Ben Franklin once quipped, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." But even someone as prescient as Ben Franklin hadn't foreseen the advent of online tax preparation. He never imagined the prospect of e-filing on his computer, never imported financial statements electronically from his brokerage, or engaged in a live chat when he got stuck. But if Franklin were alive today, he'd likely extoll the importance of user experience design as applied to the 72,000 plus pages that comprise the United States tax code.

Unlike other online user experiences, the routine of paying taxes offers little in the way of excitement. Despite this fact, designers have harnessed our natural impulses in order to make the process more palatable - and more efficient. It is our nature to focus on the refund money we can expect back. Harnessing this interest, designers prominently display a running tally throughout the process - keeping us involved in every step. Keeping the mission clearly articulated, providing clear guidance through the various steps of the return, and providing a concrete last step (with that all-important return number) is important to ensuring completion. Based on the ease and speed of this process, taxpayers will distinguish between Turbotax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer, or any of the others.

Providing online tax help has become a real art form. The software needs to anticipate the user's tax situation, then provide the most concise information needed for an accurate return. Effective teachable moments are at a premium, and manual entry is avoided at all cost. H&R Block even allows users to take a picture of their W-2 with their smartphone and import it into a return. No tax jargon is permitted. Any terminology that does appear must be given a direct link that offers not only a definition, but a full explanation of how it applies in a given situation. In a realm where anxiety reigns, simplicity is king.

Online tax preparation has enabled millions of Americans to re-asses their financial capabilities. Non-CPAs now routinely file their own returns in spite of complicating factors such as self-employment, rental, investment and other non-traditional income sources - complexities that once sent us screaming to accounting offices. And returns filed with online preparation are overwhelmingly more accurate than those filed by hand. They are completed much faster, the refunds come faster and they get instantly and securely filed away for next year.

To take something so universally reviled, so characteristically befuddling as taxes, and make it intelligible and (relatively) simple should be counted as an Internet milestone. And if ux design can do this for the tax code, imagine what it can do for other jargon-packed industries. Think credit card user terms, health insurance benefits descriptions, mortgage disclosure documents. The list goes on.

Yes, taxes may never go away. And for that, Ben Franklin's words will not be forgotten. But the fact that online tax preparers have removed much of the drudgery from one of life's immortal hang-ups should give us some consolation. Small victories go a long way in tax season.