IRIS buys Accountant Websmiths

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IRIS Software Group has acquired accountancy website specialist Websmiths Group for an undisclosed sum.

Better known as Accountant Websmiths, the outfit will now become part of IRIS and rebranded as IRIS OpenWebsite to fit with the parent company’s growing portfolio of cloud-based services.

The current Websmiths offering can start as low as £55 a month for a tax “ezine”, with additional fees for websites ranging from £55 to £95 a month depending on whether they are based on existing templates or designed from scratch. At the moment, the same pricing levels have been maintained on the IRIS website.

According to IRIS CEO Phill Robinson, around half of Accountant Websmiths’ users were already IRIS customers and that the overlap created a...

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About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight

AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.


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By Flash Gordon
13th Feb 2013 18:21

Waiting for Iris to announce price increases

My heart sank when I heard this. I'm not an Iris customer and have no desire to be. I've got a Websmiths website and if Iris decide to go against Websmiths policy and hike the prices I'll be sourcing a web designer and going elsewhere.....

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13th Feb 2013 20:30

Price increase

I agree with Flash. I am a Digita customer with no intention of changing and have a nasty feeling that Iris as with other firms they have bought will mean a big increase in prices.

That asiide there may be additional features to the software so I will try to keep an open mind.

That aside, congratulations to Keith.


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to daymar
14th Feb 2013 10:47

Another concerned user

Essex FCCA wrote:

I agree with Flash. I am a Digita customer with no intention of changing and have a nasty feeling that Iris as with other firms they have bought will mean a big increase in prices.

That asiide there may be additional features to the software so I will try to keep an open mind.

That aside, congratulations to Keith.


My exact thoughts too.  Also Digita (& happy there) and worried where this may go.  Would be a shame if it changes, we often get complimented on our website.  Memories of Hartley being taken over by SAGE.


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13th Feb 2013 20:35

Iris are not daft Flash

Given that half of the current AW customers are currently not Iris users, there is a large pool of potential customers there for them (well one large pool less 1) and so I doubt they will do anything to antagonise.

It's also clearly not about Iris looking to get a cash cow to milk, as an Iris user this does make sense and closes a gap in what they can do for current users.

Obviously I've not got a crystal ball but I'd guess the prices charged will match the functionality that Iris can add, but you'll not be forced to take it if you don't want it.

As it happens, I'd never heard of AW, have you been pleased with your website?

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By Flash Gordon
14th Feb 2013 07:58

@ Paul

Yes I'm happy enough with my website - it gives me a website presence without me having any hassle, they give me a newsletter each month to send out, I've had compliments on how it looks....

The thing is I don't need any more functionality from it. If they say you can keep it exactly as it is with the same excellent customer service for the same price then fine. But if they say we're hiking the price because we're adding lots of sparkly features that you don't need then I'll not be happy. It's like offering me a Ferrari when all I want is a basic Fiesta.....

I'm always wary when big companies takeover smaller ones. It always seems like the customer gets screwed. And I've never been impressed with Iris. Everything they do is expensive. Look at PTP - it was fine till they took it over. Then it went rapidly downhill. (God. wish I hadn't remembered that!)

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14th Feb 2013 09:48

@ Flash

That's business I suppose, it's rare these days for an excellent business to avoid the approaches of another who wants to buy that excellence.  Many of us will be building our practices in the hope that someone will come along eventually and pay us a chunk of money to take it over.

Can't talk for PTP users I'm afraid, do you use it?  What happened when Iris took it on to damage it?

I've been with Iris since they were not a large company and, whilst they went through their ultra and unattractive "corporate" stage, in the larger group, their development since has been targetted not only in helping us do things better but in preparing us for the changes that are bound to happen (whether we see them coming or not). 

So, from my side of the fence, it makes sense for them to join forces with an excellent facility rather than spend years and resources attempting to do it themselves.  I would also hope that Keith and his colleagues did this for mone than just money, ie they saw it as bringing extra value to their existing customers?  You could ask him.

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16th Feb 2013 10:59

My heart also sank....

My heart also sank when I read this news - not for the reasons that Flash and Essex state - ie potential increase in cost but rather what the taking over of a small firm by as large a company as Iris will inevitably do - ie swallow it up so they lose their individuality.

In 2010 I met with Keith Samuels and his small group of enthusiastic and talented employees at their lovely converted barn premises near Milton Keynes. They were advertising for a Tax writer and I actually did do some work for them but in the end they decided to try to find someone who could work fulltime (I work for a number of publishers as well as running my own small accounting business so could not do full time). Even then Keith was thinking of reducing down his work load.

