deduction for each dependent you support,” it reads. Most of us will be more enthusiastic about taking the next step when we understand the payoff. And, if you do qualify for such a tax break, you’ll get a message like this:

“Good News! Jonathan qualified you for a tax break. Keep going! As you enter more information, we’ll let you know when we find more deductions and credits related to your family.”

Here’s another example, from the beginning of the process. “Let’s get your biggest refund possible,” the heading states. By speaking to that desired outcome, TurboTax is priming a response of “Great, let’s do that!” The content then lays out the process and alleviates potential concerns in the short, conversational paragraph below.

TurboTax intro screenshot  showing support content techniques
TurboTax pitches its service in ways that speak to the customers’ wants.

Empathetic Voice with Doses of Humor

Even fairly standard tax returns might take a couple hours to prepare. If the process were presented in dry, bureaucratic terms or legalese, it would feel like an eternity.  TurboTax avoids that fate by adopting a friendly, empathetic voice that accompanies the user throughout the process. It’s the voice of an advisor you can trust to act in your interest and get things right. It’s a voice that communicates, “Hey, we’re on your side. We’ll help you get through this.”

Look one more time at the dependents example above. “Your children and those you support are worth every penny you spend on them.” Such statements create a sense of empathy that emotionally connects the user and the service.

TurboTax also communicates that emotional connection through smartly timed doses of levity. “It is taxes, after all,” reads the follow-up to requesting Social Security information.

TurboTax social screenshot showing support content techniques
TurboTax uses levity to empathize with the taxpayer’s point of view.

Takeaways

Your site may not have a guided process as complex as filing tax returns, but you can learn much from how TurboTax handles its extensive support content. Here are some takeaways to transform complex or mundane tasks into a motivating and painless experience for your customers.

Are you treating support, instructions, and microcopy as vital to your customers’ experience?

This sort of utilitarian content is often given short shrift. That’s a big mistake. Where there’s microcopy, there are users actively interacting with something on your site. Clear directions and plain language are critical to helping and motivating your users to complete tasks.

Are you layering content to define clear, relevant paths for customers?

Rather than aiming to provide all of the information to all of the people all of the time, take a “just in time” approach. At each step or section, provide the specifics or options the user needs to progress. Each user will get only the content that is relevant to their situation, not details that don’t apply and risk causing confusion.

Are you connecting with and motivating your customers through voice?

The computer, mobile, or tablet screen creates a divide between you and your customers. You can breach that divide by developing a clear, personable, and distinct voice that empathizes with the wants and needs of your users. And consider experimenting with a flourish of humor.

These effective content techniques have helped TurboTax transform the arduous task of paying taxes into an achievable, painless task with a clear payoff. Imagine what these content techniques can do for you.

Better yet, experiment with these techniques and find out.

The Author

Sally Taylor is an associate writer with Content Science Review. You can contact Sally at Content Science.

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