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Improvement: Invoice Creation

News posted by Theolonious Brady 6 months ago

After much feedback, the invoice creation form has now been finalised.

The final version includes a dynamically resizing description text box.

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How to Revert Back

If you were on the older version, you will be able to provide feedback and switch back to the old version temporarily from the Preview module:

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Use the Preview or Stop Preview button to toggle it on or off

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For all announcements about new features, improvements and fixes, please see our news section on our community.

59 Replies

Deep breath support!

Hey Paul - I guess you remember the last update well :D

Some new information came to light on this, so the update is on hold :) To communicate to customers on older versions, we will be adding an in-app message (so many older versions :S ) and those customers will be able to try out the new version by enabling in Preview for a period of time. More detail to follow soon.

Hi John - Remember it? How will I (or you) ever forget it?

Thanks

Hi John. Just using the new form for the first time. A quick initial question: what's the purpose of the Refresh button?

The new layout is just a mess, there is a reason why every other accounting software has their layouts in a set way - because its easy to follow and use

I don't know who has approved this design but its way off the mark for us, how many people are actually using the preview section and commenting on these ideas?

sorry, love what you guys do most of the time but this isn't a step forward

Hi Simon - the refresh button allows you to refresh the form without losing any data (unlike if you were to refresh the page using your browser).

As an example, you could be midway through creating a new invoice and have forgotten to toggle on Discounts. In a new tab you could go to Toggle features in settings and enable this feature, then hit the Refresh button on the invoice form and the discount box should appear, most importantly keeping all the data you've entered so far.

Hi Tony, sorry to hear that - is there anything specific you really hate about the new item layout?

it just doesn't read well, most read from left to right - you'll have your description, select your account code, VAT rate and amounts etc - its easy to work along a line - as you do with the old layout

with this layout you have account code and amounts etc above the description so you are reading top to bottom AND left to right as well

this makes it harder to review and ensure that you have everything correct before hitting the save button

if you have a couple of lines that's maybe workable, but if you have 10 plus lines per invoice as many of our clients have, then this layout isn't going to be easy to use at all

I would like to stick with the old layout thanks. It worked well, especially for multiple lines per invoice of which I have many. Thanks.

Just to add my tuppence worth.

I agree with Tony there is no natural flow when creating an invoice plus the feel of the screen itself is amateurish, or like something from deskbound software 15 years ago.

Xero's screen is a perfect example of what Tony is talking about, you fill out one line left to right for practically everything, with it's description box expanding vertically to cater for the additional content, as would an Excel cell with word wrap. In CB the disjointed description box, created after only 4-5 words, looks bad and wastes space.

To put it simply, creating invoices in other systems I use is either a neutral or positive experience (in FreeAgent it's fun!) whereas in CB it's a chore.

If you have a lot of invoices to create, especially multi-lined, I'd recommend any of my clients to create them in Excel and import.

I agree with the comments above.

The description box on the invoice screen seems far too small when you first start entering text into it.

I know it expands as more words get added, but it’s really poor user interface design when boxes start moving around the screen as the user types in.

Could the description box just be put on the line underneath as 100% width?

Mike

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Agreed, new layout is clumsy, just done my first invoice on it, and did not enjoy it.

The previous update was worse, it brought a design language I like to call 'toytown' that seems so beloved of Apple (and recently eBay) whereby the aim seems to simplfy everything to the point that there is more blank screen than actual dynamic content or controls, and keep everyone in beginner mode at all times.

The worst part for me was the moving description box, in our industry this can be simple 'Bellbox' or complex 'Alarm Panel, 8 Zones with IP communicator but without charger' etc... etc... (as I'm sure it is for many) which means a screen with several variations looks jumbled up and is hard to read.

I appreciate this will not affect all of your customers, indeed many of my competitors just issue invoices that consist of one line, 'Work Carried re. CCTV out on 01/02/2015 - £687' with no detail or breakdown whatsoever.

But sorry, it's a resounding no from me!

