QuickVoices

Voice User Interface App for QuickBooks

Research Question

How might we design an app that solves a user problem and that integrates with Intuit's QuickBooks?

Team and Timeframe

I had one teammate. I led research and design. The timeframe was 3 weeks.

Project Outcomes

  • InVision Prototype

  • User Flow

  • User Personas

  • 3rd Place Prize in Intuit's NY Idea Jam

  • Presentation at Intuit in Mountain View, CA

What is QuickVoices?

QuickVoices is a voice-activated accounting assistant. QuickVoices does two things:

 

1. Helps users complete accounting tasks

2. Functions as a to-do list​

Research & Strategy

In order to work with tight time constraints and a large project scope, my research strategy was threefold: 

  1. Learn QBO & its users...

  2. ...in order to solve a problem...

  3. ...using emerging technology.

To get a sense of the most commonly used basic functions, I watched YouTube tutorials. I also made sure to read tutorial comments to get a sense of what users like and don’t like about QBO.

Overwhelmingly, user comments on tutorial videos were very positive:
 

  • ​“I love QBO!”
     

Most commenters were well-versed in their own bookkeeping needs and were literate in both accounting and QBO features:
 

  • ​“I have trouble with aligning check-sub when printing my checks.”
     

True beginners with no bookkeeping experience tended to have a harder time with the tutorials:
 

  • ​“Data input is daunting.”
     

Reading tutorial comments also gave us a sense of what some people felt was missing from QBO:
 

  • “Is there a way to apply a finance charge or late fee to overdue customers without having to create a new invoice?”

After watching YouTube tutorials, we downloaded the desktop, iPad, and mobile versions of QuickBooks and began to understand what it feels like to use the app.

User Interviews

We knew we wanted to speak to several different types of QBO users. I borrowed designer Chris Konya's (WhatIf?! Innovation) "Normals, Deeps, and Weirds" user-centered interview framework to guide us. By speaking to these different types of users, I aimed to get a holistic understanding of the different types of users and user needs, as well as the different functions of the app. 

I defined our users in the following ways:

  • Normals: Average user without complex needs.

    • Bookkeepers for a small (<10 employees) for-profit business

    • No data analysis needs
       

  • Deeps: Advanced user with specific needs

    • People in industries with many specific needs: restaurant owners, construction business owners, non-profit employees

    • People running a bigger (>10 employees) business

    • Freelancers
       

  • Weirds: Non-traditional users

    • People with nontraditional revenue streams

    • YouTubers/Streamers, performers, freelancers

Next, I spoke with users from each category:

Melinda W., Normal User

Emily K., Normal User

Sarah O., Deep User

Eduardo H, Weird User

We also asked people on Quora about their experience using QBO:

  • What do users like about QBO? Not like?

  • Which integrated apps do they like? Not like?

  • Which apps do users wish integrated with QBO?

Lastly, we conducted a competitive analysis of other accounting software programs.

Research Insights

1. People Love QBO 

Even when prompted, people didn't have bad things to say about QBO. 

2. Specific Industries Require Specific QBO Capabilities

QBO is customizable to each user's needs.

3. QBO Has Incredible Scope: It's a Holistic Business Portal

QBO is much more than just an accounting program. It’s an entire terminalthrough which users can run their businesses. If QBO doesn’t come with a built-in feature, there are so many apps and plugins, that virtually every business need can be met.

 

Thinking of QBO as a comprehensive business portal was a deep insight that we carried with us as we brainstormed.

Design Process

After we completed our initial research phase, we began writing down insights from research. We grouped our insights by theme: 

  1. Common Business Functions

  2. Ideal Experiences

  3. Pain Points

...and then we started brainstorming ideas:

1. What are common problems?

2. What do people like? Do most frequently?

3. How can we introduce new technology to the QBO experience?

Using an empathy map helped my team and I more clearly understand our essential users' pain points, needs, and goals. 

Identifying the Problem: Excessive Clicking

A common problem I encountered during research was that excessive clicking often slowed down a user's workflow. I also noticed that too much clicking also made tasks more complicated and harder to remember how to complete.

