A simple task list doesn’t cut it when you’re working on a project with more than one person involved. Even when your project isn’t for work, a group project requires a different approach (and different tools) than one where you’re responsible for every single step. DeskAway offers an interface that can help you manage a number of projects — and offers a free version that you can use for up to three projects at a time with five team members. While there are more than a few project management web applications out there these days, very few offer a free version that you can use with more than one team member.
The Learning Curve
Whenever I take a look at any sort of approach to project management, one of my big concerns is the learning curve. Many of my non-work projects involve people who aren’t really technologically savvy. I want something with a simple interface: if it isn’t entirely intuitive, I want easy-to-find resources to figure out what step is next. Deskaway makes each step in the process of creating a new project simple. It also includes explanations right on the page, along with demo videos. You get the choice of of turning the helpful tips on and off — I was comfortable taking off the training wheels after a few minutes, but I can see how someone not used to web applications would need them longer.
One of the thoughts that kept popping into my head as I was adding information to Deskaway is that it would work well with committee-based projects. I’ve worked on a couple for volunteer organizations and it seems like this sort of interface would work for a group that wanted to share out tasks for its larger projects — like creating a newsletter or planning an event. The price tag makes it useful to nonprofits, and its interface certainly makes it useful for a wide variety of users.
There are certain features that are considered standard for any project management application. But DeskAway does have a few features that I think make this web application stand out. The import / export options go beyond what I expected. If you decide you want to move off of DeskAway at any time, you can request a full backup of all of your project data. DeskAway makes that information available to you as a .zip file you can download for use elsewhere. You can also import data from Basecamp, if you so desire.
The support offered for DeskAway’s users is also solid. In addition to email support, DeskAway also uses GetSatisfaction to provide help. Those tools, combined with DeskAway’s helpful instructions, make using the application simple. I also particularly like the wide variety of notification options that DeskAway offers users. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t necessarily like checking in on the website every day, you’ve got the tools you need to make sure that notifications wind up where you’ll actually see them — whether that’s in your email or in your RSS reader. All of DeskAway’s tools combine to make for an easy-to-use project management option.
Growing With DeskAway
One of the other benefits of DeskAway is that it’s scalable. You may start out with just three projects you want to organize today, but if you have ten more by the end of the year, it’s not really a problem. Sure, you’ll have to switch to a paying account — but the system itself works no matter how many projects you’re juggling. You can still see at a glance what needs to done. And you can keep an eye on just what your team members are up to, through a variety of email settings, RSS feeds and even a built in blog to share information. If you really do reach the 10 projects level any time soon, you may need to make some changes from the settings you use for three projects. While you might want an update every time someone makes even a small change to your project now, but that’s probably not the case when you’re juggling multiple projects — but DeskAway offers the flexibility to go either way.
You can also make DeskAway more a part of your company, a useful trick if you want to let clients or sub-contractors see progress on a shared project. You can upload your own logo and effectively brand DeskAway as part of your own organization or business — a technique that works for non-profits as well. When setting up your DeskAway account, you also get to establish a subdomain on DeskAway where you log in and work: it can easily be yourorganization.deskaway.com.
If you are growing, DeskAway’s project management tools offers an additional feature that can wind up being very important. Unlike many wikis or other tools you might consider for managing a project, DeskAway offers SSL security. While it isn’t a free feature, if you do wind up relying on DeskAway for your business needs, I think reliable security measures are bound to be a plus.
Trying Out DeskAway
If you’ve used DeskAway — or you try it out — please share your experiences in the comments. It’s free to sign up and takes maybe five minutes to actually get going on a project. Has it worked for you? Any features that would make it better? Any projects it works particularly well with? Let us know.