Philip Fierlinger - Head of Design and Co-founder, Xero

“Xero’s online accounting software started out a couple of years ago and I was one of the founding team. It’s an alternative to traditional accounting software but it takes advantage of being online so it’s always available anywhere anytime and you can collaborate so you can invite an accountant in. It’s all real-time data, especially bank feeds, so you are looking at your real-time bank data. You are also able to streamline a lot of things, make things a lot simpler – so in the process of adding those kinds of features or bringing those kinds of features to accounting, we also wanted to make sure it was a great experience and that it was a very web-like experience rather than just clunky old software. And it’s going gangbusters...

Certainly in the last five to 10 years, people have come to expect that the software they interact with is very web-like – so page metaphor to a certain extent. Although certainly now web design has inherited a lot of interaction and dynamic functionality from other media – more so from CD-ROM and interactive TV, Ajacs and sliding and slide shows, flash-based kind of UI paradigms. So the expectation is that there is a certain process, workflow, to interacting on the web and that it is available anywhere anytime on any computer and it’s all in the clouds, I don’t have to stress about it, it’s real-time, it’s another expectation... and we can collaborate and it’s also available on devices. There’s a sense of sharing and social connection. Social networking – all the rage. But in terms of business, the social value comes from other people helping you with the finances. It used to be with desktop software that only one person had access to it and they didn’t want anyone else touching it because they could screw things up. Part of the reason why people could screw things up so easily is because the software’s so badly designed that it’s so confusing and so you can really make a mistake very easily and it’s hard to back out of that mistake. We’ve tried to really push the boundaries of how design can make it a lot easier, more obvious to everyone. Not just an expert but also someone who has some fairly simple tasks that seem straightforward and they should be able to contribute to the finances as well. And so that’s happening. It’s really cool to see people sharing the load and distributing the work. The other major thing is being able to work in distributed teams. So people are working remotely, there are companies and teams spread across the globe and they can work together. Even your accountant can be in a different place and a different timezone – and this type of software is absolutely essential to be able to work like that. So especially for companies that are already in that space, this is really the only option for them and more and more companies obviously are doing that and more and more freelancers are working that way. It has been designed for the new way people work.”


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