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REVIEW: Website Builder Software

As technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, it causes challenges for those of us who own our own firms. Every day there are more tools available to make us more productive and increase the ability for our clients to reach us whenever it is convenient for them. The reality is the amount of information and tools available is not only overwhelming but ultimately can decrease our productivity if we are not diligently focusing on what is important to our firm.

Is your firm actively trying to attract new business? Are you looking for ways to increase the number of services and the service level of your current clients? The web builders in this review are very powerful tools. They are no longer just way to have a static image on the Internet. The web builders in this review are not only websites but they can be practice management and marketing tools. You can use your website to attract new business and maintain an image that allows your current clients to want to continue to work with you.

Each product in this review is a top-notch web-building program which has unique advantages that can help provide your firm with practice management tools or marketing tools and all provide a wonderful way to communicate with your clients and prospects.

For me, being an accountant isn't about creating a financial statement and processing tax returns. It is about working with clients to help them build successful businesses. It means staying abreast on all the inputs that affect doing business. And in today's business world, one of the first things you do after you decide to start a business is to set up a website so that prospective clients know who you are.

What is the purpose of a website? Is it a marketing tool, a way to communicate with your clients, a way to sell products and/or collect fees for services provided? If you have the proper tools it can be all the above and more. In this review we are going to take a look at website building tools that accountants can use to ensure you are staying ahead of your clients. Not to mention, with the products that were reviewed, you can really put together a very good communication tool for you and your clients.

Here is a list of the Web Site Builder products that were reviewed:

*Website Relief, AccountantsWorld
*WebBuilder CS, Thomson Reuters
*ProSystem Fx Site Builder, CCH
*Intuit Websites

San Francisco, Calif.
(866) 340-5652
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: $75 per month.

The Company View
The product is marketed specifically for the accountant/CPA market. Emochila cites the access to graphic designers who can provide a professional website design that doesn't look like those of other accountants, as being among its strengths.

The company also provides a personal account manager for each customer who can act as a webmaster for the client, as well as making updates and changes at no additional cost. There are also practice management tools for sending out email blasts with the firm's logo, along with the ability to feed social networks, which Emochila also cites as strengths.

The Reviewer's View
Emochila is a very good website builder that will not only provide you with an image that will definitely meet your firms needs but it also is a very good marketing tool. As the main audience for the product is accountants and CPAs, the company provides a lot of content so you don't have to spend your time writing newsletters and preparing professional looking business generating client letters. Emochila does the work for you. You can customize provided letters for your needs in a matter of minutes. I also really liked the idea of having my own personal account manager that would the site for me.

As social media continues to be a powerful way to keep in contact with your clients, the ability to blog and have your information from your website feed your Facebook and Twitter sites is phenomenal. You will like you know what you are doing, even if you really don't.

The downside, for a lack of a better word, is that it is a standalone product. It is another site I have to go to use it. That does take extra time and thought. However with your own account manager, that may not be an issue. So, take a few minutes and go to www.cpahomepage.com and check out their free template design base options and see if this is the right product for your firm. You can also view www.cantutax.com, www.lmscpa.com and www.chridavidcpa.com to see some live examples of their product.

Website Relief
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
Price: $59 per month of $595 per year.

The Company View
The top three areas in which AccountantsWorld believes it has a competitive advantage are built-in content designed specifically for accounting firms and built-in content and tools for clients and website visitors (newsletters, daily news feeds, electronic broadcasts, financial and payroll calculators, tax center, full functional portal). There is also access to search engine marketing tools to grow and monitor the firm's web presence.

The Reviewer's View
Website Relief is a top-quality website builder. AccountantsWorld has done an excellent job of building a product that is not only simple to use but it has a lot of tools that truly help you build your practice.
Every time I look at what AccountantsWorld has done to improve its products I am more and more impressed. The company has now redone the templates and enable you to really fully customize your image. Resources such as documents and tutorials ensure you will know how to build a great website.
Since Website Relief is part of a suite this product also acts as another way to manage an entire practice. AccountantsWorld sees this product as a tip of the iceberg at which all of its other products interact to provide collaborate tools for firms and clients. There is a lot of good content for Accountants and CPAs and the ability to send out email blast about new tax law changes or new services you are going to provide or even community interest items is hugely powerful!

There is no downside to the product. It is fully customizable, has professional content, it works with the other products in the suite as a practice management tool, it allows you to easily connect to social media and it has great marketing tools. I would highly recommend you examine this product.

Web Builder CS
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
Price: $65 per month; $350 (start-up fee).Web Builder CS

The Company View
The product is marketed as an easy-to-use online tool that guides users through the website creation process step by step. Thomson cites the inclusion of information of Forefield Knowledge Trust content and PPC Tax and Business Alerts as among its strengths.