Thanks, for the feedback! We will give all our users enough time to switch back if they prefer and the feedback we receive will be really helpful when we review and decide on how to proceed.

The description box on the new form sounds as if it could still do with a bit more thought from these comments. I suppose there is the potential of having two different styles of invoice creation as an option - nothing will be ruled out at the moment.

OK, something I forgot to mention - this is also a big headache - prefilled items not fitting in the box and appearing cut off...

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If I could add something else, is that really this has been a pretty needless change and has provided no benefit to users. it seems an attempt to solve a problem that doesn't really exist

the core software is great as it is and aside from minor fixes and tweaks, it doesn't need an overhaul, our clients like familiarity and everything being how it is, when they login and things have changed like this, many panic and then they run into problems, which isn't what anyone wants

We'd like to see development time spent on areas that our clients want and that are going to add value to the software - more integrations, a phone app etc, these are the area's where other software providers have an advantage over CB and for some potential users that's the deal breaker

Agreed with the above, I've been crying out for a very basic recurring 'Anniversary' marker on a customer, as a 'last ditch' attempt to remind us of annual services for customers especially for those having annual services on things other than intruder alarms (for which we have specialist, non accounting software), this would be useful for many other trades and services I'm sure.

Also a simple tool to stop / detect / undo suspected duplicates from Yodlee imports - this happened to us recently due to a failure somewhere where overlapping bank data was downloaded twice - and I spent a day going through everything manually voiding duplicate payments etc..., it was not fun!

I agree totally that the change was pointless. It wasn't broken and didn't need fixing whereas other layout issues could do with some attention i.e. invoice/quote/email templates, searches defaulting back to blank before you've finished doing what needs doing, explaining page not showing current item at the top of the page etc... etc...

Totally agree too with all of the above. I just don't get it! It was fine how it was. Now bland and boring. Totally pointless

Hi,

I certainly appreciate that developments are important and that making changes will not please everyone, the reason I need to change back to the old version is simply because the product descriptions are so compressed in the new form they are impossible to differentiate and hence use. (I think an earlier commentator mentioned this)

For future reference it might be easier to let people know there is a new version to try rather than implement it and force people to go back to an earlier version if they have problems. (Apologies if I missed the Memo) Its a time thing, I would try something new at the weekend or during a slow time, not try to figure out a new form on the fly..

Be a shame to fall into the development for development sake trap you guys are great at what you do, perhaps a little horizontal diversification rather than vertical integration ??

Just my two penneth.

Gerry

Please ignore my previous comments, my wife is happy with the changes made, so apparently I am too... now.

Gerry

PS I still think you should look at better website integration

@Gerry Skews: After a long and tough week, your last comment has bought a smile to my face and made my laugh! Thank you!

I'm glad she likes it :D - thanks to you and everyone for their feedback!

There are a lot of improvements to existing features, integrations and new features that we would like to add - we are going to start using in-app notifications to let all users know as I think it is the best method to alert users to something new.

Hi John - adding additional stuff, eg integrations (Please!) is one thing but I hope the plan is not to "improve" existing features then tell us about them.

CB has a long history of deciding on what changes are best for users only to discover that their users are the best judges of what's best for them.

Here we go again.

Many of your customers are yet again trying to explain to you about how horrible the bizarre design choices you push on customers are to use. Despite the pain of moving to a different system, these changes you're making are pushing me away as a customer and for the second time now I'm seriously looking to jump ship.

Quite frankly, it's a mess. Any new customer comparing this to other options would walk away at the first sight of it.

Hi,

All fields are two small and cant see what im typing making the whole experience time consuming. Why such a change when the previous was fine.

Hey Paul. We have, at a very top level, 2 streams of development. One stream works on customer fixes and small improvements (and other quick dev tasks), and the other stream works on larger projects like new features/products and integrations (currently the new Micro product and MTD preparation).

There are a lot of things for the management team to consider when deciding on the larger projects, however, for small improvements we will focus on the popular ideas that have been raised within the community (customer tickets or phone calls) that are within the scope of that stream. This is a very generalised overview but I hope it makes sense.

