Sometimes it takes a survey of a large group to get a good handle on what’s going on in your universe. WebCPA.com just completed its first “Getting to Know You” survey and the results were intriguing.

For someone who’s on the Web nearly eight hours per day, giving me perhaps a myopic view of how other people spend their workday, it was interesting to note that most of the more than 1,200 respondents spend very little time online each day. The largest percentage reported using the Web just 30 minutes to two hours daily.

Such information has great implications for all online news and information resources. It tells us that businesspeople are busy people who can’t afford to spend hours searching for relevant information on the Web. They need to find what they want when they want it and preferably in an easy-to-read format.

Our survey also probed what respondents felt were the shining qualities of the best Web sites out there. The themes that emerged weren’t surprising – they love sites that are easy to navigate, where relevant information can be quickly found, and they appreciate links to other sites to find more detailed text on the topic.

But it’s instructive, because many Web sites don’t offer these simple amenities that draw people back to their sites time and time again.

Following the theory that if someone has a good experience with a company, she’ll tell one person about it, but if she has a bad one – she’ll tell everyone who’ll listen, respondents saved their most passionate comments for what they dislike most about their experience on the Web.

Pop-up ads are worse than dinnertime telemarketers, according to our pool of tax and accounting professionals. More than 400 respondents cited these obtrusive attention-getters as seriously hurting their online experiences. Links that don’t work, and outdated information also got quite a few write-in votes. And difficulty with navigation, overly cluttered home pages, and too many pictures also frustrated our respondents.

They most interesting responses indicated what visitors wished – in a perfect world – they’d be able to find on the Web that they can’t find now. Quite a few folks wrote that they can’t really think of anything they can’t find online with some concerted effort, showing how far the Web has come as the world’s largest resource library thanks to the increasingly sophisticated search engines out there.

Others said they’d like the Web to offer them some useful business comparisons, such as what their competitors charge for services, or other benchmarking information. Government statistics and practice management tools were also cited, as was current information on useful technologies and free calculation tools to aid financial and tax planning work.

Despite the relatively small amount of time most respondents spend online, they seemed on the whole remarkably savvy about the digital world and how it fits into their business lives. As we digest the study’s findings, we’ll continue WebCPA’s evolution to make sure we’re responsive to our community’s needs and desires.

I subscribe to the theory that it takes a village to raise a child, and by extension, it takes a community of like-minded professionals to help build a great business Web site.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey and keep coming back – we appreciate, and need, your continuing input.

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