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REVIEW: Website Building Software

Web design and editing have always been a problematic software category. When the World Wide Web debuted in 1990, it was largely a text-only system of document sharing using the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).

 The problem was that creating a website in the early years required a knowledge of HTML programming and knowledge of designs and fonts. This put website development beyond the reach of small and medium-sized companies on the basis of cost alone. This led to a division of the software into two classes –a class of high-end software used by professional designers (e.g., Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expressions); and a class of simpler we publish tools for small and medium business.

These simpler programs offered simple publishing web solutions known as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) that created the HTML coding on the fly and enabled businesses of every size to develop their own websites. But even these programs suffered critical flaws:

Bad economics. The software was needed only once a year or so, which meant that the software companies could not make any a sufficient margin to fund continued development or even survive over the long term.
Bad designs. By eliminating the need for professional designers, websites were often relegated to low-level staffers or PC technicians. The resulting designs were so awful they became known as "ransom note" designs.
Business card designs. Without the knowledge or means to create complex and visually appealing sites, or the resources to keep the content on the site current enough to bring clients back on a regular basis. These sites, known as "business cards," offered little more than a home page and some contact information, accompanied by a stock photo that had virtually nothing to do with the business.

Fortunately, most of these software solutions died, so that we went almost a decade with few options for web design, as did the business of website hosting, which suffered similar requirements for expertise and profitability.

Some of these businesses, however, survived and evolved. They did so by bundling web design, web hosting, site security services, and content services ranging from news feeds and business advice to forms and changes in the law.

For the accounting industry, this evolution has brought a whole generation of rich and powerful web design systems that can offer design, hosting, security, and content services. These services are both economical and geared exclusively for the profession. Some of these are provided by tax and accounting software developers, while others are more generic solutions.

Even with this robust market, however, not every web design company will survive. Intuit has passed its web builder on to the back-end service it used, Homestead. The popular web designer Emochila was acquired by Thomson Reuters to become Web Builder CS.

The current field of web design services is very large, but the products presented for 2016 represent the strongest competitors serving the accounting and tax industries.


CCH Site Builder
Wolters Kluwer
Torrance, Calif.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(800) 739-9998, option 7
Price: Starting price is $785, and is tiered based on available options. Users can download a free 30-day trial. CCH Axcess Portal starts around $670 per year.

CCH Site Builder
CCH Site Builder is designed for accounting firms that wish to create or update their web presence in 15 minutes or less and the ability to change the look and content at any time, at no additional cost.

Key feature include ability for users to select  website design from an expansive collection of styles and colors, use pre-set professional Wolters Kluwer content, edit it, or replace it with their own. This includes more than 100 financial tools and several hundred news and advice articles.

Users can also customize their website or allow the Site Builder staff do it. The company will also host websites for free with a custom domain name of the user's choice. In addition, they can add custom pages, such as career opportunities, partner services or unique offerings.

CCH Site Builder provides includes 10 pre-populated content pages, with the ability to edit and customize content and add custom pages as needed. It does not, however, offer blog capabilities, though this is available through a third-party.

Client file sharing and storage are available through the built-in File Share module or via the CCH Axcess Portal, which also integrates with the CCH ProSystem fx Suite, including ProSystem fx Tax, Engagement and Document.


Louisville, Ky.
(502) 254-6182
(866) 452-9101
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Platinum subscription $150 per month; Gold, $85 per month; Silver, $50 per month; limited Bronze-level, $300 per year.

Founded in 1997, CPASites, created and operated by CPAs and accountants to provide website design and content for accounting firms, focuses on creating custom site designs that are not based on templates yet are economical for small firms.

The services are offered in four tiers, all of which include free custom web design and hosting. The tiers include the following benefits:

Platinum— Newsletter written by CPAs; Resource section with links, tax rates; Financial calculators; Search engine optimization; Secure client portal; and One hour each month for edits/updates
Gold—Newsletter written by CPAs; Resource section with links, tax rates; Financial calculators; Search engine optimization; Secure client portal.
Silver—Newsletter written by CPAs; Resource section with links, tax rates; Financial calculators; Search engine optimization.
Bronze—Includes one of options 1-4, above.

