Have you ever seen an ad or received a recommendation, only to be disappointed when you arrived at the website? The images are directly from Clip Art, the layout is confusing, and the branding has no personality.
An accounting website’s design is the ultimate representation of a company, and first impressions are everything. In fact, 38% of users will stop browsing if the website is poorly designed, and 80% of users will flee to the competition after less than three bad experiences, according to Fit Small Business.
With so much at stake, it’s important to take extra care when developing an online presence. Here are a few fundamental first steps you can take to launch an effective CPA firm website.
Start with a great host and builder for the best CPA firm website design
Website hosts are service companies that provide the infrastructure needed to publish websites on the internet. They allow you to rent digital storage space on their web servers for your firm’s website. Typically, web hosts also offer load speed upgrades and certain security services. A website host is like a house’s foundation—if it’s not solid, nothing built on top of it will matter.
The website host you choose also determines which website builder you can use to create your website. Be sure to factor in compatibility when making the decision on where to host. There are a few different types of hosting you can choose from:
- Shared hosting: This is an affordable option for local businesses. Your website will share space on a server with other websites instead of monopolizing an entire server for a single website. However, the website may also sacrifice some speed and SEO benefits by sharing the space and resources with others.
- Managed WordPress hosting: This option is only available if you choose to build using a WordPress builder. Many of the day-to-day maintenance tasks are completed by your host, including server management, updates, and security scans of your site.
- VPS hosting: VPS stands for “Virtual Private Server.” Although VPS hosting also involves shared space on a single server, it provides a bit more power than the shared hosting option. A single server is divided into several spaces, each with its own allocation of space and resources. VPS hosting also offers additional customization options and is a great alternative to shared hosting.
- Dedicated hosting: This is the most expensive option because your host will have dedicated space for your website that isn’t shared with anyone else. Dedicated hosting gives you the highest level of control, and it’s a great option for websites expecting high traffic. However, this is considered an advanced option that will require additional setup and maintenance.
All of these options can be used to create an effective CPA firm website design. Deciding which option is best for you will depend on your firm’s basic needs. The biggest consideration for your website host is speed. According to Fit Small Business, conversions drop 20% for every two seconds a page takes to load, so you should prioritize a web host with plenty of speed.
What builder is best for accounting firm website design?
In addition to finding a host, your website will also need a builder or Content Management System (CMS). A CPA website builder is the software you’ll use to manage the content and design of your website. Some website builders also function as a host, while others (e.g., WordPress) can be used in combination with different hosts.
Forbes recommends Squarespace, Wix, and others as the best website builders of 2023. Let’s look at some top options for building effective accounting website designs.
WordPress as a CPA website builder
WordPress is the most universal option for website building. It is a free open-source software that has so many plugins, pre-built customizations, and templates that you can accomplish just about anything. If your accounting firm is planning on expanding its services and relying on their website more in the future, this is a solution that can grow with your firm’s needs.
Using WordPress with a pre-built template can be a DIY-friendly option for your accounting firm’s website. This type of plug-and-play option only requires you to input your tax firm’s information.
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Squarespace with a CPA website template
Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder that has elegant solutions for your website design. It’s not as customizable as WordPress, but is user-friendly and can create a professional-looking website.
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Wix for CPA website solutions
Wix is the most user-friendly of the builder option, but has the most limited features. It is budget- and user-friendly like Squarespace and offers a similarly limited set of design options. In order to make a professional-looking website, you’ll need to do the legwork of setting up a custom domain.
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Should I build my own website or hire a web developer?
Even with user-friendly tools available, taking the DIY approach when building a website can be a tall task. Consider the complexity of your site. How much information should it contain? How often would you need to update it? Depending on your needs, it may be easier and more cost-effective to hire a web developer to create and maintain your firm’s site.
Create the best accounting firm website design for user experience
When designing for a great user experience, you need to think of the user first. These users are your firm’s potential and current clients. They should have an easy time navigating your website to find the information they need.
Google’s 2021 algorithm updates prioritized user experience, including fast page loads, mobile-friendliness, and visual stability. So if you want your website to be found and shared, you’ll need to focus on creating an excellent on-page experience.