Michael and Kim - sorry to see you don't like the new design, have you both reverted back to the previous version? A lot of these changes were updated from previous customer suggestions on the last release, but we will be reviewing all feedback to know how to proceed.

Hi John. I will be reverting back but it will be the second time I've had to do that. I thought CB might have learnt from the last time this happened.

In all honesty, I don't know how this even got past testing. It's a mess and a horrible user experience. When we first joined CB we would recommend the product to other businesses and in the last year, we haven't because of things like this.

I don't want to come across as being horrible but it's frustrating. When you hear your business partner shout across the office "WTF have they done this time!" you know it's time to find a new supplier.

Agree 100% with Michael.

I wouldn't have signed up to this.

In fact, this is not what I signed up for.

At least give us the option to stick with the original layout, please?

I tried the new version for a day because I was told that, soon, I wouldn't have a choice. Reverted back rapidly.

  1. Too many boxes and square shapes for my old eyes

  2. VAT box and Account Code box surely shouldn't be the same size as the Description. So uneasy, again, on my poor old eyes.

  3. After entering all the info, I need to quickly scan across and check accuracy of Description/Qty/Unit price/Net//VAT/Gross. Account Code and VAT interfere boxes with this as they get in the way of the almost sub-conscious process. The second quick downward scan was to check the other details.

  4. The description box that drops underneath as it expands just seems like nonsense to me. It was perfectly in line with the rest of the information before so why would you think that this is better - to have it on a different line?

  5. My eyes were scanning all over the place, constantly up and down (not a pretty sight) whereas beforehand it was all a smooth left to right eye movement, followed by a top to bottom check. It was so smooth and easy.

I don't mean to be rude but this new version looks very amateur. It's so wrong and illogical on so many levels IMO. I am quite surprised that your developers think this is an improvement. I would, in fact, be interested in hearing their reasoning as to why they think that this is better. Apologies if it's already in a chat somewhere.

Gosh, I read all the comments above and thought "come now, it can't be so bad" ... but, alas, I'll have to join the club.

Here's a fun one for your developers - why doesn't someone run a query against the invoices table and group it by the length of the description, then compare that to the box and see what percentage are ever going to fit it in the "one line" mode..?

Thanks, Caroline - nothing has been decided yet on how we proceed - we are just reviewing all the feedback, so please do feel free to revert back.

Thanks, James - I will log this with our dev team too.

How do I add a new customer in the new invoice?

Hi Siobhan,

Below the customer field, you should be able to click Add to add a new customer, please see example below:

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Tommy

Agree with all the negative comments left. Just got back into the UK to find this MkII U.I. disaster. Please give us the option to keep the original version which works fine. Unfortunately I am now looking at a competitors system as an option. New is not always better.

There has been no consideration to the interface design. The user is faced with a bland page of boxes with no clear hierarchy.

Sorry ClearBooks but this is a pointless step backwards :-(

I hope this isn't a forerunner for a site re-skin!

Hi Ray,

You are able to revert back to the old invoice creation form by heading to Preview (top left) > Stop Preview.

And thank you Simon for the feedback, we are passing this onto our Product team who will be reviewing the changes.

Tommy

Of all the things Clearbooks could be doing to make the software better, they seem intent on faffing around with the css behind the invoice screen! This isn't the first time I recall seeing an all new invoice layout released to the world, only to be largely poo-pooed by the user base.

I tried the new layout.. the description box jumping to the line below if it's over a certain length. Some of our descriptions are very short. Others are very long. I have to concur with everything Stuart and Tony said above.

As has been said, dreadful layout plainly not tested before we got the chance to test it for CB. Why do they keep obsessing about changing the look of layouts rather than fixing issues that have been in CB for years and never fixed?

Because changing the looks makes people think "wow, they've been busy", whereas making a behind the scenes change to adjust one formula could take two days and never be noticed.

