The Story of CryptoTaxes Shows Agile Development at its Finest

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The CryptoTaxes team had to adapt to unexpected challenges

Vanbex Labs prides itself on always being agile and responsive to the latest and most vital market trends but, even by our standards, CryptoTaxes has had a complex and unpredictable development process. We entered into one of the most complex areas of finance very naive about how much demand there would be for a product like this -- and the result has been a piece of software with more features than we could have ever envisioned.

The problem in all this was the deadline: tax season only lasts until the end of April for most clients, and only a few weeks more for the rest. If Vanbex Labs was going to meet its early users’ needs, it would have to hit the market ASAP; the company’s overarching commitment to agile development techniques was absolutely vital.

From Backend to Full Service

CryptoTaxes lead programmer Bevan Hunt began on a tool for use by a small number of accountants, those with a specific interest in cryptocurrency and a knowledge of the formatting of the type of data involved. However, as the scale of the demand for CryptoTaxes came into focus, it became necessary to adapt the software to appeal to this wider audience. That meant automating more of the process and making the interface far more user-friendly.

Suddenly, what had been a pure back-end tool was turning into a consumer-focused software service -- and the CryptoTaxes team had to adapt quickly.

In the first version of the software, CrytoTaxes beta users input their figures to a modified version of the Binance file format, one that vexed many finance professionals and put an undue drain on their time. “It was great on our end,” lead programmer Bevan Hunt said at the time of the change, “but it turned out that our CPA testers just didn’t know it as a standard... We realized that we couldn’t ask them to put in the time to learn.”

In response to this feedback, Hunt had to build out an all-new CryptoTaxes file format -- one that had all the crypto-focused organization of an exchange file but which also allowed CryptoTaxes to incorporate an all-new level of automation.

The Interface is King

Once the audience had been expanded, the CryptoTaxes team suddenly had to make the product useable by everyone -- and they had to do it with tax season just around the corner. So, with this in mind, the design team had to quickly reorient the product toward less specialized customers.

Lead CryptoTaxes UI/UX designer Vahid Motta said that the driving force behind the UI design was focused on eliminating distractions or complications for the user -- and getting rid of complications is far from easy, when you’re talking about an all-new area of taxation. “We wanted accountants and crypto traders to feel at ease using our platform,” says Motta, “so we put a lot of work into ensuring that the language remained simple and the design pleasing to the eye.”

The time crunch imposed by tax season simply required a double-down on the technique that Vanbex has been using since the beginning: teamwork. When the dev team veered into a new type of functionality, they knew they had to support the design team as much as possible. The result was a multidisciplinary approach that was bigger than any one employee -- it takes everyone from marketing to dev-ops and beyond.

“Whenever a new feature is added or removed, this affects the design and sometimes the flow,” Motta added. “The only way to deal with this constant change is to make several versions so that you always have a design ready to handoff to your developers.”

Agile Development Can Stabilize Start-Ups

As a new company still establishing itself in the market, Vanbex is dedicated to becoming an exception to the rule that most startups are doomed to failure. Most startups don’t fail because they have an intrinsically bad idea, but rather because they are inflexible as the needs of the project change.

Maybe what’s needed is a slight delay to add an essential new feature, or perhaps a slight reduction in features to beat a competitor to market -- in either case, the ability to see what’s needed and to quickly adapt is the differentiator between a successful and unsuccessful company. In most cases, it’s your workforce’s ability to effectively communicate their needs to one another (or their lack thereof) that decides their fate.

CryptoTaxes was an idea born of necessity, but had it stayed on its initial track it would have arrived as too little, too late -- too niche a product for too entrenched a market. Every team needs to be able to adapt to such changing situations, and seeing their own situation change, the CryptoTaxes team knew that their product had to change with it.

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