The Taxpayer Advocate Service’s website, known internally as the Tax Toolkit, underwent a complete redesign from August 2013 to January 2015, including design, architecture, and content.
The old site had grown over several years into a jumble of FAQ’s, outdated information, and circuitous navigation. The new site would center around helping taxpayers understand their issues, breaking it down into understandable chunks, and presenting information in a way that was readable, and frankly, less terrifying than most tax information.
We also wanted the site to be modern, searchable, and fully responsive.
To create a really taxpayer-focused product, we had to figure out what our voice was meant to be.
The Toolkit should be direct, but not forceful; friendly, but not pandering; expert, but with limited jargon.
This would be a complete change from the way that most of the subject matter experts were used to writing. One of the things I like best about content strategy is that it can’t be done alone, so you have to figure out how to help others understand the value of a user-focused approach, and the power of speaking clearly.
Developing a content production and clearance process was crucial to the site ever launching. It involved teams of writers and subject matter experts creating content that was factually accurate and plain language, and then a series of legal, subject, and editorial reviews to ensure that the information we were providing was correct and understandable.
Before launch, we used IRS usability labs to do in-person UX testing. As the lab was in a Wyoming office that mostly handled paperwork processing, we were able to get federal employees with little to no tax knowledge to test the site.
In the months after launch, we also took the site to tax forums around the country and did in-person testing, to see how the site could serve tax professionals who wanted clear content to share with their clients.