Hi both,

This latest version had been developed off the back of the previous release back in 2016 (from customer feedback) and has been in our Preview module to try out for some time (since early 2017). Part of the reason to update to all customer accounts was to consolidate the number of versions the majority of customers were on to 1 (to make it less confusing and less technical support overhead) - but we will be reviewing the feedback on this latest version, plus deciding the future of the multiple versions we have, very soon.

Are there any problems in particular that you need fixing (our turnaround for customer problems is usually around 2 days)?

You are very responsive to bugs, that is true. Trouble is, what you consider day to day operations, I consider holes of bug proportions.. like, not having a combo box on payslip generation to fast select a rate. Not being able to edit a payslip before it's processed without having to open it, copy the figures, and manually re-enter it (here, holiday is sometimes added after the payslip is created by a different person).

Taking away the ability to influence the road map wasn't cool.. as I'm convinced im not the only one with these gripes.

Yes you're right there are lot's of improvements to both Payroll and Accounts to improve the ease of use (we have plenty of requests to work through) - we are going to continue to try and update the system as much as possible and we will continue to announce on the community and within Clear Books itself when we release these improvements (the latest being the updates to the Aged reports).

https://secure.clearbooks.co.uk/community/news

As for the bigger projects on our roadmap - currently the team are working on our new product Micro and also preparing for MTD, however, the projects after that are yet to be decided by our management team. The roadmap will be strongly influenced by our popular customer requests.

Thank you for the worst change in the history of ClearBooks. I've been utterly hacked off for ages given that there's no 2-Factor authentication and no app for expenses. This just did it for me.

Now, on each transaction row, things like my account code, project, etc. are completely cut off and description field is tiny. Do you guys even use the interface? I can only presume not.

Ok a few points

1, this may have been in preview since early 2017 but most people here don’t want to test features on “software” they use day to day. They trust you as a service provider to do the right thing and create a product that works. Wether that’s under the hood or the gui.

2, a lot of people like myself saw the changes you made back then and switched back because of the poor design choices. I certainly hoped you would have spent the last year + going back to the drawing board to look at how this would work better.

3, I’m leaving. I’ve seen the phrase “we are passing your comments to ... team”and “this was designed based on customer feedback” far too many times.

I loved this service when we joined but not anymore.

@Michael Vermaak that's the position we find ourselves in now.

When I enquired about 2-Factor authentication (as an example) I got this response:

"No, we do not have 2-factor authentication. You simply need your registered email address and password to log into your Clear books account."

When I explained the fact they don't have it is not a positive, I got your response:

"Thank you for your request, I will add it in with our customer suggestions, for consideration."

I'd rather they plough their money into the development of useful tools and accompanying apps rather than UI changes that render the product less useful!

Sorry to hear that Michael, all very valid points and I would hate that this would be a reason for you to leave. Are there any other issues which are influencing this decision too or just the invoice create/edit page?

Yes, I have to agree with you Ian, MFA would be really beneficial. Our development team are currently focused on developing our new product Micro and the preparation for MTD. A mobile app (with expenses capabilities) is much requested and is much higher up the priority list - however, I will re-iterate the MFA request with our management team.

Thanks John. It's clear that ClearBooks' road map priorities don't really align with ours, but good to see that the App is at least a feature that is high up on the list priority list.

Hi John

I have to say that the response from management last year pushed me to start looking elsewhere and this situation illustrates that Clearbooks isn't as customer focused as I hoped it was. I think my decision is made I'm afraid.

I will say that back then and again with this recent "update" I've shown it to close friends who work in UI and UX design and they are baffled by it. I'd rather not be on the receiving end of someone's poor design choices.

Thanks.

No problem Ian!

--

I see fair enough Michael.

Quoting from Michael's post above:

"most people here don’t want to test features on “software” they use day to day. They trust you as a service provider to do the right thing and create a product that works."

I have complained many times to CB (and other developers) that users should not be treated as guinea pigs, however, unless developers are also users, how are they able to "do the right thing and create a product that works" unless they get feedback and requests from a significant cross section of users?

