Designing Solutions for Unpleasant Tasks

By Jim Ross Published: May 5, 2014 “TurboTax takes some of the sting out of doing your taxes by proactively offering suggestions to help you avoid owing money next year. So you end up feeling that you’ve learned something and are in control of the situation.” We all have to do things that we don’t like doing. For me, there’s one day of the month that I dread far more than any other: the day that I have to update our family finances in Quicken and pay bills. This involves downloading checking and credit-card transactions and matching up receipts to make sure that everything is accurate before I pay the bills. Besides the physical drudgery of entering receipts, paying bills brings up almost every kind of negative emotion—regret, irritation, anger, resentment, anxiety, fear, and depression. Unless it’s a particularly good month, I usually end up worrying about questions like these: Why did I spend money on that? Why did my wife spend money on that? Did we really need that? Are we saving enough for retirement? How are we going to pay for the kids’ college? Am I going to end up living in a refrigerator box in an alley? While Quicken has some design and usability problems, its user interface isn’t really the problem. The task itself is extremely unpleasant, regardless of the technology I’m using to do it or even doing it manually. No matter what improvements Intuit makes to Quicken, paying bills will never be a pleasant experience. But the design of Quicken could at least make the task a little more bearable.

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