Task Messaging

What is a Task message?

A Task message is a specific type of message that tells users they need to do something and provides a link to take action. This framework will help you figure out if your message is a task message, and also how to write and design it.

  • Not all messages to users are tasks, and not all types of messages belong in the Task List or in an in-page task message.
  • If your message is real-time feedback based on user input or a response to a user action, or an in-line message to users, it isn’t a task message.
  • If your message is recommending, promoting or selling something, it’s not a task message.

There are examples of task messages in the section Appearance & Behavior. If your message isn’t a task, please review this table for other Communication and Discovery patterns that may work for you.

 Communication Type

Recommended pattern

 Discovery (FTU or IPD)
Task Messages
 Help or guidance
 Real-time errrors, warnings, confirmations
 Informational (no associated action)
Recommendations
  • See Discovery governance
Email, text, or push notifications
  • To be added

Web

When to Use

If your message is a task, what is your message about? Review the kinds of messages listed below and see which is closest to what you’re writing. For info on how to write and design your task message, including content examples, see Appearance & Behavior below. 

  • Critical alert
    • A critical alert tells a customer that unless they take action right away, their account will stop working, or that their account is not accessible right now.
  • System message
    • A system message communicates system errors or breakdowns that directly affect the user’s accounting or QuickBooks account. Users must be able to take action to fix or work around the issue.
  • Work task (that needs attention)
    • A work task is a message telling a user that they must do an accounting, compliance, or continued setup task. If the user doesn’t do this task, there’s an impact to their business.
  • Person-to-person message received
    • A person-to-person message is a message that’s come into QuickBooks from another human being.
  • User-invoked reminders
    • User-invoked reminders tell users to do tasks they’ve clicked Remind Me buttons on. Some of these will be similar to some of the Work tasks listed above.
  • Third-party generated
    • A message from a third party or app (that the user has already connected) telling the user that they need to take action, either within QuickBooks or within the third party app. 
All types

Examples of all task message types by priority level

Note: There can be overlap between these categories. For instance: a user-invoked reminder or a third-party generated task message could be a work task, or a third-party message could be a system message.

Appearance & Behavior

Critical alerts

What’s a critical alert?
A critical alert tells a customer that unless they take action right away, their QB account will stop working, or that their QB account is not working right now. Critical alerts should include a link if there’s anything a user can do to remedy the situation. Some critical alerts might not have a link because users can’t do much if QBO is down. In that case, still use the What to do content pattern but don’t include an action link.

Critical alert examples

What’s not a critical alert?
Information about upcoming system maintenance or downtime, or notification that a subscription expires in seven days – those are System messages. 

Content examples 

  • Subscribe now to keep using QuickBooks. Your free trial has ended.
  • Enter new credit card info. Your old card has expired.
  • Stop here. QuickBooks is down–you can’t access your data right now. (No action link)

Interaction guidelines
For these book-blocking communications, use the Critical alert modal in addition to the task list. The critical alert will display in the Task list if the alert has not been resolved by the user via the modal.

  • Use critical alert modal on log in
  • never batched
  • display at top of message list (first priority)
  • not dismissible by user
  • cannot be snoozed
  • no limit to number shown, show all that apply

Visual guidelines

  • Red critical alert icon

Other patterns that apply: The Critical alert modal. 

Critical alert modal example

Critical alert modal example

System messages

What’s a system message?
A system message communicates system errors or breakdowns that affect the user’s accounting or QuickBooks account. Users must be able to take action to fix or work around the issue. System messages include links to actions except in rare instances, such as an upcoming system maintenance message. Still write the message in pattern of What to do, Why do it.

system messages

System message examples

Example System message use cases:

  • Bank connection failure
  • Errors that impact financial data (not real-time or inline)
  • Automated transaction failure
  • Subscription expiring in more than one day (seven days, 21 days, etc.)
  • Payroll alert: payment can’t be filed electronically
  • Upcoming system maintenance 
  • Third-party app connection failures (see Third-party generated messages)
  • Care alerts (e.g., if a subset of customers have their bank connections go down)

What’s not a system message?

  • Critical alerts informing a user that they can’t access their data right now, work tasks that need attention, informational messages

Content examples 

  • Fix bank connection error to keep transactions flowing into QuickBooks.
  • Check your statements. We found errors in some of them, so we haven’t emailed them yet.
  • File this period’s payroll manually. Your electronic filing failed.
  • Plan ahead. QuickBooks will be down for maintenance tomorrow from 9pm-10pm PST. (No action link)

Interaction guidelines

  • Never batched
  • display at top of list if no Critical alerts (second priority)
  • can be dismissible
  • can be snoozed
  • no limit to number shown, show all that apply

Visual guidelines

  • Orange critical alert icon

Other patterns that may apply: Error messages

Work tasks (that need attention)

What’s a work task that needs attention?
A message telling a user that they must do an accounting, compliance, or continued setup task. If the user doesn’t do this task, there’s an impact to their business.

Work tasks that need attention examples

Work tasks that need attention examples

Example work task use cases:

  • Payroll taxes due, tax forms to file, payments to make, etc.
  • Overdue invoices or bills
  • Recurring charge has an expired credit card number
  • Accountant requested a document
  • Expired estimates
  • Payroll reminders: run payroll, approve checks, pay taxes, file forms

What isn’t a work task?

