Partnership Manager FreeAgent
Columnist
Share this content
Tags:

AccountingWEB re-launch: Now, next, soon

6th May 2016
Partnership Manager FreeAgent
Columnist
Share this content

Hi All. We launched the new AccountingWEB on Tuesday this week. We’ve had a lot of feedback, and it’s fair to say the new site isn’t universally popular.

We’ve viewed and captured all of the feedback we’ve had, both onsite and through other channels. We read it all and we value what you tell us. I think the main thing to bear in mind is that the new site as you see it isn’t the end of the project. It’s a milestone, yes, but there will be a continuous stream of both small and larger refinements over the coming days, weeks and months.

With that in mind, this post is to give you all a proper update of what we’ve done since the site launched, what we’re working on now, and what we’ll be working on soon. It’s not exhaustive, so if there’s something you want to feedback on, but can’t see below, do leave a comment or drop me a PM.

What we’ve done since the launch

  • We’ve improved site performance (page load time etc.). Part of the slowness was due to the content recommendation engine indexing all the content and that’s now complete. We’ve also identified ways to speed up the site now that we’re able to observe how it’s performing in a real-world environment. 

  • Removed the company name and job title from members’ public profile and posts. 

Here are the things we’re working on now.  These are all tasks we we aim to deploy by the end of next week (13th May – but most will come sooner than that):

  • A new filter on the Any Answers home page and sub-menu so that you can view the posts by ‘most recent replies’.
  • The ability to set your company name and job title as public/not public in your profile information. The default setting will be “not public”.
  • The option to turn off ‘thank you’ and ‘like’ notification emails.
  • A new category and tag for the AA section. This will act as a channel for “Time Out” conversations
  • We’re going to re-examine certain aspects of updating your user profile with clearer instructions on how to update empty fields.
  • Advanced search facilities to help you find specific items within content types, as well as other filtering options.

Here are the things we’re investigating at the moment, but will be working on next. We’ll share the timescales when we have them.

  • We’re going to reinstate the thanks to previous comments that disappeared when we switched to the design. They will be displayed on site.
  • When you get an email to notify you of a reply to a thread, the link will take you directly to the comment concerned (as opposed to the top of the initial thread).
  • We’re not going to bring back ‘comment’ titles, but we will migrate the titles of the ‘old’ comments into the comment body on the new site.
  • We’re also looking at improving email notification subject lines.
  • PM date formats will revert back to the UK display method (day, month, year)
  • Improvements based on feedback around commenting, specifically within the AA area:
    • Scrolling back to the top of the reply thread in order to make a comment
    • The default size of the commenting window will increase
    • Adding links to comments 

We have a longer list which we are reviewing and prioritising but these are the key elements we feel need focus on at this stage, based on the feedback we’ve received so far, to create a better experience for users.

We’ve categorised all of the feedback into a series of themes. Each theme will have certain tasks associated with it, but we need to do some planning before deciding exactly what we do at certain points. These are the ‘soon’ tasks:

  • Commenting – Improving the user interface for commenting based on your feedback and analytical data
  • Visibility of content – making sure you can see the content you want to see easily
  • Posting content – The tasks associated with posting different types of content (comments, questions, answers and blogs)
  • Anonymity – Where and how we should enable this
  • Speed – We’ve still got a lot of areas we can improve here
  • Notifications – How you choose them, what they look like.

What can you do from here?

For various elements of the updates we’re going to invite real users to test the functionality we want to deploy. If you’d like to be a part of that process, please drop me a PM (or any of the editorial team).

You can post any further feedback below this thread, you can PM me directly, or you can email [email protected].

Thanks again for the feedback you’ve given us. It’s not easy to hear at times, but we genuinely do value and read all of it. And I hope this update demonstrates that it has a big influence on the decisions we take about the direction of the site.

Tags:

Replies (44)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

keep calm and have a cuppa
By tbk
06th May 2016 16:44

should this get a higher profile link on AA or something? And what's your definition of soon?

Thanks (1)
Replying to tbk:
Ben sitting at a We Work Anywhere office
By Ben Smith
06th May 2016 16:45

Thanks TBK. It will, we've plugged it in to the homepage, and we're about to add an AA post too.

