Convenience stores and gas stations make up an enormous percentage of small consumer-facing businesses in the United States. While franchises benefit from the use of specialty accounting software, mom-and-pop stores rarely do any bookkeeping beyond a simple ledger or an Excel file. Hisably addresses that need by offering convenience store owners a comprehensive, easy-to-use accounting platform.
The Hisably story starts with the client behind its conception: a multiple-convenience store owner with 25 years of experience in the industry. Our client found that while POS systems are effective for managing inventory and sales, there is no web application available for handling accounting.
This isn’t a major problem for single stores, but once a store owner decides to expand, maintaining proper accounting practices becomes incredibly important. This is the problem that we designed Hisably to address. Using this web application, store owners can process income and expenses while reducing theft over multiple locations.
We start all of our projects with a discovery period. During this time, we relied on our client’s experience in the convenience store industry to determine the feature set we need to incorporate. This gave us an initial idea of what Hisably would need to do in order to fulfill its promise of being a complete accounting solution for convenience stores and gas stations.
With this initial idea in mind, we began a collaborative agile development process. Individual features, as requested by our client, were incorporated as modules throughout development. In the meantime, we expanded the user base to seven beta clients and combined their feedback to continue improving the Hisably platform.
This approach was necessary for Hisably since convenience stores, by their nature, are not uniform in stock or bookkeeping practice. In order to be useful for the majority of store owners, we needed to make the platform powerful and flexible at the same time.
Along the way, this approach led to incorporating a lottery ticket scanner and a payroll calculator with employee shift capabilities. These had to be included while live users were relying on the system for their bookkeeping, so we maintained a strict testing schedule for all feature implementations.
This project, although simple in concept, proved quite complex in execution. Combining a full set of features with an interface simple enough for mom-and-pop store owners to intuitively understand was one of the first challenges we had to address. This required designing the application’s front-end to make sense even for users who use computers infrequently or not at all.
During project discovery, we found that a complicated user interface was the main point turning convenience store owners away from QuickBooks. Thus, we knew from the beginning that Hisably would absolutely need a user-friendly interface and a powerful set of back-end features to support it.
Another key challenge was incorporating scanning functionality for lottery tickets. This is a huge time-saver when compared to counting the numbers and prices of tickets sold per day by hand. However, the State-run lottery uses an encrypted barcode that we couldn’t read initially, so we needed to find a pattern that made scanning possible without compromising ticket security.
While developing Hisably, we learned that the trade-off between flexibility in power doesn’t always require compromise. Handling that trade-off often requires putting in more man-hours then expected. This is especially true when new features are being requested daily on a platform already in use.
Additionally, we learned how much a flexible back-end can help when dealing with state-run enterprises like the Lottery. Every state has a different lottery system, which means that we will have to incorporate new logic to the system as Hisably expands to markets outside Massachusetts.
Most importantly, we found that user-friendly design takes priority over almost everything else when it comes to designing business management systems for specific industries. In most cases, users are not familiar with these types of systems and are easy to lose if a clear interface isn’t present.
Beta users are thrilled with Hisably, in particular the time-saving features for creating daily reports. Additional feature requests are coming in and we continue to cater to them while working on launch preparation for the final product.
Alongside the final version of Hisably, we’re developing a website, a multi-store subscription model with a free trial, and a comprehensive resource portal. By combining our easy-to-understand interface with simple user documentation and tutorial videos, we will be able to offer advanced functionality to users with even the most basic level of computer proficiency.