Income Tax Simulator
Redesign of the government website's simulator which calculates income tax credit points.
What is the Income Tax Simulator?
In Israel, citizens are responsible for calculating their own income tax status, in order to get the benefits they deserve. The Israeli tax system is based upon Credit Points. Credit Points are points individuals get for their personal and family status, and will determine how much income tax they pay. A married person, for instance, will get a different Credit Point amount than an unmarried person. Each credit point is worth 218 NIS a month (2,616 NIS a year). For example, let’s say I have 3 Credit Points. That means, my annual tax bill will be (3 x 2616) 7,848 NIS less.
Why redesign the Income Tax Simulator?
Taxes, bureaucracy, credit points, are words that may sound intimidating to some, us included. The Simulator, at its current state, is loaded with details; the design is overwhelming, the information is sometimes difficult to understand, and the process of answering the questions is unclear.
We all tend to get anxious around themes we are unfamiliar with, and our first goal was to eliminate this fear. We want to make Credit Points more accessible.
The people who use this simulator are people who want to take control of their finances, and want to do it on their own. That’s exactly why our interest in making the Simulator more simple is very high. We tried to give the user the feeling that he’s capable of completing this task. Our goal was to design a system that would be both informative and intuitive at once.
Meet Danny. He’s 31, lives in Tel Aviv, married and - from very recently - a father to a newborn. Big change in life; mentally and financially, as his family is growing.
Danny is an intern in a law firm, he earns 9,500 NIS (about 2,900$) per month. Income tax is taken off his paycheck each month.
After chatting to a friend, Danny finds out that when you have a baby you deserve more Credit Points. Danny realises he forgot to update Maya from HR that he’s had the baby. He opens his laptop, googles “Income tax baby”, then clicks on the Income Tax website. Danny gets to the Simulator to find out how many Credit Points does he have now.
At the beginning of the process we examined the Simulator as it is now. We’ve studied the user flow, noting what works well and what could be improved. This is how the Simulator looks like at the moment:
Here are the points we thought are worth mentioning, and the changes we’ve done:
ONE LONG PAGE - TO SEPARATE PAGES
In the original Simulator, all questions are on one page, and the scrolling is very long. The user has no idea how many more questions he’s got left, and that could easily create frustration and potentially make him quit the process. In addition, the amount of information the user is being exposed to creates a cognitive overload.
We decided to split each question to a separate page, but keep the content of the original questions as they are, mostly asking the user to answer with a “yes/no”. Each answer leads to the next relevant question, based on the user’s given information.
In order to make the user feel more in control of the process, we added a Progress Bar that’s always visible. The Progress Bar is divided into 3 parts: Personal Details, Children Details, and Family Status. That way, the user is always aware where he is in the process, and how long he’s got left. When the user understands where he is in the flow, he's able to focus better, and can finish the process with less distractions.
TRACKING THE POINTS EARNED
In addition to the Progress Bar, we added another dimension of transparency and accessibility: a set-in-place element by the Progress Bar, showing the user how many points he’s earned at any given moment. As each point translates to money, we thought the user would be happy to know how much money he’s saved even before clicking the END button.
In the original Simulator, the RESTART button was at the end of the process, and the user would find it only after scrolling down the long page, next to the FINISH button. We decided to add the RESTART button next to the Progress bar so it will be visible through the whole process and the user will be able to use it at any point.
Our redesign has changed the whole layout in a way that made a BACK button a necessity. The user has to have an option of going back, correcting his answers, or even just to make sure he clicked the right answer.
In the original Simulator, by the end of the process, a pop up window opens and tells the user how many points he’s got, as well as a “close” button. There’s no call-to-action button or any option to save the information or share it. Unless the user writes the result down that very moment, there’s a high risk that they’ll forget the result, and need to go through the process again.
Based on other calculators we’ve explored, we decided the best option would be to add a “Send Result to Email”. This way, there will be stored documentation of the process and the result. The Simulator is anonymous and doesn’t ask for any personal details, so the email option seemed as the least invasive solution.
Our new final screen also includes the sum of points earned, and a RESTART button.
MICROCOPY AND ADDITIONAL INFO
When dealing with tax systems, there’s no escaping some technical terms that have to be used in that exact context. Some of the questions involve legal and family-law terms, often being presented in a very formal way that is unclear to the user. It was important for us to make this language simpler and more understandable. We have explored the subject and understood the legal meaning of the terms, and adjusted the phrasing accordingly.
We decided to add short, bite-size explanations that will appear by the side of each relevant term, so the user will always have it accessible when needed, without clicking an extra button. Although, we made sure it isn’t overtaking our screen and swifting the user’s attention.
Micro-copy wise, we wanted the language and tone of voice to speak the same as the user. To present a non bureaucratic environment, but a more casual and comfortable approach.
ACCESSIBILITY AND LANGUAGE
In the original Simulator there are three languages in which the process can be done: Hebrew, English, and Arabic. This is a good point we wanted to keep in our Simulator. Accessibility wise, the original website has an accessibility menu in which the user can change the contrast of display. We have learned the rules for accessible design, and the new design will use an accessible color palette, making the color adjustments unnecessary. The design is clean, the hierarchy of information is clear, navigation is simple, and there is a large contrast between texts and colors.
User Flow & Wireframes
During the project we studied the user flow of the Simulator, and realized that with some changes it can work better. We divided the questions into three sections: Personal details, Children details and Familial status. We changed the order of some questions so it would be more logical, and designed it in a way the user will only see the relevant information for him and won't waste his time.
The Simulator color pallet is based on the Israeli Government Website (www.gov.il). We thought it would feel less intimidating for the users to use a product that looks familiar. We kept the Blue gradient which we thought worked great in the original website, we created more contrast between the big titles and the body text, and used more bright blue, in the titles and in geometric elements like the circle points calculator. We also chose a different font that will be more neat and clear.
We have conducted user testing with five people from different ages and status. We have watched them while using the Simulator, asked questions, and improved the design according to their feedback.
For all of the users, the experience was good and clear. The process was intuitive and they didn’t need much assistance.
One main issue that came up from all of our interviewers was regarding the summary of the credit points. We asked them if during the process did they notice which question earned them extra Credit Points, and the answer was no. They did notice the change of the calculation throughout the process but couldn't say exactly when. We thought it would be valuable for them to know which status of their lives gives them more points, which obviously translates to money.
we have created a new screen - SUMMARY, which shows the user all of his answers on one page, with the number of Credit Points he earned at each step. The user can go back to a specific question and change it if he finds any mistake or inaccuracy. That addition will give the user a full point of view of the process and will create a closure to the whole experience.
The most important thing we learned from this project was not to be afraid of so-called “grey” and boring subjects. In the beginning we had some concerns but once we dived in we actually enjoyed learning and exploring this new world. We realized that bureaucratic and complex subjects are much more of a UX challenge than the familiar and loved subjects that we normally tend to prefer.
We think we managed to create a friendly experience with the Income Tax in general and with the Simulator in particular. The user understood the content and managed to go through the process from start to finish with a feeling of success and satisfaction. In the beginning of the project we said that our main goal was to design a system that is both informative and intuitive, and we think we achieved that. Of course, there is a long way to go with expanding and developing the product, but for a start we believe we created a firm and solid base that makes the Simulator less intimidating and complicated than it was before.
The project was a collaboration of Liran Hadashi & Sapir Yaakov.
Illustrations: Sapir Yaakov.