Aimed at CPA firms from one to 300 employees, its approach is unique in that the firms makes its money by providing fresh content on a timely manner rather than on the site designs and updates.


GetNetSet for Accountants
Hallowell, Maine
(877) 207-4646
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Representer version, $29 per month; Retainer version, $9 per month, Recruiter version, $99 per month. A 30-day free trial for all versions. Discounts available for members of the National Association of Tax Professionals and National Association of Enrolled Agents.

GetNetSet for Accountants
GetNetSet for accountants creates a template-based, but highly personalized website for accounting firms managed by a designated "Guardian Webmaster" to handle changes, updates and site maintenance. GNS also provides managed content services, such as RS news, industry news, forms and rate tables.

It is offered in three versions:
Representer—The Representer version provides basic web design and maintenance, but requires much more interaction by the firm. It is limited to a seven-page website, and lacks such essentials as a client portal, a credit card merchant account or client newsletter.

Retainer—The Retainer version,the most popular edition, offers firms an unlimited number of web pages; a secure client portal; online documents that can be filled in and signed electronically; and up to 10 email addresses in the firm's domain.

Recruiter—The Recruiter version offers all of the same features as the Retainer level, as well as increased website storage, conversion of an existing website, advanced SEO options, a newsletter and updated tax center information.

A full list of features may be found at https://getnetset.com/pricing. This is especially true of the Recruiter version, which provides an array of capabilities aimed at enhancing the firm through its online presence.


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

Website Relief
Website Relief, a cloud-based website builder designed for accounting firms, features a client, along with free domain name, free hosting, free email for the firm, and an extensive array of professional content.

A comprehensive Dashboard provides a convenient overview of statistics and information about your website, organized into panels of related information. Use the Dashboard to manage the content on the site, integrating SEO tools that include a Google Analytics account to monitor and analyze website traffic. In addition, Website Relief provides the ability to integrate a blog and unlimited client portals.

Website Relief is a template-based, web-designed service, with a series of custom pages based on the firm's profile including a Tax Center, Payroll Center, Tax Refund Pages, financial calculators and newsletters

Though the standard service is template-based, custom web designs are available for an additional fee.

Website Relief offers users unlimited system support at no additional cost, and also offers web-based seminars that offer assistance in learning about the product. Optimized for use with mobile devices as well as computers, Website Relief integrates smoothly with the applications of the AccountantsWorld software suite.


Web Builder CS
Thomson Reuters
Dexter, Mich.
(800) 968-8900
Price: $70 per month; with additional fees for customization and other services.

Web Builder CS
Web Builder CS is a template-based web design system with an option for a customized logo and site design for an additional fee. It also integrates with NetClient CS, a dashboard that provides access to other CS applications.

Especially notable are the substantial security features of the web hosting services that include lock and key supervision; 24-hour monitoring; lockdown security; hourly checking for temperature, humidity and optimal running conditions; mirrored server backup to a second location; and network and load balancing.

Other key features include editable design features that include templates for mobile-friendly pages; email hosting, with five accounts and 100MB storage for each; 24-hour support; integration with Google Analytics, social media buttons, blog capabilities, and SEO services; and firm contact and information tools with online forms. There are also client-retention tools that include BizActions and PDI Global newsletters, tax and estate planning guides, seminar programs, client alerts, website content, social media, and other marketing and client communications; secure client portals with 1GB storage per month; and client training on use of the site.

Content provided with the service include weekly newsletters, daily news briefs, access to Checkpoint, the of information of Forefield Knowledge Trust content and PPC Tax and Business Alerts financial guides, tax tools and tables, IRS forms and publications, tax rates and deadlines, and an accounting glossary of terms.

can be provided by the built-in File Share module

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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