Thanks (1)
By alan.rolfe
06th May 2016 16:51

Couple of minor (constructive!) points would be:
1. Change the colour of the highlighted text, as white writing on light grey is almost entirely invisible.
2. Change the "heart" icon for likes to something more appropriate to a professional accountancy site (more boring!).
3. Stop articles/threads scrolling down into the another article below.
Thanks.

Thanks (1)
Replying to alan.rolfe:
Ben sitting at a We Work Anywhere office
By Ben Smith
06th May 2016 16:53

Hi Alan,

Thanks for those. We had captured the need to look at the way scrolling currently works, but the highlight colour, and 'like' icons are new ones.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By pawncob
06th May 2016 16:55

I'll come back in July then!

Thanks (3)
Euan's picture
By Euan MacLennan
06th May 2016 17:07

Another couple of suggestions:
What about restoring the formatting facilities (bold, italic, underline, numbering, bullet points and particularly, insert link) when making comments?
What about restoring avatars to comments?

Thanks (3)
Replying to Euan MacLennan:
Ben sitting at a We Work Anywhere office
By Ben Smith
06th May 2016 17:16

Hi Euan,

We definitely have in-comment links on the list. I'll post another update next week which will include where your points about avatars and formatting figure in our plans.

Thanks for the comment though

Thanks (1)
Replying to Euan MacLennan:
By Democratus
06th May 2016 17:39

Spot on Claudia, couldn't agree more.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Euan MacLennan:
By ShirleyM
07th May 2016 07:30

We need avatars on comments/responses. Reason being, for example, we have two David Winches, one MLR, one marketing. The avatar made it easy to distinguish the poster, instead of having to remember the exact username format, or go off to look at the members profile.
We badly need to be able to 'edit' from the post, rather than the profile, and less boxes and graphics, and .... :(

Thanks (2)
Replying to ShirleyM:
avatar
By CMED
09th May 2016 15:41

Completely agree, Shirley, less is more.

As for the 'Hearts' for 'like' I agree with the poster above, that is inappropriate for a professional site.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By chatman
06th May 2016 17:17

Hi Ben - Does "Visibility of content" cover reducing the enormous font and image size?

Thanks (3)
Replying to chatman:
By petersaxton
09th May 2016 13:52

I think AccountingWeb see visibility addressed by making everything bigger. They don't understand the concept of being able to see more when text is smaller. They also think that you are more likely to look at a word if it is plonked on a big graphic. I wonder if people were complaining about the old cleaner website? Or is it just that they wanted to change things for the sake of it?
If they reduced the text and graphic sizes people would be able to read the website better. It may also mean that they keep more users.

Thanks (2)
By Tim Vane
06th May 2016 17:19

Smaller font. Less big. Reduced. Downsized. Scaled down. Diminished. Decreased. Shrunk. Basically less big.

Thanks (9)
By Democratus
06th May 2016 17:50

@ Ben
Thanks.
I know we may come across as a bunch of whinging freeloaders who get access to a great (ahem) website (cough!) with a fair proportion of learned and skilled practitioners of the craft but it's precisely because we like the whole idea of being able to ask a question or answer one or catch up on what's happening out there and all whilst having a cuppa and a biscuit that we are a bit narked at what has happened. I don't doubt the content will be as good as ever and in the future we will get used to the changes but we all looked a US Aweb and cried in horror when the change was first mentioned. To find that the meaningless pictures and strange clicable mind map thingies are here and that the look is indeed almost identical coupled with a decrease in actual usability was always going to attract a bit of aggro.

Still, i trust the changes will be adopted and we will finally settle down to our base level bickering and arguing.

Have a great weekend

D

Thanks (3)
By petersaxton
06th May 2016 18:04

So let me get this right. When we were told that you were going to change the site and it would look like the terrible US site and we criticised the idea you still went ahead and did it. You also thought up a lot more terrible ideas to make visiting the site a nightmare. Now, after ignoring our views you ask us for our views again. You will still come up with a load of rubbish so you might as well get on with it and suffer the consequences of a business that ignores its users.

