I’m Joe Wells and I’ll be presenting at this year’s QuickBooks Connect event.
I’m looking forward to meeting you all there to learn what we can do with QuickBooks Online to better support you. It’s exciting for me because one of the best things about working at Intuit is our unfiltered access to customers. We are a customer-driven company where engineers are encouraged to reach out and learn directly from the small businesses that our software serves. Except, in this case, you the developer are the customer of our platform, and I’m certain there’s a lot we can learn from you.
A little bit of background on myself: I wrote one of the first Intuit Partner Platform apps for QuickBooks Online and supported it in market for a couple of years as a way to better understand how it felt to develop for our platform. The “Intuit Small Business Scheduler” had over 10,000 trials during its Beta, and about 1,000 active companies. We closed it down after acquiring and migrating to Full Slate (another IPP scheduling app).
I learned a ton from that experience. Most notably, I learned that QuickBooks Online was a very difficult product to integrate with. So difficult, in fact, that 2-1/2 years ago I decided to join the QBO team to fix that.
My Scheduler app was a simple calendar app that would allow users to reconcile their appointments with their invoices. It would even record invoices directly into QBO from appointments. As I encouraged users to email me with any questions, I quickly came to realize that they were confused and apprehensive about how the app would actually work with their data.
The issue wasn’t with the API, or even the OAuth or onboarding. The issue was that users expected the invoice to be recorded in QuickBooks exactly as they wanted it. If they tracked invoices using Location, well, then they wanted a Location field. If they had multiple appointments to the same client, then they sometimes wanted multiple invoices, and sometimes they wanted one. And, they definitely wanted to attach documents to their invoices. All of this meant that in order to delight my users, I was basically going to need to re-implement QB Invoicing in my calendar app!
Then I had an idea: what if I pushed appointments as TimeActivities and allowed the user to finalize the invoice in QBO?
It was an immediate hit, and exactly how users wanted to integrate. It gave them the right balance of automation vs oversight of their books. There was only one problem: I found myself needing to hold regular webinars to teach users how TimeActivities worked in QuickBooks. Recorded TimeActivities in QBO were nearly buried in the program and it was very difficult, conceptually, to understand the relationship between time and the invoice (in the old QBO UI, the only way to know which TimeActivity was included in an invoice was to perform a Print Preview).
That’s when the big AHA moment came: I needed to go join QBO and fix the user experience to scale to platform concepts. That is, I needed a new QBO UI that created patterns for apps to integrate. Such as the MoneyBar that shows un-posted transactions and how to turn them into invoices. Or the Drawer that opens up over an invoice to allow a user to clearly understand elements that are suggested by QBO to be included in an invoice, but are not yet included. Even our navigation was designed to better integrate apps into the core QBO experience.
The inspiration for much of the new QBO UI was simply “How will this UI scale? How will it accept data recorded not by QBO, but by other apps? How, at some point, will apps extend the experience?”.
Which begs the question: If you could change the QBO user experience to better integrate your app, what would you do? What do you think we can do in QBO to make it easier for users to understand how your apps integrate?
I hope to see you all next month at QuickBooks Connect. I’ll be speaking at the Hackathon bright and early Monday morning, to talk with you about what’s new in the platform and to hear what you need from from the platform to be able to build the best customer experience for your apps.
See you soon at QuickBooks Connect!