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New AccountingWEB and Web Design for Accountants

6th May 2016
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Congratulations to all at AccountingWEB on the launch of their latest iteration. This seems a perfect trigger for some musings on getting the most from your own web presence.

Since the new version of AccountingWEB only hit the world as this column was being penned, it is too early to offer either praise or criticism. In any event, on the one hand, a columnist should be wary of sounding sycophantic, while on the other it would be a mistake to bite the hand that feeds it.

At first glance, the main impression is of a move towards the fashionable desire to make websites user-friendly for those with touchscreens and smart phones. There seems every prospect that such subscribers will be delighted by the change.

Time will tell as to whether those Luddites who still view the web from the comfort of their desktop will be excited or dismayed as they try to come to terms with a new look to a familiar old friend.

Over a decade ago, this writer had the pleasure of heading up a team that masterminded the well-received relaunch of a website for a top 20 firm of accountants.

In many ways, this was always likely to be a win-win situation, for example removing the pages that featured pale blue writing on a black background and bringing in photos of a team of bean counters, who inevitably looked almost like fashion models (don’t they all).

However, controversy was never likely to be far away with a group of partners many of whom had strong views about what the firm’s Internet presence should convey.

For those of you following AccountingWEB, and almost everybody else at the moment, by giving your website a makeover, it is imperative to take time and trouble to conceptualise the new offering prior to taking the leap and giving a bunch of web designers vast amounts of money.

Initially, please bear in mind the fact that, whatever they might say to the contrary, web designers are by inclination interested in appearance rather than content. If you are happy to receive something that looks fantastic but says very little then you will get on with them like a house on fire.

However, accountants by nature tend to be interested in words, numbers and detail, none of which necessarily chime with those paid to create the front-end of websites.

Behind the scenes comes the usability and it is vital to ensure that those operating the system will not be scared off. Ideally, it is best to enable as many employees as possible to upload data, albeit with approvals, since the site will end up with more varied and voluminous material that way.

The current trend is to minimise the amount of content that is available. On the plus side, this reduces the number of clicks that visitors require to get to their destination. Against that, far too many accountants’ websites today contain almost no information beyond what little more than bland advertising.

Personally, I am a big fan of thought leadership and information dissemination. However, in order to do that you need good sources of news and comment, which can either come from professional writers or colleagues with a literary inclination.

Flashy toys that calculate tax rates are fun for a bit but you may well find that competitors do it better.

The other key is to find ways of attracting search engines but that is a whole very different ballgame which changes regularly and very few people seem to understand.

Ultimately, a website should be a reflection of a firm’s collective personality but ideally it should do so much more, drawing potential clients to the site and, having got them there, converting them into the kind of people that support your business in the long term.

One hopes that AccountingWEB has done exactly that and I am sure that every reader will wish them well in their sparkling new garb.

Replies (9)

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By petersaxton
06th May 2016 16:11

"Time will tell as to whether those Luddites who still view the web from the comfort of their desktop will be excited or dismayed as they try to come to terms with a new look to a familiar old friend."

I don't think you understand what a Luddite is. I have looked at AccountingWeb on my desktop and it looks terrible. I have looked at AccountingWeb on my phone and it looks terrible.

Thanks (11)
Replying to petersaxton:
By ShirleyM
07th May 2016 07:38

Agreed. The Luddites hated labour saving machinery. That isn't what we have here. AWeb have taken an efficient website and tuned it into a 'time-consuming, inefficient and impossible to find what you want', website, which would have been adored by Luddites. But it looks 'pretty'.

Thanks (7)
By cathygrimmer
06th May 2016 16:41

So - I'm a Luddite now because I tend to read AccountingWeb from my desk while sitting in front of my PC working rather than on my iPhone or iPad. Hmmm.

Thanks (9)
By Democratus
06th May 2016 17:56

It's always going to be substance over form for us isn't it?

"whatever they might say to the contrary, web designers are by inclination interested in appearance rather than content."

I hope that this isn't prophetic in the case for Aweb

Thanks (5)
By thegreatgrumbleduke
29th Sep 2016 17:24

Those who've decided to name call and stamp their feet, why not be a bit more constructive and say what you actually want from the site?

Accountingweb can start by putting the reply box at the bottom and putting the comments in proper order...

Thanks (4)
By ArsalanShah
08th May 2016 11:49

Its a good move but unfortunately I am finding it a bit difficult to look for information I need. Homepage is too much crowded with information I believe or may be its just me :(

Thanks (2)
By FirstTab
08th May 2016 15:06

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 (2)
Replying to FirstTab:
Fat Cat
By khonkaen
08th May 2016 18:50

FirstTab wrote:

The current tile layout will stay.

But will the contributors?
I think that the site may currently be enjoying higher visitor numbers and taking that as positive reinforcement. However the reality is that the site is now being ridiculed across several other sites and people are visiting out or morbid curiosity not so much to view the birth of a new format site but rather to witness the demise of a truly outstanding one that for years has been the site that others referenced.
That contributors who chain more than a tweet together in their replies are also being referred to as Ludites goes beyond belief.
Thanks (5)
Replying to khonkaen:
By petersaxton
08th May 2016 20:14

I agree totally. This site has been transformed from a site for accountants to a site championed as an example of bad design. So many regular contributors have left or limited their input that I think that if we return in a years time we will see the tumbleweed.

Thanks (5)