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Lessons from Tax Day 2015: How the tax sites fared

David Jones, Field Technical Evangelist, Dynatrace | May 6, 2015
This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

So how can tax and financial planning vendors, as well as government agencies make sure they ace the next tax-season test and keep their customers happy? Here a few easy steps every organization can use to bring their digital performance to the next level and deliver grade-A experiences:

1) Cut the Clutter

Applications and websites in every industry, including financial services, are sometimes guilty of the bad habit of packing in all kinds of "bells and whistles" (videos, animations, pop-up chats, etc.) in an effort to be as eye-catching as possible. Unfortunately, this noise actually backfires more often than not as most of these so-called "enhancements" are often hosted on CDNs or driven by third-party applications. Thus, performance problems with these widgets can have a profoundly negative impact on the overall digital experience, and can be difficult to diagnose and understand without a robust application performance management (APM) strategy.

Organizations that are serious about improving the digital experience can often benefit most by considering what their site doesn't need rather than what to add. You might be surprised how simplifying rather than adding more features and gimmicks can really make a positive impact. There is little point to continually adding functionality that falls on the periphery of a site's main purpose if it comes at the expense of overall performance. Most of these odds and ends can end up being more trouble than they're worth if you look at the big picture and the mission end-users are really on when they come to the site.

2) Understand the need for speed

Thanks to the Google effect, user expectations are sky high today and only getting higher. Users simply will not tolerate a slow site. Whether they are accessing a tax preparation or filing service via their desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, they typically will wait three seconds and no longer. In the digital world, first impressions are lasting impressions and sites only get one chance to perform. A site that slows down or bugs out under pressure loses users, and often does so for good. Those who abandoned a site in 2015 will not be back in 2016.

3) Focus on the user

When preparing for a peak event, it is easy to run broad sampling tests and come away with a vague impression that a site is fine. However, organizations that don't make an effort to see things from the end-users' perspective don't have an accurate idea of what these users actually experience. Sampling provides only a rough idea, but there is huge risk in oversimplifying — especially since customers' experiences vary depending on the devices used and myriad other variables.

 

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