A quick review of project management software mainly for marketing but also team productivity and communication

hqdefaultIn the last few years I have worked with many project, code and marketing platforms for teams and have yet to find the perfect app, so once again I have set-out to find something that will have solid adoption by creatives, management and marketing people. In my experaince if it’s not adopted 100% by the team it becomes useless and forcing mandatory use is never a great idea.

The adoption rate among users has everything to do with the UX, it should be intuitive within the first hour of use and the benefits should be obvious, the challenge is finding the right set of features.

For many years I did find an app setup that worked very well for technical teams using a mixture of Jira + HipChat + BeanStalk. But these type of revision/code/task platforms are really only good for technical teams, a.k.a programmers. The problem was that the marketing, project management, and creatives hated using Jira, it was overly complicated and the UI was confusing. The above mix is a solid setup and I continue to use Jira + Beanstalk for developers ( I have removed HipChat since I no longer work with remote developers), I needed something for everyone else.

Email feels like

Email feels like

I’n my search for the perfect tool I found there are a lot of apps which try to do to many things and suffer from not doing anything particularly well.  A lot of project management apps include CRM’s, Wiki’s, client invoicing, advanced time and gantt charts, none of which I’m particularly interested in.

The two main criteria I actually care about,

  1. Easy to communicate ideas and tasks at the project level
  2. Due dates

My more detailed prerequisites are fairly simple,

  1. A very clean easy to use UI that works on multiple devices
  2. Projects with can be broken down into tasks and prioritized (drag and drop)
  3. Tasks must allow for attaching files/documents with previews and even better… inline editing and approval. Tasks should not be rigid or complex.
  4. Easy to group people per project level
  5. Project notes and files, tag support and a good search.
  6. Activity stream

Things I consider clutter

  1. Gantt or any bird’s eye view time tracking charts.
  2. Kanban, Agile or any other “boards” , I manage marketers/ products,  not multi level applications. We don’t do “sprints”,  we work on campaigns, content, sales and graphics.
  3. Timers, invoicing, workload analytics or any other stuff that should be handled by an accountant/controller.
  4. Revision control or code integration.
  5. Rigid task management – I only care about due dates
  6. Multiple template choices, complex workflows or custom approval systems.

I logged into all of these services to test them out.

Apps which made the cut

  1. Asana.com – Simple, easy, fast.
  2. Teamwork.com – A little more complex than Asana but good overall structure
  3. Wrike.com – Same as Teamwork.com more or less
  4. Proofhub.com – Really great to have a built in proofing system, not as great as the others with project management,  but good enough.
  5. Azendoo.com – Simple nice UI that hits the mark, such as separate organizations, subjects, and tasks.
  6. Glip.com – Awesome interface, image annotation, nice management style. A +
  7. Getflow.com Clean UI with some cool features like segmented tasks, easy group task management.
  8. Trello.com – Great for almost anything,  yet not super well suited for multiple marketing teams or static tasks.

These did not make the cut

  1. Basecamp.com – Out dated by a decade, horrible interface
  2. Brightpod.com – Solid interface but totally stupid that you cannot attach files to task easily WTF. Kanban project board is useless for our needs.
  3. Do.com – Cool idea but geared towards meetings
  4. Qiup.com – Also good idea but document centric.
  5. Podio.com – Overly complex, Asana just does it better. Would be ok if you really care about task completion and segmenting workloads based on a layered hierarchy but …meh.
  6. Samepage.io – Cool but lacks actual project or subject management that can contain multiple tasks (or pages in their case).
  7. 5pmweb.com – Very outdated UI and workflow in terms of attaching assets to tasks within project (it is possible but no fast).
  8. Paymoapp.com – Client and invoice focused..nope.
  9. Slack.com – Chat app that wastes everyone time.
  10. Any service that did not have a demo easily ready and required a sales person to setup.. seriously fire your sales lead.

Finalists

The top finalists for me had the ability to attach files to tasks and annotate them within the task. SO much time is wasted via email with creatives when a simple annotation explains everything.

They also have very clean easy to use UI without clutter and got the basics of project management right.


# 1 Glip.com

Combines a killer interface and annotations

#2 Proofhub.com

Annotations and even a approval system (nice), with a decent project management UI.

