Why do all the backoffice web-apps suck?

Business,Products by on December 18, 2008 at 9:59 pm

As BrandVerity has grown, I’ve sought out web-based applications to run various aspects of the back-office. Without fail, I’ve been consistently disappointed with quality of these seemingly-mature applications.

I applaud the focus that many of these applications have taken. There are stand-alone applications that that handle invoicing, payroll, accounting (of-course), transaction processing, etc.

All of the web-apps appear on the surface to be inspired by web2.0. They have the right colors, fonts, ajaxy goodness, etc. However, they fail on either basic usability or on core functionality.

Here are a few highlights from my recent testing:

FreshBooks - Invoicing
A service complete with APIs for access that even snail-mails invoices… but doesn’t email invoices.

SurePayroll - Payroll
They handle state payments for Unemployment Insurance, but not Workers Comp deductions. Broken form fields that don’t accept the most basic of information (business identifier)

PayQuick - Payroll
Ajax forms won’t submit. Complete lack of guidance on what values fields expect ($ vs. %).

Oh, and PayQuick won the PC Magazine editor’s choice award with SurePayroll a ‘close runner up’.

Authorize.Net - Transaction processing
Took a week to get a ‘test account’. Menu system fails spectacularly in Firefox (menu items simply don’t appear, but you don’t know they are missing).

And then there’s the accounting packages. If you’ve ever dealt with QuickBooks online (IE only), I’m sure you wish for that time back as much as I do. It typically takes 3x the clicks than it should to accomplish anything.

Maybe the downturn has an upside? All the developers working on Facebook Apps and Social Networks just might end up working for these companies (or starting their competitors).


  1. AJ_Lawrence — December 28, 2008 @ 8:30 am

    "FreshBooks – but doesn’t email invoices."? Hmmm, I don't think you really used the service. It emails clients invoices with both attached pdfs and links back for the client to log-in to accept or question charges. I've used it for over two years now and it's a great service.

  2. Dave Naffziger — December 28, 2008 @ 8:51 am

    I don't count emailing a 'link to an invoice' as the same thing as
    emailing an invoice. I also don't count manually emailing a pdf the
    same thing as automatically emailing an invoice. Here was my exchange
    with a QuickBooks service rep over twitter:

    freshbooks @davenaff That's cool. Good to know more folks want that.
    Good thing about right now is you know for sure your clients have seen
    it! : )

    davenaff @freshbooks Simple. I want to automatically email an invoice.
    Not a link to an invoice. Just an invoice.

    freshbooks @davenaff – What do you mean by not emailing an invoice?
    How can I help you? Please let me know!

    I had an identical conversation with 2 other Freshbook service reps –
    one over chat and one over the phone (because I couldn't believe that
    it wasn't possible). Maybe I'm missing something?

  3. Vivek Sharma — January 5, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

    Hi Dave, check out Less Accounting (https://lessaccounting.com) from the folks at Less Everything. It may be another option for you.

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