We kept in touch. The business was profitable and growing fast but by now Keith was thinking of retiring - ‘its only me that was planning on doing not a lot at present, although I’m sure Leo wouldn’t mind sitting on the beach in France!’ was a comment made (Leo is the website designer.)

So as Essex says ‘well done Keith’ and please remember to send us a post card email from France!




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to Maximus
14th Feb 2013 10:44


I remember Keith from his telemarketing days 13 years ago. This must be the third business Keith has built up and then sold. First an accountancy practice, then a telemarketing outfit, now the web business. A serial entrepreneur. The boy done well. Maybe he'll buy some good shirts now.

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By Nickob
14th Feb 2013 11:10

Does not bode well

As with other commentators, my heart sank at the news. As long-time users of PTP tax compliance software - and always highly delighted with it - we were appalled at the way Iris reduced the technical support team to a bunch of incompetents who had no knowledge of the software and therefore no idea how to address technical problems. We can only assume that, having paid a substantial sum to acquire the PTP software,  swingeing cuts in operating costs had to be made.

This forced us to move to BTC, and how glad we are that we did so!

We have been delighted with the Accountants Websmiths service since we started with it around a year ago, but if the service suffers a similar demise, or Iris hikes the price, we will have no hesitation in fleeing the nest!

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By RF1965
14th Feb 2013 11:12

Iris and Websmith Customer

I have to admit my heart sank as well, I have been customers of both companies for many years and have experienced both companies customer services.....  Iris isn't in Websmith's league, instead of endless phone loops and hold music to then find yourself being transferred, Websmith's answered the phone, gave clear concise instructions, undertook requested work and actually showed initiative without being asked.  Most work was turned around in under an hour!  I am afraid I am not holding my breath, having tried Openbooks it was found wanting, unsuitable and then I was told the "contract" had a minimum time and cost and my unhappy, frustrated client was "unfortunate". I won't mention when they bought Paymaster - I had that as well, now all anyone is interested in is selling us either payslips or training sessions.

I think I will stop there - I am getting more apprehensive as I recall the debacle.  I will try to be open minded........

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14th Feb 2013 11:19

I could not agree more with everybody's comments. Whenever IRIS takes a business over you can bet your life there is only one way the prices will go....UP! I have no intention of ever getting involved with IRIS again having just about found other software providers to replace the IRIS software I had been using. By the way some of the new software I am now using are just as good if not better than IRIS and a hell of a lot cheaper. 

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14th Feb 2013 15:57

Hi all,

I just wanted to reassure everyone that all of the specialist team that you have been dealing with at Accountant Websmiths (now part of Iris) remain unchanged and now work for IRIS (including Keith and I). All of the great support (thanks RF1965) and great looking websites (thanks KevinLyons) are here to stay. And plans are already underway to increase staff going forward.

@Flash Gordon, Essex FCCA, Nickob, @RF195, @KIKISROSSIDES, as far as I am aware (have been involved in the discussions with IRIS from the start), there are no current plans to increase prices. It is just business as usual.

If you have any other concerns, please feel free to email me [email protected] or give me a call on 0845 544 0181, I'll happily address your concerns.

Leo from Accountant Websmiths

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By Jimess
14th Feb 2013 16:17

Would have been nice to have had a Websmiths site.............

But not now ..... I have been sourcing a website supplier for several months now and had just about come to the decision to go with Accounting Websmiths, I had only ever heard very good recommendations and the template websites look very neat and professional.  I am really disappointed.  I moved away from Iris last year because of a very bad experience with extreme price hikes and poor support service.  I can only see this going the same way.  Like an earlier posting I have absolutely no intention of getting involved with Iris again unless there are some very radical changes to their pricing policies and support systems.  Back to the drawing board now but perhaps lucky for me that I put the decision off until after 31 Jan.


Has anyone had any experience of the Mercia websites? Or can you recommend any other website suppliers?  If so I would be interested to hear about them.

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14th Feb 2013 18:34

well if they havent learnt from the Freeeway debacle

they never will - that was an unmitigated disaster of the worst kind

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15th Feb 2013 13:13

A different approach

We are 2 former accountants who now design and build websites; some people might be interested to hear about what we do.  We offer a very personal service, build a website to your exact requirements and provide exceptional support and after-sales service.  All our websites include a dashboard which you can use to update your own site, and come with 2 hours free training on how to get the most from your website.  

