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Intuit QuickBooks Online passes the wife test

Jun 28, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Intuit's QuickBooks Online Edition does the job

Last issue, I discussed a service offering that allows companies to implement a bug tracking system, help desk, or a time-tracking system through ASP hosting. Today I have another example: QuickBooks Online Edition from Intuit (see links below).

QuickBooks is the market leader in accounting software for small and midsize businesses and builds on the success of its original market-dominating product, Quicken. QuickBooks Online Edition essentially takes the interface from the PC-based product and emulates it through a Web browser.

And what a job. If there’s one thing that strikes you about QuickBooks OE, it is that it looks great and works smoothly and painlessly.

QuickBooks OE allows access by multiple simultaneous users from any Web browser. My wife needed an accounting system for billing professional services and signed up for QuickBooks OE because it was straightforward and, for her, cost effective.

What also impresses me about QuickBooks OE is that it’s well organized. Here we have a complex subject – accounting – with lots of options and processes and QuickBooks OE manages to organize all of the activities involved to make it as painless as accounting can be.

I know this for a fact because my wife is not interested in computers for anything other than the jobs she specifically needs them for and if a software package or service doesn’t make it painless she will not use it. QuickBooks OE passed the My Wife Test.

We can learn several things from QuickBooks OE: First, presentation is crucial – a good-looking, well-engineered interface will seduce even the most critical of users.

Second, if you provide a comprehensive feature set that covers all the functionality that could be needed and that is well organized within that presentation, you are better off than producing an easy-to-use but over-simplified solution.

Third, customizability is a key selling point. The fact that my wife could configure and personalize the service made QuickBooks OE particularly appealing.

Finally, the price has to be right. QuickBooks OE pricing starts at $19.95 per month for up to three users and a free accountant user. Options include the ability to process credit cards, manage payroll processing, create budgets, and pass along billable time and expenses to clients. The only features not yet available in the Online Edition are inventory, purchase orders, online banking and online bill payment.

If you are building a Web application to be delivered as an ASP-type service, you should take a serious look at the design of QuickBooks OE for one of the best examples I’ve seen.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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