Best Practices For Invoice UX
So your product bills customers and produces invoices. Being self-employed, I have to go through my bank statements and send those invoices to my accountant. This is what I wish companies who produce invoices would do:
Invoices are PDFs. PDF files are easy to put into a directory to send to my accountant. PDF files can be styled to actually look like invoices. (HTML files inevitably look different depending on your zoom level, and so on.)
Invoice filenames contain the name of the service. It's convenient to save lots of invoices to one directory, to send to my accountant. If the file is simply called
invoice-1234.pdf, this makes sense from the perspective of the service, but it doesn't help me to find them once I've saved them.
Invoices filenames contain the invoice number. If I am processing multiple months at once, I still put all the files into one directory. If all the monthly invoices are called
yourcompany-invoice.pdfI will need to rename some of them.
Invoices are sent via email. The PDF is an attachment to the email. It's easier to search Gmail for the invoice, than it is to log onto your website, navigate your UX, etc. I might have to collect invoices from 20 different services, so a few minutes spent on each of them logging on, navigating their UX, adds up.
Invoice emails contain the monetary amount in the email body. Invoice numbers aren't always clealy visible on bank statements, hidden amongst bank transaction numbers, account numbers, and so on. The amount, however, is always clearly visible. If it's a service which charges a different amount each month then the amount can be a good identifier for the invoice (e.g. $89.12 AWS invoices). It's annoying to go through lots of emails from your service and open each attachment to find the amount. (Bonus: when you receive the email, the amount might be the only thing you want to check, and it doesn't require an extra click to open the attachment to check it.)
Invoices are also available online. Some users may not realize the invoice has been sent vie email (yes this happened to me, I had to email support to ask them where on their site I could download the invoices, after searching for ages, only for them to answer they'd already been sent via email, as per my previous rule.) Or the email might have got lost somehow. Or sent to the wrong person.
Invoices are easy to find online. If I am logging on to multiple websites at the end of the month, I don't want to spend 5 minutes understanding their confusing UX. A screen listing all invoices, with link to download each one as PDF, should be placed prominently under "My Orders" under "My Account" or similar.
When you bill me, indicate the invoice number in the transaction description. When I look at my bank statement or credit card statement, I want to see the invoice number, so I can quickly search for it in my email program. Otherwise, if I see just the company's name, I'll have to search for all their emails, then select the subset which are invoices, then select the one which is the invoice for this particular month. If it's a monthly bill the amounts are the same each month so this requires precision and is easy to get wrong.
The product name on the invoice should be understandable without a deep knowledge of the product. When I buy "premium web hosting" from a certain company (you know who you are!) they simply write an invoice with the product description being "Premium". You live and breathe your service, my accountant, however, has no idea what the product "Premium" is, and therefore has to call me. I'm not even sure that's legal in Austria to use such a generic description.
Email sender address shouldn't be a "noreply" address. If I have to question an invoice, it's safe to say I'm not a big fan of your company at that point in time. Don't make me hate you even more by having me search around to find how to contact you.
Invoices in Europe should be A4 not "US Letter" paper format. Otherwise our printers get confused. No doubt the reverse is also true, European companies shouldn't bill US users with A4 invoices.
Excellent additions from David:
Avoid huge graphics. Don't put any graphics into the PDFs that blow up the file size, there's no reason for me to wasted ~20MB for 12 invoices
Avoid custom fonts. Same goes for custom fonts (both get embedded into the PDF). And Custom fonts also sometimes break non-Adobe PDF viewers
Excellent additions from MartinS:
- Don't send an invoice for $0. AWS sends an invoice every month. Even if you haven't consumed any services. Even if you haven't even logged in for quite a while. I've lost access to a test AWS account I created years ago, I get an email invoice for $0 every month. Support couldn't help me regain access to the account. So I had to create an email rule to move those monthly emails to trash.
Excellent addition from a Facebook user:
- Invoice PDFs are portrait not landscape. Apparently the Azure cloud hoster sends multi-page invoices, they're A4 but they're landscape meaning they are many more pages than they need to be.
What do you think? If you're self-employed, what annoys you about the companies who invoice you? Feel free to leave your extra rules in the comments.