Headstart: E-business – Buying software on the net.

Buying accounting software can be quite daunting, but as an accountant working for a small or medium-sized firm or business, it is important to get value for money. You need to get the latest technology for the best price possible.

But when your knowledge of information technology is limited, this can be quite a chore and salespeople may try to take advantage of your lack of expertise to sell you the most expensive product, which may not necessarily be what you need.

In such situations, perhaps your best bet would be to get informed first by shopping for accounting software online. Be warned though, aside from the obvious, most websites selling accounting software have lots of information and small writing, so your online shopping spree won’t be just a 10-minute surf.

The best site by far is Sage software’s (www.sage.com). The front page is not particularly useful and can be quite frustrating if you’re just looking to find out about the product and not the company. But if you click on the ‘uk-sage software’ link on the right-hand side under the ‘operations’ heading, you will find an excellent guide to Sage’s products.

By clicking on any of the headings underneath the main menu on the left-hand side, you get a brief description of the product and its uses, as well as a picture of the software package, and by clicking on ‘more info’ you see a more detailed description on another page.

Finally, Sage’s site has the advantage that it allows you to shop online and explains how to do it, so you can actually buy the product without leaving your seat.

The creators of this website obviously knew that most internet users like colourful pages with as little writing on them as possible. But the other accounting software sites did not obey this cardinal rule and have long, detailed product descriptions, which could take hours to plough through.

QSP’s website (www.qsp.co.uk) is clear and easy to navigate. Its home page is most helpful, as it is not covered with corporate public relations and you can click straight on the product type you want to find out about.

Unfortunately, it has long, detailed explanations of the products, though they are well laid out, and no pictures.

Unlike QSP, Access Accounts’ (www.access-accounts.com) and Systems Union’s (www.systemsunion.co.uk) websites are covered with company PR.

Exchequer’s website (www.exchequer.com) has the same problem and is difficult to navigate. It has quite impressive graphics, but it’s not very clear where to click if you want to find out about the products.

Navision’s website (www.navision.com) is clear and easy to navigate but its products are not at its forefront; you have to know to click on ‘solutions’ to get there. The writing is also exceptionally small but the reader is not overwhelmed by information.

Microsoft’s site (www.microsoft.com) is well designed but has too many products, which could make your search quite difficult.



Easy to navigate, easy to read, colourful and user-friendly once you get past the corporate home page. You can even shop online.



Clear and easy to navigate but it may take several clicks before you get to the product you need. Lengthy product descriptions, but well laid out.



Tiny print and it is not very clear where to click to find what you’re looking for unless you know ‘solution’ actually means ‘product’.



Impressive graphics but site is not very user-friendly. Not clear at all where to click if you want to find out about products.


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