Solution: QuickVoices, a VUI Plugin

My team's solution to this problem? A voice user interface (VUI).

 

QuickVoices is a voice-activated accounting assistant. QuickVoices does two things:

 

1. Helps users complete accounting tasks

2. Functions as a to-do list​

Why QuickVoices?

  • YouTube observation: Reduce clicking → Speed up workflow

  • Custom filtering can be a pain point

  • Never-ending to-do lists for business operators

  • Return to initial question: How can we use new technology to enhance the QBO experience and solve problems?

Prototyping & Testing

We started out by sketching wireframes. We tested the initial concept out with co-workers and received mixed feedback. We weren’t explaining our idea clearly at first. Feedback at the conceptual stage helped us refine our idea of QuickVoices. Specifically, it helped us see that QuickVoices can help users in two ways:

 

1. It helps people complete accounting tasks

2. It is a to-do list

 

Once we created wireframes, we started thinking about interactions: how is QuickVoices activated? How is it turned off? How does the user know when a task is resolved?

 

We started prototyping interactions using InVision. I turned my sketches into higher fidelity wireframes using Sketch.

I tested out our clickable prototypes with some of the QBO users I interviewed, as well as some of my co-workers. During each testing session, our participant narrated their thought process as they clicked. After they accomplished two separate tasks in the QuickVoices prototype, I interviewed them one-on-one. I asked them about the clarity of the user flow, as well as their thoughts on voice user interfaces. 

End State Goals

We envision QuickVoices helping users with a variety of QBO tasks: invoicing, expensing, paying, reporting, tracking employees, and more.

  • QuickVoices is activated when the user clicks the QuickVoices microphone icon.

    • On mobile, the mic interactions work similar to Siri

    • On desktop, users click the microphone to turn it on. The mic will stay on until the user clicks it off. It will automatically turn off after 1 hour of not being used.

  • QuickVoices can hear you, but it doesn’t speak.

    • Accounting information is sensitive, and we don’t want users to worry about an application saying private information out loud.

  • Tasks have to be manually resolved. This is because QuickVoices is a to-do list, as well as an assistant. We want users to be very aware of when they check items off their to-do lists. We want to reduce confusion about when tasks get resolved/removed from the QuickVoices list.

Deliverables

Mobile Prototype

Desktop Prototype

Challenges

1. Syncing Mobile and Desktop

Heavy QBO users use both mobile and desktop versions of the product to complete their tasks, but in general, the desktop version of the product is the most popular. However, Quickvoices is an app meant for people on-the-go. Therefore, its primary use case would be with a mobile device. We knew this meant we would need to design an app that syncs across both mobile and desktop devices.

 

This presented a few issues, perhaps most notably the fact that the mobile and desktop apps have different capabilities, especially with regard to reporting. We didn’t want users to be hindered from using QuickVoices on their phones, but we knew based on research and testing that users would likely try saying commands that the mobile app could not complete. My solution to this problem was to provide clarity to users trying to complete a task that the mobile product was incapable of doing. My way of showing clarity was to tell users that their task would be saved in their QuickVoices task list, and that they could access the task in full on their desktop computer. 

2. Microphone Access and Security

Initially, we had QuickVoices notifications clustered with the mic icon. We didn’t realize this would create an issue because users wouldn’t know whether clicking the mic icon would turn the mic on/off or take them to their QuickVoices list. We decided to move notifications to a separate QuickVoices line to solve this problem.

Additionally, accounting information is typically sensitive. At the beginning of our challenge, we thought QuickVoices might speak back to the user, similar to Amazon's Alexa. However, we quickly realized that this could present a data security issue. We decided to make QuickVoices a "silent" VUI. 

3. Feasibility

Unfortunately, the most challenging aspect of this project was moving our prototype up to the next level. Using InVision is not the best way to create a VUI, but it worked as a good, testable rapid prototyping method. My team and I identified the next steps to creating a coded prototype: using the Python library Jasper in conjunction with the QuickBooks API.

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