When Xero was founded in 2006, we were entering a crowded field of competitors. We weren't even the first online accounting software—Intuit, our major competitor in the US, had an online version of their app available since 2000. In fact, at the time, doing accounting online was perceived as a major security risk—people didn't trust the technology. Somehow we had to give people such a compelling reason to switch their business over to an entirely new accounting system—a major business disruption.
A big breakthrough Xero introduced was a design led approach to product development.
Through user research we realized traditional accounting systems predominantly focus on filing taxes—keeping your records organized for legal purposes, rather than running your business for optimum cashflow. It's no wonder people hate accounting when the only "benefit" is paying taxes.
Xero put the focus on cashflow, so bank reconciliation became our "killer feature". It didn't require new technology, but it did require a completely new user experience—a better design for processing transactions. More than just quick and easy, I designed it to be magical and actually fun.
The work below was produced by an extremely talented team of designers. I oversaw all of these projects, but I'd like to acknowledge key members of the team who played an instrumental role in the work shown: Dave Keyes, Logan Wilmott, Ants Jackson, Brock Abernethy, Kathleen Urvalek, Pax Zwanikken, Andy Hovey, among many others who contributed.
Designing a game changer
This is one of the earliest design prototypes for Xero. It shows the concept behind bank reconciliation–where the software is able to automatically match transactions for you. All you need to do is click OK.
This concept was a game changer, it's the main reason people love Xero and it revolutionized the accounting industry.
* The inspiration for this concept came after playing a matching card game with my 3 year old.
Fast forward a few years and you can play the matching game on your phone.
What customers say
This is what people all over the world say about Xero, every day. It's genuinely game changing when people say these things about accounting software.
"I think I may love Xero a bit too much. It’s addictive. And fun. Which for an accounting system must be unusual!" @RachelProsser
"Wish I had more stuff to put into @Xero. It is actually fun doing the books." @kylierichardson
Pleasure doing business
This promo video shows what's so magical about Xero.
It shows how your business works better when your accounting software is connected with your bank, vendors, suppliers, staff, accountants, even other business systems.
Before Xero, businesses would get their bank statements in the mail at the end of the month. This meant their cashflow was always at least a month out of date. And then they had to do the data entry and matching by hand.
Xero connects directly with your bank, so the data arrives automatically every day. Xero also matches your transactions automatically. That way you can have a real time view of your cashflow every day.
Connect with your accountant
Xero is designed for collaboration. Business owners and their advisors work on the same financial information together in real time.
Accountants help their clients spot problems and opportunities while looking at the same numbers at the same time. Accountants can now do this on a large scale, handling more clients at long distances, much more efficiently and effectively.
This has radically changed the way accounting firms operate. It's less about crunching numbers and more about giving good business advice.
Connect with other apps
Xero is designed to integrate directly with hundreds of other business apps that provide specialized business functionality, such as: point-of-sale, CRM, ecommerce, timesheets and a wide range of other specialty software.
Pioneers of Rapid Prototyping
Designing apps is extremely complex: every screen represents a multitude of different interactions and different workflow combinations.
I invented a method of rapid prototyping called screenflows that simulates the complete user journey—a step-by-step visualization of everything a user would need to do in order to complete a set of tasks.
This method of prototyping makes it extremely easy for all stakeholders—from the CEO, to engineers, to QA testers—to understand precisely what needs to be built.
Since it's just a visual simulation, we can make major changes extremely quickly and cheaply.
Design Disruptors the movie
Xero was InVision's first enterprise customer. We helped InVision pioneer new features based on our needs and our prototyping method, which went on to become industry standards.
InVision featured Xero in their Design Disruptors film, as well as a Xero case study.
Beauty & brains
The Xero dashboard gives you a quick snapshot of your business cashflow—showing you all your bank balances, invoices, bills and expenses at-a-glance.
With Xero, you can send your customers online invoices. The advantages of an online invoice?
Customers can pay you instantly and directly online
You get notified when your customer has opened the invoice
Customers can leave questions and comments pertaining to that invoice—so everybody including your accountant can see what was disucssed
Your customers on Xero can import the invoice into their books with a single click
With the Sales dashboard it's easy to manage and predict your cashflow. With a timeline of your upcoming quotes and invoices you can see how much is coming in.
The Purchases dashboard works the same for managing and predicting outgoing payments, giving the complete picture of everything coming and going.
With Xero, small businesses have access to financial data and interconnected business systems that, until now, have been only available to Fortune 100 enterprise businesses.
But Xero is far better than any enterprise tool, because it’s designed to be amazing for small business.
Accounting firms can manage more than just their clients in Xero, they can also manage their staff. It's in everyone's best interest that the staff are up to speed with using Xero to it's fullest capability.
Xero is renowned for it's speedy, friendly and knowledgable support staff. But Xero is also renowned for facilitating the best relationship between you and your accountant.