Review Methodology for Accounting Software Services

At TechRepublic, we aim to bring our readers fair, unbiased reviews that help them make informed choices about which accounting software products to invest in. A crucial aspect of that goal is ensuring our readers know exactly how we evaluate brands, including the criteria we use to rate the software we review.

We use a proprietary in-house algorithm to calculate star ratings for reviewed accounting software brands. Below, we explain how our algorithm weights each of the five categories we prioritize when reviewing software. We also overview our primary research methods and explain which criteria we look at when calculating scores in each category.

SEE: What Is Accounting? Definition, Types, Importance and Examples (TechRepublic)

Pricing

Our algorithm weights pricing to 25% of our overall score. Criteria we use to calculate brands’ score in this category include the following:

  • Free trial availability, including the free trial’s length and whether credit card information is required upfront.
  • Transparent pricing information, including transparency about additional fees.
  • Highest and lowest listed price points and how they compare to the average market price.
  • Add-on fees for essential services, additional users, integrations and more.
  • Free accountant access.

Accounting and bookkeeping features

Our algorithm weights bookkeeping and accounting software features to 35% of our overall score. Criteria we use to calculate brands’ score in this category include the following:

  • Unlimited customizable invoicing.
  • Estimates and quotes (easily convertible to invoices).
  • Online payment acceptance with multi-currency support.
  • Receipt scanning.
  • Bank and credit card account syncing.
  • App-based mileage tracking.
  • Automatic bank reconciliation.
  • Automatic journal entry creation and chart of accounts access.
  • Income and expense tracking with automated expense categorization.
  • Cash flow management, budgeting and forecasting.
  • Inventory management.
  • 1099 contractor management.
  • Baseline accounting reports.
  • Sales and sales tax tracking.
  • Integration with essential third-party apps, especially payroll, time-tracking and spreadsheet apps.

Ease of use

We weight ease of use to 15% of our overall score. Criteria we use to calculate accounting brands’ score in this category include the following:

  • Ease of customizability.
  • Automation.
  • Customizable workflows.
  • Modern dashboard interface and mobile app design.
  • Intuitive UX.
  • Ease of mobile access.
  • Accessibility for non-accountant business owners.

Customer service

Our algorithm weights customer service to 15% of our overall score. Criteria we use to calculate top accounting software brands’ score in this category include the following:

  • Modes of customer support, including phone access, email-based service, chat accessibility and online forums.
  • Hours of live support.
  • Additional fees for top-tier customer service.
  • Personalized setup assistance.
  • Access to dedicated points of contact.
  • Average customer support response time.
  • Responsiveness to documented customer complaints.

Expert analysis

Our expert writers’ personal analysis of each brand constitutes the final 10% of each algorithm score. The most valuable element of this category is our writers’ ability to access the software and test it firsthand. If a firsthand trial isn’t available, we’ll attempt to schedule a demo call with the company where we can ask direct questions and see the software in action.

SEE: The Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses (TechRepublic)

If software isn’t available to test or demos are difficult to schedule, we reflect that in the review itself. We prioritize brands that are open and honest about their software’s capabilities and actively work to inform potential customers before pushing them toward a sale.

Along with our ability to contact the software company and test the software ourselves, we look at factors like the following to calculate the expert analysis score:

  • Any unique perks offered by the company compared to similar brands.
  • Any unique downsides reflected in the software.
  • Ease of access to accurate information about each brand’s products, features, pricing and plans.

Our accounting software research methods

As we said above, the top factor in scoring accounting software is whether we can test the software ourselves. When we can’t secure hands-on access to software, we contact brands to request demos. Along with first-hand testing experience, we rely on other sources of knowledge to bring our readers well-rounded reviews:

  • Information directly received from sales representatives.
  • Product specs and company information found directly on each brand’s website.
  • Verified user reviews from trustworthy third-party sources, which include (but aren’t limited to) the BBB, Google Play, Apple’s App Store, Consumer Affairs and Gartner Peer Insights.

Frequently asked questions

How do I evaluate accounting software?

To evaluate accounting software, we recommend reading comprehensive accounting software reviews on sites like TechRepublic. However, along with reading reviews, testing accounting software yourself is the best way to determine if a certain brand is the right fit for your company or not.

Whenever possible, we recommend taking advantage of free trials, but make sure you check out the terms and conditions before signing up: Some software companies require you to enter a credit card number and agree to automatic billing before giving you free trial access.

If a company doesn’t offer a free trial, it will usually give you the option to schedule a free demo. (This is particularly true for enterprise accounting software, which is often customized to each company’s needs and renders a free trial less useful.) You may also be able to download a temporary demo version of the software using a sample company so you can get to know the software’s interface and functionality.

While we also recommend looking into verified user reviews, it’s smart to take those reviews with a grain of salt. For the most part, customers only leave reviews when they’re extremely satisfied or extremely dissatisfied with a product, which can skew the online reviews.

If you have an accountant or bookkeeper, they can likely offer personal recommendations tailored directly to your business’s situation. Generally speaking, you can prioritize this face-to-face recommendation over online user reviews.

What factors should I consider when choosing accounting software?

When choosing accounting software for your business, consider criteria like your business’s budgetary constraints and feature requirements. You should also think about issues like scalability — do you want accounting software that can grow with you, or are you comfortable starting out with small-business-only accounting software and switching to another provider as your team grows?

Similarly, make sure the accounting software you choose integrates with any business apps you already use. If you can’t access a trial version of the software, don’t be afraid to ask the software sales rep direct questions before committing to a product: You should know exactly how the software works, what features it offers, how much you’ll pay month over month and what the interface looks like before signing up.

William Murphy

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