At the recent Intuit VIP Accounting Summit in the US, I was introduced to the new user interface for the QuickBooks Online cloud accounting software and was instantly impressed. For so long one of my main reasons for not recommending QuickBooks Online was the user interface – it was cumbersome, inconsistent, disorganised and dated. Now that appears to be a thing of the past. Gone is the forever blue, gone is the imposing array of tabs across the top with intensive drop down menus, the inconsistencies between the different centres and the total lack of uniformity between data entry screens.
Code named Harmony (until it is fully released) this release is available only to new users; existing users will have to wait a couple of months before they can enjoy this revitalised and re-energised user interface. And note – if you log in as a new user you must use Google Chrome or Firefox as your browser, if you use Internet Explorer, you will get the old interface.
As soon as I returned to Australia, I set up a new QuickBooks Online account, entered some details about my business and learned that 500,081 businesses worldwide use QuickBooks Online, 2793 were in the accounting and bookkeeping businesses, but there were no businesses like mine nearby!
After that, my first view of the new QuickBooks Online was the Home page with its neatly laid out, multi coloured dashboard. Now it doesn’t have the customisable dashboard which is a great feature of the soon to be released Reckon One accounting software but it does clearly show the major health indicators of the business with links into the relevant data.
QuickBooks Online is much more of an industrial strength product than Xero for example. Its breadth of functionality is much greater which means that it can be suitable for a wider range of business models. However the conundrum then is, with so many functions, how can a novice user easily navigate to the right place without a bewildering array of options? In Harmony, Intuit have come up with a really neat solution, firstly there is a simple navigation bar on the left uncluttered by a host of options that allows you to directly access the major areas of the software and then at the top is the killer feature – a neat little plus sign that clearly lists all the transactions available to create (although interestingly, paying supplier bills wasn’t there). Just click on one of these and there you are.
These two navigation features are available throughout the software (apart from when you are entering a transaction) so it is usually just one or two clicks to get to where ever you need to go.
Another welcome feature in Harmony is that all the transaction entry screens from a supplier invoice to a customer payment are consistently and clearly laid out with a header, body and footer. A user no longer has to learn how to enter each type of transaction individually – a welcome relief.
An interesting user feature in this release is the panel of information that will deftly slide in from the right hand side of the screen to provide additional information relevant to the current task. For example, when paying a particular supplier, the panel will display other open bills that could be paid and you can just select Add to bring them in.
This new release concentrates mostly on the user interface not a new functionality but we do have some re-energised bank feeds. Disappointingly you can only assign Australian GST tax codes to payments out of the bank account. For customer receipts – it is necessary to have already entered the customer invoice and match the bank receipt to the invoice. But for items such as interest income and other miscellaneous deposits – the ability to allocate a tax code to the transaction is not available. I also didn’t seem to be able to record multiple dissections on the one bank payment line.
In Harmony the whole user interface is packed with a host of neat features that can make interacting with your accounts a real pleasure – even those people who hate accounts. I have only touched on some of the major features, there is much more to explore. A thumbs up to the designers at Intuit, it ticks all the boxes in that it is visually appealing, looks modern and uncluttered, is easy to navigate, has lots of pop ups with supplementary information and there is uniformity across all screens. I am pleased that Intuit has understood the importance of the user interface – it doesn’t impact the underlying functions, but if the software is difficult to use, it is difficult to sell. Although the code name Harmony will disappear, right now it aptly describes the release.