Peter Morville, a prominent web designer, lists seven factors to consider when looking at user experience:
If these seven criteria are met by the design and content, then your webpage can deliver a meaningful and valuable user experience. Here are some additional tips to create the best user experience on your accounting firm’s website.
Principles of website design for accountants
Get inspired by great websites. Websites aren’t created in a void. Most website designers have a library of websites they are thinking of when they create a new website. They are inspired by features that work well, and they know to avoid what doesn’t. Look at your favorite accounting websites before plotting your own course to see what their solutions are. Reap the benefits of their hard work!
Mobile responsiveness is a must. Each page within your CPA firm’s website design should be optimized for viewing from a mobile device. The width of your website should adjust so that it displays full width on mobile, without users having to scroll from side to side. Most current templates will have features that allow you to adjust and optimize for mobile, but it’s a consideration that should not be overlooked.
Apply consistent branding to your website. Your website is a reflection of your company, so it should look consistent with the rest of your marketing materials, letterheads, and business cards. Pick 1–2 fonts, 1–3 brand colors, and apply them to your whole website. You shouldn’t shift between typographical styling or colors from page to page. Consistency is the easiest way to build trust with your website’s users.
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Give your content breathing space. The industry term for white space on a website page is “padding.” There should be padding in between each block on your website. It should never look overcrowded or compressed.
Don’t overwhelm users with too many CTAs. A call-to-action (CTA) is any time a user is directed to click, navigate to, or act on the page based on its design. A button is a common CTA to have on pages. Generally, fewer CTAs tend to support a more enjoyable user experience and deliver more clicks.
Make it easy to navigate. If your firm’s website only needs a handful of pages, then it may make sense to include them all in a navigation menu at the top of each page. If your website has more pages, then you may want to consider how to organize the material so that it’s easy to filter for users. Search bars can help with navigation. Archive pages can help users browse through blog posts and different libraries of content. The general rule for web developers is that pages should be accessible in three clicks or less from the homepage.
Boost local SEO with your CPA website content
Working on your local search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful way to increase traffic to your firm’s website. Local SEO differs from other types of SEO because it focuses on local search. For example, if someone searches “accountant near me,” local SEO would help your company appear within those search results.
The quickest way to boost your local SEO is to make sure that Google knows where your business is located. Your CPA firm’s website design should include the office address and phone number in the footer of every page.
Your firm should also have a Google “My Business” account setup with your mailing address and phone number. Your website should be linked to the listing to further your chances of Google sending you local web traffic.
All of these small changes will help your firm’s website appear in search results of prospective clients.
Keep your CPA firm website design up to date
A website owner’s work is never finished. Once you have a clean, professional-looking, easy-to-navigate website, the next step is maintenance.
Google prioritizes websites that are regularly updated, so it’s important to add new content to your firm’s website on a consistent basis. This could be blog posts, webinars, podcasts, or smaller edits like refreshing company group photos and executive team bios.
Facts, office hours, and important information should be audited at least once a quarter to ensure accuracy. You may also want to ask users who are new to your website to provide feedback, either through a contact form or through your client communications.
A/B testing for the best CPA website design
One way to continue keeping your CPA firm’s website design up to date is to optimize through A/B testing.
A/B testing is a method of comparing two different design options. The website designer will create two versions of a design, each with one slight difference. Incoming users will be automatically split between the “A Version” and the “B Version” of the website. Whichever is more successful is then applied to the website for all future visitors.
For the most conclusive A/B test, test only one variable at a time. This could be the color of a CTA, the wording of a heading, or the layout of the page. Once you have decided the winner of the A/B test, you can proceed with testing the next variable.
A/B testing is a practical, efficient way to get real-time feedback on your website’s design so that it can easily be applied to the rest of your webpages.
Excellent CPA firm website design starts with your clients
As you begin the process of creating an effective, user-friendly website, remember your clients and their needs. Each design decision should make your clients’ actions easier.
From hosting to website building to optimizing, your clients will appreciate the effort and you’ll see the impact that a user-friendly website can have on your firm’s success.