Scindo – TurboTax for Divorce

 

This was a project I was heavily involved in when I worked with colab. All the visuals credit goes to the very talented Squid (Michael) Buchanon over there.

Essentially, the concept was Turbo Tax for divorce. The app was prototype in Google Slides and then a very messy MVP was spun up in Webflow, which I can’t speak highly enough of. They have a really cool product; I wish they would expose some server-side aspects and create a super-powered MVC IDE or something like that.

Components in the project:

  • Webflow – The whole project was built as a single page application. This was far from ideal; but we were shipping a functional product in about a week which was incredible. I navigated the shortcomings of Webflow by using consistent naming conventions for sections and hiding/driving visbility of DOM elements as needed. This was far from the ideal approach, but was a great way to get a simple, lovable, useful product to market as quickly as possible.
  • Navigation/jQuery jQuery was used for almost all the client-side scripting. I really got to love jQuery with this project and didn’t understand how wonderful it was until I had to work within the tight constraints of Webflow.
  • Logic Engine Javascript was the primary language used to do calculations and things that really should have been done server side; but was “good enough”. Sessions were also persisted in a cookie!
  • Making Forms jsPDF was used to render the completed divorce forms. The idea was you’d fill these out and then we’d turn them over to you. If you wanted you could pay a service fee and we’d do the filing (if the divorce was uncontested) + online Notary service for you to get it going. Overall very happy with jsPDF though.
  • Various Usability Bumps
    • Google Maps API and autocomplete was used to prefill addresses. Simple enough – they have good documentation.
    • Geoplugin.net was used to detect browser location (we only supported NY and CA divorces at launch). Pretty simple tool to use. I can’t remember why I opted for this to be honest.
    • Fontawesome was used for a lot of the iconography.

 

Lessons Learned

  1. The divorce law industry is fear-driven. I learned A TON about the divorce industry on this project. In addition to coding almost everything; I did all of the homework on divorce paperwork/eligibility etc. I had a bunch of uncomfortable conversations with people about divorce. Overall, I still think this is a perfect project for someone to do well.
  2. If not technically difficult, design becomes even more critical. I really learned to value how much design and imagery can be useful for these very simple but painfully long forms. The app was so easy to build. There is no “hard tech” aspect to this at all to be honest. Squid’s designs are, honestly, what makes this so great and his visual eye really helped dial in the smooth/rounded feel.
  3. No part-time early stage team members. It was fairly clear that something was wrong to me; but I was heads-down on this one and trying to be less involved in the actual company formation of it all. We were dealing with some white shoe lawyers and it became very clear to me that reputation and other (candidly) bullshit was going to take a toll on this project.
  4. Government opportunity. There are a ton of “paperwork” businesses that really consist of moving information around on behalf of people and then submitting forms for them. I think there are probably lots of small niches to step into and find opportunity to make things “suck less” for people. It’s not sexy work and as soon as the government wakes up you’d be out of business; but it would be a good little spot to get things going. Sort of like those fish that clean the teeth of sharks.

Some very long nights went into this one and I’d like to see it come back to life one day. Divorce really is a messy awful process. California has done a great job by providing the summary dissolution which is very affordable and fast (relatively).

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