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Iris WebPortal, what are the better alternatives?

I Was an Accountants Websmiths website customer, Iris took over, destroyed the product (IMO)

I took the step, several years ago now, to invest in a website and, after much deliberation, a failed experimentation (through mis selling to me) I ended up going with Accountants Websmiths, opting for a bespoke website design.  Was really pleased with not just the website itself but the background functionality that AW provided to me, allowing me to add my own pages, manage email marketing, SEO (to some degree) and much more.  They also produced a newsletter that carried my own design styling and had the facility to add my own sections over and above the very good standard content they produced.  Wasn't ever enamoured at the cost every month, but bit the bullet and was contented with what I had.  AND THEN, the dark clouds came over and spoilt the party. 

Iris bought out AW in 2013 and, without my realising it, slowly destroyed the product I had come to like so much - now I can't do any of the things I could do with the AW site (still paying for it though), and support won't even do that! (give support).  The content isn't properly updated and links on the site aren't working, the client area hasn't been updated, basically they've done nothing to enhance or maintain the product, took away everything and charge more.

It took a lot of time and effort to get the bespoke designs incorporated into the website and I can't get those back; I fear that if I leave Iris I'll lose the personalisation of my site that I had paid to be created for me (I don't think Iris will be that helpful in transferring, unless you know differently fellow users).   So, that's my dilemma really, I have a site that I was happy with, that carries design features I do not want to lose, but am paying money for nothing new and no support, but where do I go to now - I really don't want to have to pay yet more fees moving and redesigning either, but I'm also too busy to try and do a site off my own back from scratch.

What do you think?  Any suggestions and or recommendations?

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16th Aug 2017 19:02

Websites, eh ?

There's a lot more people using them to sell you things than buy services from you.

Barely a day goes past without me receiving some email from somebody wanting to sell me software, a new website, stationery or summat I don't want.

Enquiries for my services are largely from people looking for the cheapest possible option. I can't think of any worthwhile client who's come to me through the website.

They're a shop window but I wouldn't lose any sleep if mine went off line.

Thanks (1)
16th Aug 2017 19:26

I too use Accountants Websmith as they were when I joined for the bespoke site. Like yourself took time and effort to get it set up and also found the support staff helpful at that time. Since then I have only made a few changes to the site and have had no problems with them making changes both pre and post the change to Iris. I tend to just make use of the newsletter and the email marketing tool so do get value from it; whether it's value for money may be another issue - should I get around to reviewing it. I have noticed the monthly poll hasn't changed for a while - but haven't chased it up. I am hoping to update before too long as I want to introduce a software download page - so for me that will be a test of whether I continue with them.

If you are having difficulties with them the I would telephone them and ask them for a timeline to fix the issues. Ask for a director if you have to. I hope you get it resolved.

Probably like yourself I don't have the time nor inclination to develop websites and have not explored other opportunities - I do get a circular from someone called (I think) Practice Track; but it ends up in the bin.

Will be interested to know how you progress and happy to update you if and when I need some major changes.
Best regards

Thanks (2)
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to D V Fields
17th Aug 2017 10:29

I'm at a loss as to what they're doing - I no longer get emails saying my newsletter is ready to publish, I can't even find where I am meant to log on to access the email marketer etc., it all seems to have gone to pot and my email requests for help from support are met with a stony silence!

It sounds like you've still got access to the back office as it were of your website - how?

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to adpriestley
17th Aug 2017 11:51

I'm with - what was - Accountant Websmiths and do still get the monthly email regarding the newsletter:

"The August Newsletter is ready for you to import into emailMARKETER to send to your clients and prospects."

At some point I will ditch them and just have a basic website that doesn't need updating, and will stop sending out monthly newsletters.

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By Tornado
17th Aug 2017 08:50

IRIS OpenTax ... Dead next year.

IRIS PAYEMaster .... Not being developed any more

A pattern emerges ...

Thanks (3)
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to Tornado
17th Aug 2017 10:02

I'm not a great lover of Iris tbh, I was a Keytime user for tax and payroll, but as soon as I heard that Iris were taking it over I jumped ship and now use Moneysoft for payroll (great product and a fraction of the price) and TaxCalc. I'm just dreading the day that these sell out to Iris too.

