QuickBooks First-time Use




About the project

Users have always come to QuickBooks Online (QBO) with a slight sense of apprehension. Accounting is no easy topic to deal with, especially when you already have your hands full with running your business. This was a major project that involved several different product teams, because we were controlling how users would interact with the many different features of QBO.


My role

I was the lead Interaction Designer on the project for Intuit, working with a cross-functional team of designers, developers, and product managers. I conducted user study sessions, mocked up early concepts, tested and refined prototypes, and worked with development on production assets and final touches.


The problem...and opportunity


The old QBO setup process collected basic information from a new user in a set of very transactional and emotionless screens. After completing setup, they were simply dropped on to a generic QBO dashboard with no guidance to navigate the complicated operations of small business accounting. These problems were evident in the analytics of user behavior. There were steep drop-offs when users landed on the homepage, as well as large drop-offs in the completion of tasks. The team’s mandate was to create an emotionally engaging process for users to communicate their needs to us, so that we could create a custom first time experience for each new user.




We conducted over a dozen in-depth user studies, where at Intuit, they are called 'Follow-me-homes'. We went to various small businesses, whether it would be at their store, home office, or warehouse. A common theme was that small business owners felt that they needed to map their business to the QBO infrastructure. We knew that in order to be successful, we needed to flip that on its head. We needed to map QBO to the workflow of a small business owner. 

“I hear QuickBooks is a complicated piece of software...I have no idea what to do with it...”
“Aren’t you guys the experts? I wish you’d just tell me what to do here...this is a little overwhelming.”
“I’m here because doing my taxes last year was a nightmare. But I’m still not sure how this is going to help.”
“I’m anticipating that setting up my books is going to be a pain. I’m hoping you guys will help me out with that.”


Early concepts

After taking all the valuable learnings we got from users, I set out to create broad, low-fidelity concepts to test our ideas. During this phase, the goal was to visualize all the important ideas and learnings that were gathered, without limiting myself with current product constraints. We also established questions, hypotheses to test, and principles of the design. One major principle was to actually learn about the business and how they operate, so we could populate a dashboard catered to their needs.


some constraints


As I was exploring the concepts of how to organize the dashboard, I quickly realized that the scope of this project was exploding. The dashboard is the central area of the product, and therefore has major stakeholders in it. Some examples were the payroll team, the payments team, invoicing, 3rd party apps, and more. If we were to tackle redesigning the ongoing experience of the dashboard, it could easily be a 6+ month effort. Thus the compromise was to pivot the design in a way that would accommodate the customized starting points that we wanted to surface without completely revamping the dashboard for now.  This gave us to UI infrastructure to create a foundation upon which we could further test our experience with.



Prototyping, testing...and more prototyping

After some internal feedback to distill down the concepts, I began building Axure prototypes to test the concepts with users. This was the fun part! Getting real feedback from users is great because there are always gaps that are overlooked until someone points it out to you. Our team was able to go through iterative cycles to continue improving the design in order to truly understand users as they came to QBO and to give them the feeling that we were actually building a product for them. Try out the prototype!


visual & Motion design


This project explored several new visual design directions that our design system had not used in the past and helped to push the boundaries. The goal was to create an open and inviting first use experience through the visual design and motion design.




UserOnboard.com is a website that critiques app and website first time use experiences. Sam from UserOnboard.com decided to do a review of the QBO first time use and it's so awesome to see this work critiqued. Note: His review was conducted after the product underwent a visual redesign soon after my project was launched, so things may have improved and look slightly different.


Our team also submitted the progressive illustration design to the US Patent Office and was granted US Patent # D818,003 S.