Xero Review 2017
A program that offers the versatility small businesses need; novice users and pros alike will be able to get a firm grip on their books with Xero.
By Ben Schmitt – Last Updated: 27 Jun'17
Here at Cloudwards we’re all about making people’s lives easier through cloud-based computing. Since small businesses are people, too, we’re doing a series on the best accounting software that will allow you all the benefits of being able to work from anywhere yet still have all the power traditional accounting programs offer. Today, we’re talking about Xero.
alternatives to Xero:
If you have even only a passing interest in doing your own accounting you’ll have heard of Xero. It’s a great all-round program that is fairly intuitive to use and because of this it appeals to a broad segment of do-it-yourself bookkeepers. Because, let’s be honest, doing your own books is enough as a chore as it is without adding the learning curve that comes with some of its alternatives.
Xero – moving up in the world
Xero (pronounce as ‘zero’) has taken great strides the last few years, taking up a decent amount of market share that used to belong to QuickBooks. A major advantage is that it’s completely browser-based so you won’t have to bother with downloads or anything: any device you have can run it. In this Xero review of 2017 we’re doing a dive into this accounting software.
If you’re a small-business owner we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Xero as it does everything it needs to do well, without too much hassle or too high a price tag. It’s especially good for people who don’t want to spend too much time doing their books each month or those who have no bookkeeping experience.
As with any other accounting software, Xero has some strengths and weaknesses that we’ll cover in this 2017 review. Hopefully, it’ll make your decision easier.
- Very little jargon, making it easy to learn
- New features being added all the time
- Intuitive user interface
- Full suite of accounting functions at a reasonable price
- Interface is a little confusing at times
- A constant work in progress, which can be frustrating
- Can slow down from time to time
First things first, how much is it going to set you back? Xero isn’t the cheapest accounting solution on the market right now, though it’s still pretty reasonable at $20 per month for the most basic package, which allows you to send a up to five invoices or quotes, enter a the same amount of bills and reconcile 20 bank transactions. Great for a business that only has a handful of clients.
$ 9 00monthly
$ 30 00monthly
$ 70 00monthly
- Send 5 invoices and quotes;
- Send invoices and quotes;
- Send invoices and quotes;
If you have more customers, this may not be enough and you can remove these limits by paying $30 per month, while $40 will also add multi-currency support. The upshot is that, unless your business is very small, most users can expect to be spending $30 a month. This is better than some more up-market programs though it is more than some of Xero’s main competitors.
In my opinion the $40 just to add multi-currency support seems a bit steep, especially as in our new global economy there’s a good chance you’ll have to use it. No matter what you choose to do, you do get to try Xero for 30 days for free, giving you plenty of time to decide whether it’s the app that you need.
Something you’ll notice quickly is that Xero is still a work in progress: features appear out of nowhere, it seems, and a glitch will be there one day and gone tomorrow. Just recently, for example, payroll was added for the state of Arizona, new bank feeds were introduced and fingerprint security was added to the mobile app.
I like that the program is constantly being expanded upon and that problems are being fixed quickly. The downside is that sometimes you get the same feeling you get when you see a building site across from your house. Yeah, it’s going to be great when it’s done, but you wouldn’t want to live in it right now.
Updates and new features bring bugs along, it’s inevitable. Sometimes Xero will just slow down for no reason, which Murphy’s Law is quick to point out will be exactly when you need it most.
Also adding on features makes the program less smooth than I’d like, I find that sometimes so many boxes and features need to load on every screen it slows down the entire experience. If you’re more patient than I am, very likely, this won’t be a problem for you, but it is something to keep in mind.
Updates usually take downtime to implement and Xero generally handles those well: downtime is usually only a few hours and they try to always do it on Sunday. You’ll get plenty of advance notice, too, my experience is usually about a week. The company certainly goes out of its way to make it as painless as possible.
Updates and pricing aside, what does Xero actually do and is it any good at doing it? Again, don’t expect too many bells and whistles as it is a program tailored for the less bookkeeping-savvy among us. It is a tool that helps you report what you need to your accountant, saving him time and thereby you money.
I have to say that Xero does well in all sections, let’s take a look.
One of the reasons I think Xero is popular is because it uses as little accounting jargon as it can get away with, ‘accounts receivable’ is ‘invoicing,’ ‘accounts payable’ is named ‘billing,’ etc. It kind of rips the veil away from the magic show of professional accountancy and makes it a lot more accessible to the layman.
The core of any business is the amount of money coming in, that’s obvious. Keeping all this revenue straight is one of the main reasons books need to be kept, not just to assure your own financial health but also so you can accurately report this information to the taxman. He requires his dues as well and I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world an audit isn’t dreaded.
Xero has something for everyone
I like Xero’s accounting system as it combines the industry’s best practices while offering a good bit of customization. For instance, if whatever you’re selling doesn’t have an assigned code you can create one, speeding up the process down the road. It makes keeping straight all your different services and goods pretty easy.