Thanks (6)
Danny Kent
By Viciuno
06th May 2016 23:52

I would also like to see the posts in chronological order, it is very confusing reading a thread where the "timelines" of the peoples reply's are out of sinc to how they are shown...especially as as it stands the only threads I have seen with a large amount of comments are ones about the new website - When the most recent reply list is implemented and people start arguing it will only make things worse.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Viciuno:
avatar
By legerman
07th May 2016 11:23

I think the reason you believe the replies are not chronilogical is because when you "respond" to a post it puts it immediately under that reply. If you look closely you'll see a slight indent on my comment, this is because I have responded to your post. If you reply rather than respond it goes at the bottom of the other replies.

Ben, I think the indent should be clearer, it confused me at first.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Mouse house
07th May 2016 06:24

Can you please change the font to something sans serif, that would make it so much easier to read.

Thanks (2)
Morph
By kevinringer
07th May 2016 09:44

My AW priorities:
1. Font/size is so large my 23" monitor can only display 6 lines of the above article whereas the old site I could usually read the whole lot and some responces. Please reduce the size. Also, why a serif font? I much prefer san-serif. Get rid of the large banners and the huge photos at the top of some articles: it literally fills my entire browser window (I'm on maximum resolution). Why not give us the choice to set text size in our profile? I have viewed the site on a mobile device and I agree it looks great. But until today I've only ever viewed using my desktop. Have you surveyed users to find out numbers using mobile devices v desktops?
2. Don't have one article running into another because it makes a nightmare of navigation.
3. Why have the Reply box immediately after the article? This discourages users from reading the responces, partly because they may run onto the next article.
4. Why is the Reply box so small? I can only fit 5 lines of this massive sized text into it?
5. When using "quote" etc the article disappears - we need this on screen.
6. Get rid of all this white space either side of the window.
I have a suggestion that would greatly improve usability for desktop users:
A. Ability to select font/size.
B. Article on the left
C. Comments on the right - the right being capable of scrolling leaving the article on the left scrolling independently so that a short article stays on screen all the time and I can scroll through the responses.
D. Ability to sort responses most recent first or to pick up from the point I last read.
E. Response box (perhaps lower left quarter of the screen) stays visible permanently so that I can see the article and scroll through the responses when I'm preparing my response.
F. Return of avatars for responders.

Thanks (5)
Replying to kevinringer:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
08th May 2016 12:36

Thanks for your feedback, Kevin. We are collating all the suggestions and as Ben Smith explains in the original post, we are already considering which we can put into effect and which ones to prioritise:

On the point of text size and white space, you can control these from within your browser. If you reduce the width of your browser window, the excess white space will disappear. And if you press Ctrl+Minus key, it will reduce the type size (and Ctrl+Plus key will increase it).

Hope that helps.

Thanks (1)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
avatar
By chatman
08th May 2016 16:41

Hi John - Ctrl+ and Ctrl- do not resolve the problem. They just make everything bigger or smaller.

Thanks (1)
Replying to chatman:
avatar
By CMED
09th May 2016 15:55

Yes, I did the same, not wanting to be overly negative about the new site, but it doesn't work. (expletives deleted)

Thanks (3)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
Morph
By kevinringer
09th May 2016 08:57

John Stokdyk wrote:

Thanks for your feedback, Kevin. We are collating all the suggestions and as Ben Smith explains in the original post, we are already considering which we can put into effect and which ones to prioritise:

On the point of text size and white space, you can control these from within your browser. If you reduce the width of your browser window, the excess white space will disappear. And if you press Ctrl+Minus key, it will reduce the type size (and Ctrl+Plus key will increase it).

Hope that helps.

John, I've posted in another thread that it is possible to adjust the size of the text in the browser, but that affects all websites. Similarly, altering the window size affects all websites. It is impractical to adjust size for AW then revert to normal size for all other websites (apart from GOV.UK which is just as bad as new-AW). We need a more practical solution.
Thanks (3)
avatar
By legerman
07th May 2016 11:26

I agree with Kevin, the serif font looks awful when the rest of the site is sans-serif.

Thanks (1)
Anyone Without A Sense Of Humour Is At The Mercy Of Everyone Else
By WellHeeled
07th May 2016 20:14

I have tried and tried and tried.
Every time I try to read anything the website just jumps and I end up reading all the comments for the next question, or one after it.
It just doesn't work.
New visitors to the site wont be able to make sense of it.
Existing users and very importantly contributors that generate the content that makes this site worth reading, will they stick with this?

