Case Study 4: QFinance

Arguably the most impressive of the four case study sites, QFINANCE is a one-stop guide for finance professionals, academics and students. It covers key aspects of finance including risk and cash-flow management, operations, macro issues, regulation, auditing and raising capital. QFINANCE.com provides free access to a breadth and depth of financial content.

QFinance website

QFinance's home page: other pages are stronger

Surprisingly, the QFINANCE home page is a relatively weak link across an astoundingly good website. The areas common to all pages (header, footer, column 1) are very strong. Column 2 on the home page looks as though it is looking for a role; it should surely include a description of the site and its key areas. Columns 2 and 3 are stronger away from the home page.

Table: the elements of the QFinance home page
 CommentElement on
1 Newsletter sign-up. All pages
2 Various: submit an article, register, log in, contact QFINANCE or find out about the site. All pages
3 Site search, with the ability to restrict the search to various aspects of the site (it would have been useful to have these explained). All pages
4 These can be regarded as "special" areas of site content; you won't find articles here. All pages
5 Main site content, grouped into categories as explained below. All pages
6 More "special" areas; the first allows users to vote for content, the second to search QFINANCE from an external site. All pages
7 The modern way of highlighting various aspects of site coverage, through a slideshow. Home page
8 Blog. Home page
9 "Financial Viewpoints": it is unclear what this is and why it's here. Home page
10 "Financial Best Practice articles": it is unclear what this is and why it's here Home page
11 "QFINANCE Essentials": this is not really explained; if these are essentials why don't they appear right at the top? On what basis have they been chosen? These areas could be tightened up to make the site offering clearer and a stronger home page. Home page
12 "Expert Financial Opinion": same point; is the rest of the site not expert financial opinion? What is this specifically? Home page
13 Ability to share pages through social networks. Home page and lower level content
14 Almost a "daily dose of QFINANCE" concept: most viewed articles, recommended articles and latest articles. All pages
15 Advertising. All pages
16 QFINANCE poll. Home page
17 Quotation (of the day?) A whole area of the site is devoted to financial quotations (under Financial Reference in column 1). Home page + next level down pages
18 Quick links. All pages
19 Social networking. All pages
20 Links to Bloomsbury and the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, who created the QFINANCE concept. All pages

QFinance layout and site structure

Layout and columns

Simple, but simply outstanding. This site employs a 3-column layout to best effect. The site structure is thoughtfully summarised in 9 areas within column 1. Column 3 usually contains:
  • Recently viewed items
  • Related, recent, recommended and latest links, shown in tab format to save space
  • Advertisements

Site structure

There are 23 areas are allocated to 9 groups. Each of the 23 areas is split further (see below).

Based on http://www.qfinance.com/capital-markets-best-practice this grouping might be:
  • best practice
  • checklists
  • calculations
  • finance library
  • key concepts
  • thinkers
  • viewpoints
  • white papers
  • etc

Other areas have fewer groups: the auditing section has just "best practice" and "checklists".

Site folder structure

The higher level groupings are "virtual" – there is no "landing" page for any of the 9 groups or 23 areas, just sub-pages. Thus there is no page http://www.qfinance.com/auditing – more impressively, that page jumps straight to http://www.qfinance.com/auditing-checklists

QFinance content

The 9 high level areas are linked to from column 1 of each page. They are also set out on the QFinance sitemap and summarised in the right hand pane.

This level of quality content would be impossible without mass collaboration; QFinance claims to be "a unique collaboration of more than 300 of the world’s leading practitioners and visionaries in finance and financial management." QFINANCE is also available in print format (which I can recommend) and as an e-book.

The QFINANCE home page signposts the scope and depth of the site's content, although the site's mission is not clearly stated. The UKAPW home page has a weak mission, little valuable content and no functionality corresponding to QFINANCE's column 1.

Articles can be viewed on a single page, in a pdf, or emailed to a friend. Very helpful.

QFINANCE content: nicely structured

The home page indicates that QFINANCE is structured as 23 areas spread over 9 groupings. This seems to be rigourously adhered to, leading to an overall coherence:


[3] Financial Regulation and Compliance

[4] Funding and Investment


[5] Governance and Ethics

[6] Mergers and Acquisitions


[8] Research Data



QFinance navigation

We now take a look at the various aspects of QFinance navigation, from the levels of the navigation system itself to the elements which support navigation e.g. the breadcrumb and the sitemap.

Table: QFinance navigation levels
LevelExample page on this levelBreadcrumb
1 Home Home
2 Auditing checklists Home > Auditing Checklists
3 Choosing an external auditor This is an example of an article supplied by a third party. Home > Auditing Checklists > Choosing an External Auditor

Breadcrumb and column 1 navigation working together

Using the numbering in the picture below:
  1. The breadcrumb shows the current page
  2. The high level area (Financial Regulation and Compliance) is highlighted orange
  3. The area at the level below this (Auditing) is highlighted via underlining
QFinance website

Sitemap comparison

It is clear that both UKAPW and QFINANCE have extensive content. However whereas the UKAPW sitemap has gone through trials and tribulations the QFINANCE sitemap is a model of simplicity and effectiveness:

  • The basic sitemap lists and links to the 23 areas mentioned above, plus a number of tools, blogs and "about this site"-type links. Very readable without getting distracted by lower level content and links.
  • Of the 23 areas, 18 have "View all articles" links, which open up mini-sitemaps.
  • Example: the balance sheets sitemap is itself is split into sub-areas

This is clearly an alternative to a huge sitemap, which lists each file. In conjunction with an effective site search facility this seems a good approach for a site with a huge amount of content – not least to save bandwidth and the delay entailed in loading a large sitemap. See Amazon's 20-million-URL Sitemap

Particular strengths of QFINANCE

We could do worse than to mirror the QFINANCE approach. Many of the lessons are similar to those listed at the end of the Society of Actuaries case study QFINANCE scores highly on:
  • Beautiful businesslike design: no "design for design's sake" here
  • The structure of its home page, pointing to the site structure and content
  • Good "call to attention" at top of home page
  • Adherence to the structure laid down in column 1
  • Great depth and quality of content, usually set out in column 2
  • Content is available in a range of formats
  • myQFINANCE gives the facility to save your favourite articles etc
  • A smart approach to column 3
  • The multiple sitemaps solution to a vast amount of content

Learning points for UKAPW

The learning points are largely the same as set out in the Society of Actuaries case study Rather than repeat the lessons here, I re-issue the challenge laid down on the myFIA home page: if we can't write a good website why should anyone believe we can make financial sense of the future?