Firms web presence remains below par

Top 50 accountancy firm Mercer & Hole, has topped a comprehensive study into the quality of accountancy firms’ websites in the London area.

The survey, carried out by website design and consultancy company Intendance looked into the web presence of 100 accountancy firms. Of these 11 did not have a site at all and three were under construction.

Howard Wilkinson, senior partner at Mercer & Hole, said that website development was an important part of the firm’s rebranding exercise.

‘We wanted our new site to be a useful information source for potential clients and employees, who use the web when researching accountancy firms,’ he said.

‘It was vital that we provide up-to-date news, useful tools and guides for individuals and businesses. Feedback has been really positive.’

Last month, Intendence did a similar survey on London-based law firms and solicitors. And while James Tuke, founding partner at Intendance, said it was difficult to offer a direct comparison between the two surveys, he said that ‘the legal sector has slightly the march on the accountancy sector’.

He added that, in the early days of the internet, businesses would buy themselves a web presence to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ and that often little thought went into their development.

This inevitably led to problems and one of the firms, that displayed a ‘page under construction’ sign as the sum total of its web presence, told Tuke it had done so because the previous site was such an embarrassment it would rather be without.

Last year’s IT usage in accountancy practices survey, carried out by the ICAEW, revealed that just 39% of firms had their own presence.

While this has no doubt improved since the survey was published, Paul Booth of the ICAEW tax faculty said at the time that ‘some practices would lose out through not having that channel of marketing’.

But he was also quick to point out that accountants were not slow to adopt technology, rather more cautious over investments. ‘It’s intelligent investment rather than mindlessly following the latest fad. It’s weighing up the costs and benefits and seeing that you get a return,’ he said.

The websites were scored on three criteria – content, design, and usability – and the biggest weakness was found to be with content. For example, some of those surveyed fail to provide the most basic information about the firm, its people and services. Design, arguably the least important of the criteria, had the highest average score at 62% – illustrating a need for firms to rethink website priorities.

Mercer & Hole beat the likes of RSM Robson Rhodes, second; Baker Tilly, fifth; PKF, tenth and Grant Thornton, which came in thirteenth.

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