FreshBooks, which earned a spot on our Top 10 Small Business Financial Applications list last summer, has a new look and feel on the iPhone.
This month, the Toronto-based cloud-accounting software maker released an updated version of its iOS app that sports not only more visual polish, but also more intuitive and streamlined workflows that help small businesses log and track their financial activities faster. While FreshBooks performed the "lion's share of the heavy lifting" in terms of pushing out the new app, the mobile development pros at Apple lent a helping hand, according to FreshBook's Vice President of sales and business development, Mark Girvan.
As part of a major redesign of the FreshBooks Cloud Accounting app for iPhone (currently version 3.0.2), the company sent developers to Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus. Their goal: learn some of the ins and outs of developing productivity-enhancing mobile apps that are also eye-pleasing and engaging. "We had really great access to folks in the Apple labs, said Girvan.
As part of the collaboration, Apple shared its "best practices in terms of design," added Girvan. Using Apple industrial design concepts, the two teams together developed "standards that help drive a great user interface" and that reduce the number of steps it takes to get around the application and get things done, he added.
Reduced Steps to Faster Small Business Invoicing
Revamping the app involved "taking steps out of the flow," said Girvan. As a consequence, FreshBooks on the iPhone is "more discoverable on its own," making it a more welcome experience for first timers. One of the company's major design goals: create an app that helps small businesses hit the ground running on their own, "not one where you have to spend four hours training in an application."
Early results are encouraging, reported Girvan. "In testing with the user community, we're seeing significant improvements." For example, customers commonly experience a 3x to 4x improvement in the time it takes to create a new invoice.
And for small business owners, time is of the essence.
"With more and more small business owners working mobile, having a simple, intuitive and efficient app makes a world of difference," wrote Sally Abdelnai, product marketing manager at FreshBooks, in a company blog post announcing the launch of the new app. "After all, the quicker you do things, the quicker you can get paid and the more time you'll spend on what you love—running your business."
Simplified Invoicing: A Redesigned Home Screen
The new FreshBooks app experience on the iPhone starts with a new home screen that consolidates the app's functionality into a single view, eliminating the need dig through multiple screens to find a feature. Similarly, the addition of a "Create New…" button provides a single jumping-off point to get the ball rolling on new invoices or expenses.
Need a little extra push? FreshBooks sprinkled the home screen with some mood-boosting motivational phrases to spur small business owners on to greatness.
The invoicing screen now features new action buttons that provide one-tap access to common tasks. A new "View Contact" button lets you quickly call or email clients from within an invoice to settle questions or issues. You also have the option to send a "thank you" note to show your appreciation for timely payments.
Adding time-saving functionality and convenience features to the invoice screen makes sense for FreshBooks in light of the direction they see their customer base heading. Girvan said that of all invoices on the platform, "half are viewed monthly on mobile devices."
The updated app can also help small business owners keep a better eye on their expenses. FreshBooks makes it easier to account for taxes paid on an expense, and a new preview function lets small businesses ensure that their captured receipts are legible and in focus.
The new FreshBooks app for iPhone is available now at the Apple App Store as a free download.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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