From the October 2010 Issue
Those of us in the northern hemisphere are noticing some gradual changes in the sunrise and sunset times … and in where the shadows are beginning to shift. If you are not enjoying the changing of seasons, maybe you need to get out of your office more!
But before you head out the door … or maybe after you get back from enjoying some time outside … take a few minutes to evaluate your to-do list. You know, that list of prioritized items where certain entries may have been neglected or pushed to the bottom, not because they don’t need to be done but because the Important/Urgent items seem to land in your inbox daily, slowly easing other tasks down the list. Busy season is just around the corner and will start making its way to your doorstep at lightning speed once the holidays start. You want to make sure you invest some time now in those items that may have fallen into your Important/Not Urgent list. And one of the items that should be somewhere on that list is: “Update my website!”
Most likely, you’ve had some staff changes (adds, deletes, promotions), and maybe you’ve changed the focus of your practice. Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket, as the old saying goes; let the world know who you are, what you do, and why you are the best at it. This special feature highlights a number of offerings that specialize in helping tax and accounting professionals build and maintain a website. As noted throughout this issue, building your brand is essential to the success of your firm, and one of the first places your clients and potential clients will look is online. There is no better time to start building or re-evaluating your firm’s online presence, and these tools can help. We looked at several factors that you’ll want to consider as you determine the route to take for building or updating your website.
WEBSITE DESIGN & SYSTEM TOOLS
A hybrid approach to website development is to have design professionals create a site, and then make minor modifications yourself using and on-screen editor. Anyone familiar with document editing will find this to be fairly simple. Web page editors typically use templates that control the overall look and feel of all the pages, which is an important component to maintaining a consistent and professional look and feel. If opting for web hosting and customized design service, you will likely have a larger gallery of images and templates from which to choose. You’ll want to look at their reference sites to get a feel for what is available. Some design and hosting providers will handle all changes themselves, which may be the best option for those who don’t have experienced or dedicated staff for website design and maintenance. This level of service means you can communicate your updates and get back to what you do best.
With a few exceptions, the design and hosting providers covered here allow or require a unique domain name for your firm’s website, and can handle all the technical details of registering new domains or moving your site to their hosting service. You’ll also want to think about email options and support, particularly if your firm maintains its own email Exchange server and wants to continue down that path. For state-of-the-art web features, you may want to use Flash animations, so check to see if this is supported.
Websites for tax and accounting firms should have several goals. You want to make it easy for prospective clients to contact you. You want to define your image and brand, and invite inquiries for new engagements. You want to encourage visitors to come back for more and even bookmark your site because of the valuable resources you provide, such as financial calculators, guides, reference material, tracking tools, etc. Some firms will also want to provide online collaboration with current clients through portals, allowing for secure transfer and exchange of documents.