At times CB have been hopeless at getting ideas and proposed changes out to users for their feedback, with loads of unfulfilled promises of in-product messages and haphazard email notifications and so the "Preview" feature was a very good idea.

The first problem with this however is that, with little if any internal quality control, features can be put in Preview that are ill thought out and untested resulting in users being hacked off at being treated as guinea pigs and reverting to the old feature.

The second problem is it relies on users giving a damn and feeding back and so, in the absence of this, CB either assumes that everyone is happy or will follow the feedback of the 0.01% of the users who do give a damn, with the clear risk that their views are completely unrepresentative of the other 99.99%.

My own view is that, as with other developers, CB needs a mix of in-house expertise, QA testing, user groups and beta testing for any significant changes and, although I'll be retired when it hits the fan, I fear that, without this, much of the time and effort in the Micro/MTD products will have been wasted.

^^ This.. 100% this. I'd have no problem being in a beta group, and I am for several software products and mobile apps, but to take the Windows 8 approach of "We'll just release it, and wait for the fall-out" is one of the worst ways to win trust.

I'm tied to Clearbooks, as it's the platform our accountant uses. I'd rather use a different payroll app, as this is my biggest bone of contention, and I'd like an invoice (and payroll) import feature so we took the human-error steps out of our processes, but I know I'm living in hope.. But to change the ui on a critical screen and expect users to just go with it - no surprise there's a backlash! My biggest bugbear with the new layout is the narrative box.. it tries to be clever and resize - but it does this by jumping around the screen like it's on drugs as you try to fill it in.. Not cool! The old invoice layout works well and serves a purpose.

Also, we've recently gone from Chrome to firefox - it's fine on the desktop devices, but Clearbooks doesn't seem to adapt the layout to ff mobile.. I'll be logging this as a feature.

Hi Paul - have you spoken to your accountant about this?

Accountants are split into 3 camps, (1) firms that predominantly support only one accounting product, (2) multi-product firms and (3) head in the sand "desktop or nothing" firms.

The vast majority of single product firms are wedded to Xero, which is a safe bet, but I've only ever come across one wedded solely to CB and this only works as they do the majority of the data crunching giving the client limited access.

As far as payroll is concerned, many firms still prefer desktop or dedicated Cloud payroll apps.

At the end of the day, these are your books, not the accountant's and so you should either push them to fit in with what you want (or support your feedback to CB), bite your tongue and put up with it, or change accountant.

We definitely need to use the Preview feature more effectively, as you say, I think we need a core group of Clear Books users who would be willing sign-up and try out the new releases that we add there. We will be addressing this - the wheels are already in motion here.

As for the in-app messaging, we have started experimenting with this - we are using a third party app, however, there should be a notification for the new Aged report updates on targeted pages.

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Also Paul (Green that is) - I'm not sure I see you on the reverted list - have you gone back to the original version:

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whilst the preview feature could be useful, there needs to be a much better basis for implementation than this, as there clearly are not enough people using preview or not enough people using it with the correct knowledge to say whether the features are good or not and if they would really benefit your users en mass

in trying to be constructive (because I've always loved the software), we've always said there needs to be a much better use of the accounting partners and what they are requesting for their clients, we know what we want the software to do and what features are really going to benefit the clients we have using the software, to name a few:

  • a mobile app
  • a proper find and recode feature (like Xero's)
  • ability to pay down multiple invoices / suppliers in one go (like Quickfile)
  • more integrations - shopify, stripe etc

whilst I'm sure some of these features aren't easy to develop its whats needed, and whats been requested many times over an extended period of time.

needless changes like the invoice layout are only serving to upset users, as they are not the changes that they want to see and reinforce the fact that the development they do want to see is not happening

As previously stated, the core software is good as it is, don't change it (other than a few tweaks) its development to add real users benefits that users really want to see on the table

I'd also bear in mind that many users go straight to their accountant with the issues they have with the software, and not to clear books directly

Hi John - I haven't reverted.. I suffered it on this months invoice batch, and won't need to raise another invoice for another 3 weeks - my hopeful little mind tells me that you're going to take this constructive feedback and make something special come from it in this time.