Thanks (2)
Replying to WellHeeled:
By Ruddles
07th May 2016 20:23

It would be presumptious of me to think that your last question is directed at me, but as far as I am concerned the answer is a big fat "no".

Thanks (3)
Replying to WellHeeled:
By petersaxton
08th May 2016 11:17

Of course they wont stick with it. It's too much trouble. I used to read a lot of the questions and comments and reply but it's just more hassle than it is worth. I'm turning off notifications and spending more time on useful work.

Thanks (4)
avatar
By chatman
08th May 2016 11:56

Hi Ben - Often in these situations reverting back to before the changes feels like admitting defeat, but I think AWeb would get a lot of respect if it accepted the comments being made and reverted to the old site.

Thanks (6)
Replying to chatman:
Fat Cat
By khonkaen
08th May 2016 14:15

I concur.
A few years ago the ACCA messed up their site but reacted to feedback and reverted the site whilst it was fixed properly.
I would say that they gained respect from their site users by showing that they were listening to feedback rather than such having an adverse effect upon them.
In the case of this site maybe it should be reverted back to what it was before but save on the expense of fixing it in the background as I have as yet read no comment from any net contributor to the site stating that they find it easy to work with this new format.
This site is only as good as the contributors to it. If the site loses them it has lost everything.
And just as an addendum to that, saying as the people here give their time for free for the selfless assistance of others do you not think that the site owes them the decency of respectfully listening when they are crying out that the site has got its "upgrade" very, very badly wrong.
As one final thought. The site changes seem geared towards mobile phone users. The question to ask yourselves though is how many of the long, well constructed answers that draw people to the site do you think are written on mobile phones?

Thanks (4)
avatar
By Cheshire
08th May 2016 15:16

I tried the control plus - now I feel like I am at the opticians having my eyes tested and not being able to get beyond the first few lines.....unless I do more scrolling and frankly Im getting RSI with doing that! I had no clue, other than the odd few comments, that there had been optimisation for phones, but when I use it on my phone and even worse on my ipad, it bounces round all over the place. I go to hit a respond button or some such and end up hitting something else by the time its bounced around a bit more. Never mind that if you are on a phone you have to scroll past adverts including a huge yellow one!

Also Ive noticed since you changed the anonymity bit back that peeps can now post anonymously, although if they then get a reply and do a further comment, their user name comes up. I think they should all be showing some kind of user name (but not the personal information which you so kindly got rid of, after releasing it without warning, the other day).

Please bring back discussion groups and a good (advanced) search option.

Lots more I could add but to be honest the regular contributors on here have said it all already. Ive already seen the number of technical responses to queries plummit over the last few days so I do hope that work to fix things will happen quickly.

Thanks (3)
bike
By FirstTab
08th May 2016 17:48

I mistakenly posted this on another blog. It is the tile layout that confused me.

Hi Ben, this tile layout, just does not work. I have tried and tried.

It seems like Sift wants me to click some links it wants to promote. Also "Tending" is distracting.

I understand it is the most up to date technology. This is not an issue. It is the design concept. It is not putting the users at the centre of everything. I think Sift has been very inward looking here.

So many people have given up their valuable time and skill to make this site a key resource for accountants. Why is Sift not listening to its key stakeholders about the need for the heart of the design needs changing?

I think part of the problem is Sift (AW) does not have any real competition in UK. This is the reason it can get away by forcing a design on its users. It is a dangerous road. There is a limit how much people will take.

John has already mentioned, the tile layout will stay. Over a period of time, I think it will be an embarrassing, back tracking by Sift. Money, as you know speaks louder than words or pleas.

I will be pleased to be part of user testing. My fear is Sift will be tinkering around the edges. The current tile layout will stay.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By paulwakefield1
09th May 2016 09:14

Maybe the text size is more of a problem on some browsers compered with others. The initial size was far too big but a couple of mouse clicks and it is fine for me - the same size as the old site I think. Hasn't affected other sites. This is using Firefox. Maybe other browsers are more problematical.

I don't get any jumping around either - is this caused by the speed it takes ads to load on a slower connection?

The speed - as promised - has improved.

Have to say I agree with the other poster - please change the heart icon, I'm not a teenage girl.

I find the tiles distracting as it takes time to focus in and find out what the message is so I just ignore them as an unfortunate waste of screen real estate (to use the US jargon).