Thanks (1)
By Tornado
to adpriestley
17th Aug 2017 10:31

I like the look of Gbooks.

An integrated suite of Accounting and Tax software that is still in development but is Cloud based and looks ideal for small to medium sized practices at the moment.

No doubt this will eventually get gobbled up by IRIS one day but hopefully (for us), not for some time yet.

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17th Aug 2017 09:29

We get lots of good leads from our website, so I do think it is important.

I would recommend getting an agency to produce a site for you, but make sure that they can do the right optimisation to get good coverage in Google. You may find a local agency, who you can actually meet is best in that you can discuss things properly.

The cost may not be as much as you fear. The website bit is actually not the hard part (most agencies just churn out Wordpress), but what you are paying for is the visibility in search and a graphic designers eye for a good design/image.

Thanks (1)
17th Aug 2017 10:41

I use Mercia

https://www.yourfirmonline.co.uk/

Selected a template, gave them some narrative and they did the rest. Also make amendments, add pages etc when I request it.

Costs £99 plus vat per month.

Also send out 1-2 newsletters a month automatically to contact list.

Will refresh website every 2 years for no additional cost.

I'm happy with this no need to spend any more as far as I see it. Vast majority of clients come from recommendation I've had a small number of enquiries from the website some have become very good clients, quite a few are tyre kickers.

Thanks (1)
17th Aug 2017 11:14

I don't really understand why you would pay a third party every month for a site.

You can get one yourself for about £1k upfront and then hosting would be something like £50 a year tops unless you have massive traffic.

That would give you full control over content and design, albeit you have to update it when you want. This is pretty easy to do these days, you don't need to be a coder to update an already created website. its just typing.

Mine looks *horrible* but the content is there and it does what I need it too. It also reflects my "no flannel, this is what we do, this is what it costs" approach.

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to ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Aug 2017 12:19

"I don't really understand why you would pay a third party every month for a site."

Worth it just for the updates to the site and monthly newsletters sent out automatically.

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to Kent accountant
17th Aug 2017 14:58

Fair enough. I am a control freak and like to do my own updates and newsletters. Most of my site is about me anyhow rather than 'facts and figures' which clients can get from anywhere.

I do a bi-annual budget review, plus any 'flash' updates.

my clients are in two key niches and a genic newsletter would be a waste of time but appreciate that would probably be a good plan with a more general practice which I think from your posts you have.

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to ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Aug 2017 15:34

Ohhh a niche! - always interested when SP's have built up a good sized niche practice - what's it in?

Yes, fairly general but do like to exclude cheapskates, pisstakers and liars.

The newsletters are broken down into categories:

Personal Tax
Company and Employers
Budgets/Autumn Statements
Other

So can tailor them to an extent. Plus CBA applies with regards to stuff like having to have input and apply thought processes to do newsletters, website updates.

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17th Aug 2017 11:50

It seems I have been labouring under an unwise misconception.

When Iris bought out AW I naively thought that they would be retaining and developing the product, that essentially all would be right with the world and the website would be looked after much as it was by AW. How wrong I was! It seems that my product has become like an outdated current account - yes I can still use the product but any new developments have been added to a brand new sparkling alternative that, coincidentally, costs more than the flagship option I had when with AW - and my product, well, it's simply parked on a dusty top shelf waiting to die - no updates, no improvements, nothing. Yet again Iris have simply bought out a company to kill the product and gain customers!

I think it's time for me to move on and find a new provider (and probably pay less too looking at what's available).

Thanks (1)
By Tornado
17th Aug 2017 12:42

Most of my new work comes from recommendations so a website is only really to show to the world that I exist.

I have designed and maintained my own website for nearly 20 years now, writing directly in HTML first of all and latterly with web design software. The only cost is the original cost of the software as the server space comes free from my ISP.

I have absolutely no evidence that I have gained even one client from my Internet presence over the years but I never did set out to achieve that goal.

If your website is crucial to your business and you need feedback from it then it seems that you need to contract with a firm that will design, update and maintain your site and offer other value added services.

If your needs are modest then I have -

http://www.xara.com/uk/web-designer/

Which is reasonably easy to use if you have a little more than just basic computer skills.

Horses for courses really.

EDIT : I have just noticed that xara even offer 'free' web space and no doubt good advice on creating and maintaining your own website.

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