As you can see the interface is pretty no-nonsense and you should have no trouble getting the hang of creating invoices. Tax rates and currency are fully customizable as well and you can pick whether or not you want to include them.
There’s also a pretty easy-to-understand invoice overview that let’s you see what’s outstanding right now, with some handy tabs at the top for open, paid as well as pending invoices. I like this last feature as you get to basically draft an invoice without sending it, handy if you send out monthly invoices with lots of different articles.
Once created, Xero lets you send the invoice straight from the screen or lets users download a .pdf version you can email yourself. Xero will send you a reminder when a client is late in paying or, and I love this, will send an email automatically to the client. I like little hands-off touches like this and it seems to works very well.
Just as important as incoming money, but usually a lot less pleasant, are the bills you need to pay. Again Xero does a good job of this, letting you quickly enter the information and displaying a nice overview of what needs to be paid.
Bills are entered much the same way as invoices are, letting you create codes that will help you sort out what kind of expense it is and such. You can set a date, too, and Xero will remind you when you need to have paid so you can stay on top of that aspect of your business.
On entering a new item in a bill or invoice you’re given the option to not only decide how to classify it but also if it’s an inventory item that needs to be tracked. This can be handy for some: Xero’s inventory management system isn’t the most advanced but it’s adequate for small businesses and this way you only have to enter the information once. The rest has all been done for you.
In this brave new age of the Internet, online banking is as normal as breathing to most people: no longer do you have to wait for the bank to get around to sending you a statement each month, you can just log in and there is all you need to know about your account right before your eyes.
Like most modern accounting software, Xero lets you link your general ledger, the overview of your in-and outgoing money, directly to your bank account, importing all relevant information and matching it to your accounts receivable and payable.
In my opinion this is the biggest benefit of cloud-based accounting as it removes data entry and saves you time best spent on your business.
No more data entry
You can also set up your bank feeds in such a way that bills are entered automatically and that invoices can be paid electronically, straight into your account, avoiding checks and credit cards.
The problem with reviewing bank feeds is that not every program interacts as well with every bank, making it very difficult to clearly state if the feature works or not. The best thing you as a consumer can do is make sure that your program of choice plays well with your app of choice before making the purchase.
That being said, Xero does well with most U.S. banks, for example I was able to easily link my Bank of America account and a friend of mine, who banks with Wells Fargo, had the same. Due to stricter regulations in the European market there have been some reports of problems, though, so buyer beware seems to be the word of the day.
Though not everyone needs it when running their own business, it’s so easy to do payroll by yourself with a program like Xero that we feel the need to include it in this review. Payrolling companies charge a fortune sometimes and doing it through an accountant is even more expensive.
Payroll is on the dashboard, once clicked the system walks you through the steps necessary to set it up (it’s pretty easy) and you’re good to go. It’ll set up reminders for you to take care of it or will run the entire process automatically. As added bonus, it will take payroll entries and add them to your reports and general ledger automatically.
Please note that at time of writing payroll isn’t supported in all countries, so please check before you buy.
Thanks to Xero, you should now have a good overview of the financial aspect of your business. Your accountant, however, will need proper reports so he can finalize the books and send them off to the taxman.
Again, Xero covers this aspect well as all you need to do is, on the dashboard, click the ‘reports’ tab and you can choose one of several options, depending on what your hired professional requires.
These reports are perfectly adequate and will cover most needs, everything except the really advanced stuff. Then again, that is usually something an accountant will figure out for you anyway. Without too much trouble you should be able to find what you need for the day-to-day, as an overview is only a few clicks of a mouse away.
The only big thing missing right now, though Xero seems to be working on it, is a cashflow report. It’s not necessary for every business but I do feel that it should be standard in all accounting programs as it is a feature that is used quite often.
Setting up a Xero account is a piece of cake, it will take five minutes at most. Users are then presented by a dashboard that offers an overview of all the program’s functions outlined in clear tabs.
Using Xero would be a wonderful experience except that there are a few problems with the interface. Though at first I was quite happy with it, I quickly realized it’s almost impossible to navigate through menus without first going back to the dashboard, which can be a bit annoying when you just need to do a quick check of some data on another page.
Like many programs on the market Xero’s menus rely partially on using icons, which would be just fine if tooltips would pop up. They don’t. It can be pretty annoying, though this annoyance is lessened by the good tutorials and the friendly customer service when you do get into trouble.
As mentioned earlier, Xero can also be a bit slow: you have to switch between screens a lot and each page needs to load from scratch, causing a lot of delays.
Expect to click something, wait for the page to load (which can take a few seconds as I mentioned before), get to a menu or overview, click what you need, wait some more, etc. I find this very annoying, myself, but the ease of using Xero does make up for it.
Were it not for the interface Xero would a truly great piece of accounting software for people who want to do their own books without too much hassle or investing too much time.
Having said that, if you can put up with the slowdowns it may be the best program for those without specialist knowledge who want to keep track of their revenue and expenses.