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The Future of Accounting – part 3

hamish-162708091This week I’d like to look at why ease of use and design, matter.

One of the problems I had in practice was that desk top accounting software can be difficult to use. So when I introduced it to my clients they had a big learning curve and it certainly wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Learning the software took them lots of time and they had to spend money on external training and support.

My clients used to say that the software made them feel dumb and they made many mistakes. Clients who now use Xero tell us that it makes them feel smart. We’re also noticing that the quality of the financial information means we don’t have to fix mistakes anymore.

All accounting software enables the user to conduct business transactions and aggregate information into a report. But the design of the traditional windows-based accounting software is technical, clunky, non-intuitive and just plain hard to use. There has been a revolution in the delivery of web-based services and the basic premise is that it has to be extremely easy to use so that users require no training, and there must be cost savings associated with training resources. This sounds simple but is actually hard to do. It really does require specialist interaction designers.Xero has focused on securing the smartest and most design-led people. By having an understanding of what small businesses do every day and how they interact with software, our designers have developed an accounting system that’s easy to use. Desktop software was designed before internet banking, email and the world wide web. Xero took a fresh look at the processes, and this approach has allowed us to build an accounting system that is very easy to use and you don’t need training.

Customers and accountants alike find the user interface – the actual way the software looks – uncluttered, clearly laid out, but at the same time beautiful and even sexy. That’s right we’ve made accounting sexy!  It’s not a claim we make I might add, but it’s what customers have told us.  

Xero empowers people to feel smart, get on top of the books and arms them with vital information – with everything at their fingertips. My favourite quote from a client remains, “You had me at Dashboard”.  See, it really is that good.

Hamish Edwards is a Chartered Accountant and the co-founder of Xero. You can view the introduction to this series here.


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Adrian Pearson
23 September 2009 #

Hi Hamish, I agree that the user experience is a crucial determinant of the take-up of accounting software by small businesses, and I argue that this factor is more important than the range of features provided in my log post So, please don’t randomly load Xero with ever more features at the expense of the gorgeous, uncluttered UI.

Hamish Edwards
24 September 2009 #

Adrian, as always I appreciate your comments and views. The trick is to continually evolve the functionality of Xero without compromising the UI and user experience so it remains easy and enjoyable to use.

Brendon Muir
25 September 2009 #

So I’ve been using Xero since April 1st and I’m dumbfounded at the lack of two simple features: The ability to select a bunch of auto-generated invoices and send them out (via email) with one click, and even better, the ability for auto-generated and approved invoices to be automatically emailed out too. Save us some time! I generate about 80 monthly invoices and it takes me about 30-40 minutes to manually click on each one and click send. I’ve told the tech support people twice and they say it’s ‘coming’ but time hurries on, and all I can see is the addition of features designed to capture new customers, not support the ones propping Xero up right now.

Also, the transaction matching is woefully inadequate. My 80 odd invoices are for the same amount, so helpful Xero just suggests the first outstanding invoice on the long list and doesn’t even bother trying to match up the bank transaction data to a customer account. The only time I’ve seen it work properly is when the person paying the invoice uses the (full) invoice number (with lots of 0’s) in the payment details.

It’s simple stuff, and as a web app developer myself I know it ain’t hard to do this stuff. Please listen to us!

Andrew Butel
25 September 2009 #

@Brendon – thanks for your comments. We’re listening! We’ve got quite a few enhancements in development (see my recent blog post about our top 10 customer requests) and you’ll be seeing those as well as improvements to bank reconciliation and emailing invoices/statements coming out over the next few releases.

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