The UX of HiTask

By | December 4, 2009

One day, I want to build the best Product/Project/Task/Bug/Community Management software ever. But for now, I have to live in the real world. At Marketo, we used TargetProcess for bugs and mild product management. We used Helpstream for community and case management. At Adchemy, we use Jira for bugs and VersionOne for product/project management. There alot of systems out there that do different parts of the spectrum.  Some better than others.  It’s a grab bag.

For my new design team, I wanted to have a simple system to keep track of what our deliverables were at a high level.  I didn’t want to spend an enormous amount of time micromanaging the design process.  I Googled “Free Task Management“.  Even though HiTask is not exactly free, it was the first organic match.

User Experience
Immediately, the website made me feel like I should try the software.  Big rounded corners, nice fade, colorful and friendly.  Much better than most other project management sites.  Not too many words.  They made excellent use of text blocking to help me read what it was about.  The tour was perfect.  Short videos that show how it’s used.  Every online solution should take a lesson from this tour.  It’s perfect.

So I signed up for the free version.  It’s pretty limited, but it at least gives you a live test drive.  Immediately, I thought the system was pretty easy to use and straight forward.  It didn’t have all the clutter of a more robust system, but my needs were light-weight.  Remember, I just wanted to keep track of the design teams deliverables.

Based on the initial experience,  I signed up for 3 months of the business version.  They have a very cute price calculator if you happen to go through it.  I have been using it for a few days now and it seems to be meeting my initial needs.  The UI is friendly and easy to learn.  Overall, I am happy.  But are there flaws?

The flaws
The biggest flaw is the lack of a rich text editor for the description of a task.  This is nearly free these days.  They use Dojo (yuck!); why don’t they just plugin the built in widget?  There is also a lack of ability to attach a file.  This means I can’t combine HiTask with Balsamiq.  This is a major flaw indeed.  If they gave me a rich text editor at least I could link to a mockup on the intranet.  No rich text, no attachments, major flaw.

The second flaw is the number of levels for organization.  They allow “projects” and “tasks” and that’s it.  It would be so much more powerful with just one more layer of organization.  Project, Folder, Task would be enough.  I understand why they kept it limited, but it still is a little painful to organize anything bigger than a breadbox.

Lastly, there are some other random design flaws.  The Save/Cancel buttons are not big and rounded as you would expect from this design aesthetic.  The collapsible regions on the right and left don’t animate closed, they just blink closed.  A short easing collapse would make a nice difference in the experience.  There is no threaded discussion on a task, so you are basically stuck with just the one text box.

As I look at, I notice also some other bizarre choices.  The color coding is nearly useless.  They have 6 colors you can use and see things by color code.  They also have the ability to tag items.  However, they have no way to see the tag view, like the color view.  The left-hand day planner is a little nuts too.  Are people really planning their daily calendar with this?  I don’t think it’s possible.  There is no recurrence.  I don’t think my wife could replace Google Calendar with this by a long stretch.  No prioritization.  No custom fields.  They have chat with your team, but who needs that?  I have instant messenger!

Great initial experience.  Great voice and approach.  At the end of the day, if you have very limited needs, this is great.  As soon as your needs grow, this tool just doesn’t have the functionality. My hope is that they keep pushing the envelope and add more functionality.

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