Otherwise I am getting used to the new site although I can't honestly say that I find it an improvement - just different and still rather raw around the edges at the moment.

Thanks (1)
Replying to paulwakefield1:
avatar
By chatman
09th May 2016 09:56

paulwakefield1 wrote:
screen real estate (to use the US jargon)

Yes, it is mad isn't it? Why do we use a foreign language metaphor when a shorter, more accurate, more understandable native word is available?

Thanks (1)
Replying to chatman:
avatar
By paulwakefield1
09th May 2016 10:52

C'est la vie

Thanks (1)
avatar
By chatman
09th May 2016 09:57

When a new comment is made on this thread, I get an email with a link to the comment. When I click it, it does not take me to the comment, presumably because all of the comments after the first few are hidden!

Thanks (2)
Replying to chatman:
By petersaxton
09th May 2016 10:09

I think that says it all about the philosophy of AccountingWeb. Hide content and display big blobs!

Thanks (2)
Replying to chatman:
Ben sitting at a We Work Anywhere office
By Ben Smith
09th May 2016 15:00

Hi Chatman,

Thanks for the note. We're looking at a couple of areas around commenting, and notifications.

One of the fixes we're looking to put in place in the 'next' phase is linking directly to the point of comment from the notification email.

That won't probably be released this week, but it should be done within 3/4 weeks. (it may be sooner, but I don't want to over-promise)

Thanks (2)
avatar
By chatman
09th May 2016 10:19

I'm quite happy with the font type and size now.

Thanks (2)
Ben sitting at a We Work Anywhere office
By Ben Smith
09th May 2016 12:34

Hi again everyone,

We're going to post a new update at least once a week over the coming months. We're going to retain the now/next/soon format.

You'll know what we're actively looking to release on site within the week, what we're planning for the 2-4 weeks after that, and what we're investigating that will likely take a little longer.

I think the other message to bring out is that we're not at the end of this project. We'll be continuing to refine the different feedback into real onsite improvements.

I'll post the next update on Thursday or Friday this week.

As always, you can PM me with anything further you'd like us to know, and I'll also be at Accountex this week if you'd like to catch up in person.

Thanks (0)
Replying to bensmithsift:
avatar
By carnmores
09th May 2016 16:26

You've heard what we said its a pity you haven't got the message.

Thanks (2)
Morph
By kevinringer
09th May 2016 16:39

Since the launch of the new AW I have spent almost all my AW time on threads such as these re the new AW and hardly anything responding to normal questions re tax etc. Does AW have any stats on the level of questions and answers now compared to the old AW?

Thanks (2)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
09th May 2016 21:42

I haven't really been back to the site for a week, but whilst its its good to see you have a "to do" list I am still finding this very hard to use and will be keeping off for the time being. Do sort this out or you will be killing the site if senior members [***] off. No-one is here because it looks "pretty", our average age is not 25, its closer to 55. We come here to read about what going on and help each other, and in doing some click some advertising for you now and again. I must admit to being mystified how in software its OK to knock something together in a half arsed manner and treat this as "normal". I am bloody glad you guys are not building airplanes.

Thanks (4)
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
10th May 2016 00:45

Hi Ben - I might have missed it but are there any plans to do something about the sheer number and size of images, especially on the home page?

The previous version gave us some images but you hardly needed to do any scrolling to find and see the content of the key sections, whereas now my eyes have to try and ignore the images to pick out the test. The top of the home page is the worst, with no apparent order to the images but, looking at the "Essential Reading" section for example, there are three identical images across the screen with three different articles, why do we need any image and how does the one used indicate it's for Essential reading?

I know it may be boring, but in the same space, you could list say 15 essential reading articled, say 5 per category.

I found the balance of image space to text space about right under the previous version but now it just looks a mess and makes it far more difficult to scan the page for items of interest.

I really want to keep using the site as regularly as I used to but I'm running out of steam and may just "[***] off" till it's fixed.

Good luck

Thanks (3)
Morph
By kevinringer
10th May 2016 13:37

I tried to resume normal AW use but the first article I viewed https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/tax/business-tax/dividend-tax-is-incorpo... had a header photo that filled my browser. The text strained my eyes and I gave up. AW - please sort out the text size quickly. I've already started deleting emails before reading the articles!

Thanks (1)