  • IPD or Discovery messaging, recommended tasks, What’s new in QuickBooks messages, Third-party generated messages

Priority levels
Work task messages appear prioritized in a list in the following order:

1. With due date or time sensitivity (1. Overdue, 2. Due today, 3. Due tomorrow, 4. Due further out)

2. Without due date

3. Accountant-requested tasks

4. User-invoked or user activity-triggered

5. ‘Abandoner’ tasks: encouraging users to continue setup of a feature, after first time use

Content examples

  • Pay PG&E now to avoid late fees and interrupted services.
  • Print checks. Make your vendors happy–put their checks in the mail today.
  • Finish employee setup. You’re almost ready to pay your people.
  • Send [DocumentName] to your accountant. They asked for it.  

Interaction guidelines

  • Work tasks of a single type can be batched (i.e. four overdue bills, two invoices due, six payroll tax forms)
    • list with link to each form or action individually under batched item heading
    • batched item heading has no link

Batched task example

Batched work task example

Batched work task example

Batched tasks expanded - hover example

Batched tasks expanded view example

Batched task expanded view - example of hover on individual task

Batched task expanded view – example of hover on individual task

  • display below critical alerts and system messages, then in order according to priority
  • can be dismissible by user
  • can be snoozed by user
  • no limit to number shown, show all that apply

Visual guidelines

  • No alert icon
  • Carat to display batched tasks

Person-to-person messages

What’s a person-to-person message?
A message that’s come in to QuickBooks from another human being, such as a new message from an accountant, or from a vendor. 

Person-to-person messages

Person-to-person messages

Content examples
Tip: Yes, we’ve broken our own writing pattern for person-to-person messages. We did it on purpose to create a friendlier tone while using a language pattern that users will likely find familiar and comfortable. 

  • You’ve got 2 new messages from your accountant
  • You’ve got 1 new message from Ven Dorre

Interaction guidelines

  • multiple messages can be batched
  • can be dismissible by user
  • can be snoozed by user
  • no limit to number shown, show all that apply

Visual guidelines

  • no icon

User-invoked reminders

What’s a user-invoked reminder?
User-invoked reminders tell users to do tasks they’ve clicked Remind Me buttons on. Some of these will be similar to some of the Needs Attention tasks.

User-invoked reminder examples

User-invoked reminder examples

Content examples

  • Add your first employee so you can start cutting paychecks.
  • Categorize transactions to add Bank of America’s activity to your books.

Interaction guidelines

  • Never batched
  • always dismissible by users
  • always snoozeable by user
  • no limit to number shown

Visual guidelines

  • no icon

Third-party generated

What’s a third-party or app-generated message?
A message from a third party or app that the user has already connected telling the user that they need to take action, either within QuickBooks or within the third party app. Third-party app developers who want to write task messages to appear in our products must follow the task messaging patterns.

What’s not third-party or app-generated message?
Discovery, IPD of apps, a message generated by QuickBooks

Interaction guidelines

  • depending on the use case, will be same as work tasks, or system messages

Visual guidelines

  • depending on the use case, will be same as work tasks, or system messages

Additional guidance for third-party messages is coming soon!

Text Guidelines

A Task message contains these three parts:

1. What to do.
2. Why do it
3. When the task is due, or if it’s overdue

Anatomy of a task message


What to do (required)
This short sentence or phrase tells users exactly what they need to do.
When responsive design shortens the content, just the What to do statement appears.

Construct your What to do statement like this: Present tense active verb, Object (noun, adjective(s)) + noun

The What to do statement links users directly to the in-product screen where user will do the task work. In rare cases, the What to do statement won’t include a link. For example: “Stop here. QuickBooks is down–you can’t access your data.” Note that you can use “your” if it smooths out your What to do sentence. For example: “Update your credit card info.”

Why do it (optional, but recommended)

  • User-focused content
  • Explanation of the need for the action (especially in the case of error messages)
  • Effect or impact on user’s business
  • Compliance (if not in the What to do statement)

Style and Tone Guidelines
Brand tone guideline in charge: Purposeful. These are tasks users need to do, and user testing indicates that they respond well to short, purposeful statements telling them what tasks require their attention.

  • What to do: Short and purposeful.
  • Why do it:  Fresh and friendly: Contractions and colloquialisms are a-ok.

Keep dates in mind–a bill that’s due in 2 days evokes a different emotion than a bill that’s 2 days overdue. Don’t get into a rut! Not all messages should have exactly the same tone.

Due dates and overdue tasks (when applicable):
Only add a due date or overdue date if your task has a due date that affects the user’s business. Tip: Make sure the date format is localized for your message’s locales.

Tasks will appear on a task list in the following chronological order:

1. Overdue
2. Due today
3. Due tomorrow
4. Due further out

Overdue task date format
x days overdue

Task due today format
Due today

Task due soon format
Due tomorrow
Due Month Day – for example: Due Jan 21

Task due date formats

Don’t format task due dates like these:

Due Jan 15 (if today is January 21)
Overdue x days
Due Jan 21 (if today is January 21)
Due Jan 22 (if today is Jan 21)
Due 1/21, Due 21/1, Due 1.21, Due 21.1, Due 1-21, Due 21-1, etc.
Due Jan 21 2016

Tip: Don’t add the year to a task due date. Users think of tasks to be done in an immediate way–a few days ahead at most. The year is not relevant in the context of a task message.

Writing Global Task Messages

  • What to do: Write the same for US and Global audiences – the active structure localizes well.
  • Why statement: If it’s got contractions, colloquialisms, and a casual US-centric tone, write a second version of it in Simplified English. Provide both versions to Global for localization.
  • Due date: If your message has a due date, make sure it’s formatted for the locale(s) the task message will appear in.
  • Created by
  • Last modified April 8, 2016 by Stella Zubeck
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