Changes to the invoice create/edit menu

I know the changes to our invoice create/edit menu have not been popular with a number of our customers. As well as the feedback on the changes themselves, many of you are asking why we have made the change and why we don’t appear to have consulted with our customers.

First, it is hugely important to us that we deliver a product that addresses our customers’ needs and that we listen to your feedback. I know in the past we have not always done this and that this appears to be another example of that.

Why did we change our invoice create/edit menu in September 2018?

A few years ago we introduced a standard style to the whole Clear Books application. This was to make the UI consistent, and to increase the speed of the application. The unintended consequence of this new style was that using those ‘standard’ themes produced an invoice template that a number of you did not like, and some customers reverted to their previous version. Over the following years we tried to improve our new ‘standard’ theme in response to customer feedback. The consequence was that we were operating four versions of the same menu.

To reduce confusion and technical overhead, in September we moved all of our customers onto the latest compact version of the invoice create/edit menu which had been updated from customer feedback received from our previous release. We did this via our Preview feature. We also allowed customers to revert to the previous versions, and a small minority of our customers have done so.

How do we plan to deal with the customer feedback on the latest version of the invoice create/edit menu?

We gave all customers the opportunity to leave feedback on the new compact version. We will review this feedback at the end of October and decide which feedback to prioritise. We also plan to speak to some of you about your feedback. Currently, the common themes are the way in which the description box expands and the size of the Account, Project and Item boxes (if you have project/items toggled on). There is, however, a lot more excellent individual feedback to consider. At the same time we will also decide on the future of some of the previous versions of the invoice create/edit form.

Once we have completed this review we will update you on the proposed changes.

How are we going to improve our future communications and ensure we deliver user-focussed product development?

More generally, we realise that we need to better communicate with our customers and to consult more with you to better understand your needs. We are therefore creating a new process to ensure that we carry out that consultation and communication in an organised and effective manner.

We will let you know our plans for this process, but in the meantime, if you have any ideas (other than what you've already posted) about what you would like to see from it, please let us know.

Thank you

Ruth Fouracre, CEO

Hi Ruth,

It's good to know the reaction from the user community to the new Create Invoice page has been seen and acknowledged at all levels at ClearBooks, including yourself as CEO.

It's really interesting to read that there were several versions of the Create Invoice page in active use by different CB customers. As an IT pro, I fully understand that must have been a nightmare to both support and maintain. Not ideal at all. Attempting to consolidate the four different versions into a single page was certainly a good move and will - eventually/hopefully - free up support and maintenance time to work on other projects.

As you've written, there have been lots of comments about both the old and latest version of the Create Invoice page, and you mention pulling all this feedback together to review soon. I have to date persevered with the new format, and have to agree with the general themes of the auto-resizing and relocating Description field being very confusing, particularly when multiple line invoices don't have the Description field in a consistent location. Also, very narrow drop-down fields make it very difficult - and sometimes impossible - to know which drop-down option is selected.

I'm looking forward to seeing the future changes to the Create Invoice page - I was just on the cusp on reverting to the old version (whichever one I was using!) but will hold-off for now :-) - and also looking forward to seeing how future changes overall are planned, reviewed and assessed prior to general release. Thanks for your update: it seems like CB is heading in the right direction, albeit with some bumps along the way!

I don't know about four different versions of the "menu", but this is the 'create invoice' layout version we've seem to have had for as long as I can remember, and suits us fine.

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Despite being with CB for over 3 years, we've never signed up for an annual membership because of these types of shenanigans, as we think there will come a time when we suddenly will want to jump ship because of one of these stupid changes which are considered by CB as "cool" and "good design". We've had a few of these before. This is an essential tool for running a business, not an entry for an end of year student design competition.

Don't like it. There was nothing wrong with the original.

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