There is also integration into NetClient CS where a dashboard provides the ability to work with all CS applications. The site also provides access to Thomson Reuters training that can be branded for training provided to clients.

The Reviewer's View
Web Builder CS is another great product in the Thomson Reuters CS product line. Thomson sets itself apart from all other competitors in the way that this product is part of the full suite with one central location for manage all products from a website.

The availability of client training is also unique to Thomson. Their professionally designed training classes can be utilized for your clients and accessed directly from your website. It allows you to look very impressive to your client. Tools like this enable small accounting firms can compete with larger firms.

Furthermore, the content that is included allows small firms to look professional and compete with larger firms as well. PPC's Tax and Business alerts and the professionally worded standard content on the pages create an image of expertise and professionalism. To see a great example of what is possible with this product, go to http://www.gmccpa.com/, www.jonesmaddencouncil.com, or www.deanaccountingservices.com. downside of the product is there is no quick link to social media, and there are not many built-in marketing tools as provided by other products in this review. However, the company is working to remedy this so next year's review should be interesting.

Nonetheless, as with all Thomson products, this product is a top quality software. Even without using other CS products this product deserves a strong look before making your decision.

ProSystem fx® Site Builder
Riverwoods, Ill.
(888) PFX-9998
Price: $1,290 (first year); $995 (each succeeding year).

The Company View
CCH markets the product to increase collaboration with clients and enhance a firm's image as a tax authority. Advantages cited by the company include Search Engine Optimization tool that can increase website rankings. The company also notes content that can be added such as CCH Tax Alerts, Tax Guides, Financial Tools, and Premium Content. There is also a Business Owner's Toolkit designed to help small-business owner clients and would-be entrepreneurs start, run and grow their own small business. There is also a dedicated account manager.

The Reviewer's View
ProSystem fx Site Builder is a high-quality excellent product. This demonstration started off very well as the person doing the demo had taken my website and pulled it into the product and added other items to it. It was very impressive. The content on this product is outstanding. There are many tools within the content that you could use to add services. You can pull marketing campaigns from the content.

Furthermore, having the account manager help you by sharing items that were successful with other clients and help you with marketing ideas is priceless. Site Builder has many features that can make a small firm extremely competitive with the larger firms. The standard website is $1,290 for the first year and then $995 per year after that. The price is more than reasonable for the amount of productivity you gain and image you can present. For an example of what some of the sites look like go to www.dchcpas.com or www.dchcpas-custom.com.

The only downside I can see on this product is that there is not currently a quick and easy way to connect to social media. However, the other advantages outweigh that by a ton! It is a product that you will earn back every penny you spend. I would take a strong look at this product.

Intuit Websites
Menlo Park, Calif.
(800) 4Intuit
Price: $4.99, $23.99 or $49.99. Trial website, http://www.intuit.com/free-website-builder/.

The Company View
Intuit offers more than  2,000 fully functional website templates that already incorporate basic images and text appropriate for the type of business represented by that website design. The company believes its advantages includes the ease of establishing a web presence affordability and a support team of web advisors who ensure clients are getting the most out of the product.

The Reviewer's View
Intuit has taken its design templates to a new level. You can fully customize the templates so even though you may have a "canned" template, you can change it around to make it unique for your firm. The product has excellent marketing tools and can really help streamline the process of attracting new clients .

Intuit has expanded the ability to take payments from clients from Paypal to other options and can connect with all social media. By using their website you get signed up to more than 100 directories to allow prospective clients. to find you very easily.

The company provides service options priced at $4.99, $23.99 and $49.99 per month depending on your needs. It is a wonderful product. Here is the link to set up a free trial website. http://www.intuit.com/free-website-builder/. downside on this product is that unlike all the products in the review it is not geared specifically for Accountants. Therefore it lacks some of the strong tax and accounting content and tools that make the other products attractive. However, for those that don't need the customized wording and added content, this is a great product at a very inexpensive price point regardless of which package you choose. It is definitely a great product to suggest to clients who need a professional website and a very affordable cost.

Julie Lepper, EA

Julie S. Lepper, EA, MBA is the Principal of Julie S. Lepper, Accounting & Tax Service, LLC, a small local accounting firm in Pinckney, MI. She earned her Master's of Business from Eastern Michigan University and her Bachelor's of Accountancy from Walsh College in Michigan. Julie has over 16 years in consulting with client not only accounting and tax issues , but also on software and sales engagements. She specializes in focusing on start-up businesses and small to medium client needs.

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