#3 Azendoo.com

Killer management UI but no annotations for assets.

Honorable mention: Asana.com and Getflow.com

Post Mortem

After the above evaluation, we started to use Glip but ran into a few problems we did not expect in terms of the UI showing us what we wanted, we are now testing Proofhub and it’s working better, even though the task management UI is not as intuitive as the others mentioned above.

I will update this post in a month to see which app actually worked. To give some context to exactly what I am managing it is the following: Brand and marketing oversight with approximately 20 social media accounts, 4 marketing managers, 2-3 freelance artists, 1 freelance programmer, 1-2 assistant marketers, 1 design agency, 4 ad agencies, and too many partners and assets to mention.

I am in no way affiliated or making an referral money off this, I just hope is saves someone time.

 

 

Using WordPress meta field values for dynamic Gravity Form emails

Ever use Gravity Forms and want to easily add a form that takes an email value from the post? For example maybe you have store profile posts and each post has a contact form in the sidebar, but you want the email sent to each individual  person/store/whatever. Well there is a really simple way to do that.

function your_custom_notification_signature( $notification, $form) {

   //This example is using a form with the id of 1
    if($form["id"] == 1){
        global $post;

        //the example email is stored in a post meta field called "_cmb_email"
        $store_email = get_post_meta( $post->ID , '_cmb_email', true );
        $notification['to'] = $store_email;

       return $notification;
    }
}

add_filter('gform_notification', 'your_custom_notification_signature', 10, 3);

You can change a lot more than that as well, have a look at:

How to remove error notices using WordPress’s WP_DEBUG

A neat trick I learned today to remove or adjust PHP error reporting when using `WP_DEBUG`. It’s often the case that a theme or plugin author has either not written code with debug on or perhaps supporting an older version of PHP so error notices can hinder the output visually or fill up your log file. A theme I was working on that caused me to find a solution was adding 8k lines of debug output to the log file every couple hours!

In your `wp-content` folder create a new folder called `mu-plugins` and in that folder create a php file with the error level you want, for example:

//Turns off notices
error_reporting(E_ALL ^ E_NOTICE);

If you are using PHP 5.5 +, you will get deprecated noticed for WordPress’s mysql_* functions, you can turn them off using:

error_reporting(E_ALL & ~E_DEPRECATED & ~E_STRICT);

Or for something really robust, which happens to be the case a lot.

error_reporting(E_ALL &  ~( E_DEPRECATED | E_USER_DEPRECATED | E_USER_NOTICE | E_STRICT ));

References:

I you develop themes/plugins please turn on debugging and support at the very least PHP 5.4!

An awesome command line tool for Windows you might have never heard of

gnome-terminalDeveloping on Windows has always been a challenge when it comes to the command line.  I know powershell can do a lot, but I honestly can’t be bothered with it, especially considering I don’t work with .NET, and the regular cmd line is lacking in features to say the least.

In my quest to find a decent alternative that is not full blown cygwin, deep within the bowels of Stack Overflow I found a link to a website called MobaXterm. Pretty crummy name , but I liked the features list, it has a tiny cygwin wrapper (16.5 MB instead of 2GB +) and it was free. Maybe it could do what I’ve been looking for in terms of terminal emulation, specifically features like:

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When PHP’s mail function doesn’t work

mail-07[1]A lot of VPS’s do not have mail functionality right out of  the box, so if you install a stack like LAMP or maybe a WordPress install script (like you find on Linode or Digital Ocean) , and then try to send mail via your website, you will most likely get an error.

For example if your using Contact Form 7 in WordPress you will get “Failed to send your message”, not a very meaningful error.  So the first step is to troubleshoot the problem, login via SSH and type:

netstat -tulpn

This should show your servers open ports, there should be a mail program in there with a mail port open to 25 and/or port 465 (or 587) for SSL. If not then you will not be able to send any mail via PHP, unless you have configured a different port or remote service, all of which can be verified.

You can further test PHP’s mail by sending a test email using  PHP’s command line or putting the following into a PHP file.

mail ( 'your@email.com', "Test mail", "Test mail from your server name" );

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