You can see some examples of our work on:

or read some customer testimonials at:  

Our website is:

and you can contact us via the website contact form or call Mike or Penny on 01626 572572 for advice or a free quote.

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By Flash Gordon
17th Feb 2013 11:02

Call me cynical

But has anyone noticed that their website now says 'unbelievably low monthly fee' rather than what it used to say about it being a fixed fee that would never increase?! That didn't take them long did it.....  So sorry Leo but while you may think there are no plans to increase the fees I'd put money on it happening before the year is out.

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17th Feb 2013 12:36

You're cynical ;-) I'm still not sure about the PTP takeover, I've met happy users, but that was a competitor, FreeAgent and this facility are add-ons, not competitors, and certainly the price of the former has not changed in over 2 & a half years, since Iris started providing it.

So I still don't see it making sense in taking it over in order to rip people off, it's there to enhance what Iris and AW users currently enjoy.....but call me naive?

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By Flash Gordon
17th Feb 2013 13:32


Naive ;-)

Maybe Iris are working on the basis that they can put the fees up enough to make a tidy sum this year, and the same next year and thereafter and are relying on users considering it too much hassle to find someone else to set them up and maintain a new website?

The bigger the business, the less they care about the customer.

(Please God, don't let Moneysoft, VT or BTC ever sell out!)

Thanks (0)
18th Feb 2013 07:53

Promise not to increase prices

For existing Websmiths clients there was a promise that the prices would never go up. It would be interesting to know how we stand legally when Iris try to increase prices (which they will) 

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18th Feb 2013 13:49

Works for me Flash

Think you are forgetting the 50% or so of UK practices who are already Iris users and between them will have hundreds of different kinds of websites.

Again, as with OpenBooks, which has been a real turning point for me and several of my clients, the ability to have a seamless client connection within one system pays dividends and so, as the article says, having a website that will eventually bring all the Iris and firm's online facilities into one place is just commonsense. 

Yes, Iris is costly and their prices have increased above inflation each year but, I get value for money and software that is always ahead of the game as far as changing legislation and practice is concerned.  Obviously it won't suit everyone and many Iris users don't make the most of what they pay for but, when it comes to judging a company's products and services, don't knock it till you've tried it.

I feel the same way about Sage as you do about Iris but at least I used it for years before developing my distain.

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By Old Greying Accountant
22nd Feb 2013 19:07

Tend to agree ...

... with Paul.

I think the acquisition is to make it easier for accountants to integrate IRIS cloud products into their websites so client can log on easier, whether it be Open Books, Open Space or whatever.

They need to do this to keep up with the likes of Xero. If your clients can access all they need through your website it is much better tahn them having to logon individually through a raft of different webpages.

IRiS prices only rise moderately, and given the amount of investment they put in to ensure their software is hassle free they nee to.

The ability you have to file iXBRL accounts at Companies House is down to extensive investment by IRIS, the government weren't interested, but because they did everyone benefits - IRIS user or not.

For what a starter pack costs per client, the benefits are well worth it in my opinion.

If you just want a web presence without bells and whistles, I have found my 1 and 1 site ideal at very low cost, it has limitations but does me.

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03rd Mar 2013 08:03

@old greying

"The ability you have to file iXBRL accounts at Companies House is down to extensive investment by IRIS, the government weren't interested, but because they did everyone benefits - IRIS user or not."

Really !! I am intrigued. Our software was the first to file in XBRL to CH in 2005 and in iXBRL to HMRC in 2009 and to iXBRL to CH in 2010, coming up to 3 years ago.


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By Old Greying Accountant
03rd Mar 2013 10:35

Yawn ...

... not interested in willy waving contests between software houses!

If you read my post properly you would see I was was not referring to the ability to file from paid for software, but was talking about the ability to file for free using the CH template, which was down to software houses working with CH, there no doubt was significant input from other software providers, but my post was in the context of IRIS as that is what the OP is about.

I get sick of IRIS being slagged off by people whose experience with them is far from current and based on examples that are not that relevant. It is not constructive, yes SAGE has problems and limitations, as do Xero and Quickbooks, and I would highlight those specifically if relevant to a thread, but I don't jump up and down saying SAGE/Xero/Quickbooks is crap everytime their name is mentioned as others on here do with IRIS.

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03rd Mar 2013 10:32

@ old greying

I was not saying there was anything wrong with Iris software. I just was intrigued with the bit about iXBRL and CH and their contribution to the greater good !

I agree with the rest of what you said.

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