Searching for the perfect project management application can feel a bit like being Goldilocks — taste-testing each app until, finally, you settle on the choice that is “just right.” Are extensive reporting and invoicing capabilities too hot? Are time tracking or communication tools too cold? It can be daunting to have to search for solutions, especially when the bears (in the form of wasted time, over-budget projects, and poor task management) might return at any moment! When working from the time and budget constraints of a small business, the search can be that much more difficult and frustrating. Merchant Maverick to the rescue! Compiled below for your convenience and reading pleasure are our top three project management applications for small businesses.
A quick note about criteria: I picked these three applications based on affordability relative to other project management applications, ease of use, and an “X-factor” that makes them more desirable than their competitors. Okay, with that out of the way, on to the list!
Table of Contents
Redbooth (read our review) is one the perennial favorite project management applications here at Merchant Maverick; in fact, I think I have recommended it in just about every project management blog I have written. It has that fantastic combination of usability and price that is nearly unmatched in other project management applications.
Pricing for Redbooth is figured per-user, meaning that you pay less if you have fewer users. Generally speaking, this kind of pricing plan favors smaller businesses, especially if yours falls into that 10-12 user category. Of course, the fact that Redbooth starts their pricing at ‘zero’ helps as well. Though you sacrifice a few of the features and are limited to two projects, the free plan might be a good choice for you, at least to start with. When Redbooth actually starts charging, the prices remain firmly in affordable territory, between nine and 15 dollars/user/month.
I have tested and used Redbooth in a number of scenarios over the last two years, and every time I have found it an absolute joy. Adding new tasks, creating workspaces, and communicating with team members from within the app are all accomplished without trouble or confusion.
The special thing that makes Redbooth more desirable than other, similar, project management applications is the excellence of the UI design. Seriously, I have tested a lot of project management apps, but this one is definitely my favorite. It is crisp, clean, and makes absolute sense to anyone who uses it. I love it!
Binfire (read our review) is designed especially with remote teams in mind. A strong project management app on its own, it especially shines in situations where not all team members work from the same location. Equally useful in traditional and “agile” project management styles, this app will almost certainly fill a niche for your business.
While Binfire does not offer a free option (ala Redbooth), this app is available at a lower initial cost, and with more increments to help you tailor the experience to your own needs without completely breaking the bank. Like Redbooth, Binfire is available in a per-user pricing scheme — more users = more expensive. Price tags start at five dollars/user/month and extend through four pricing levels up to $15/user/month.
Binfire is a bit more complicated than Redbooth — offering a wider variety of features — which lends itself to a more difficult user experience. Fortunately, due to good interface design and simple aesthetic, Binfire avoids most pitfalls and remains quite easy to both learn and use.
Binfire’s X-factor has to be remote-work features like its interactive whiteboard. Designed to replicate a project-planning whiteboard session, the interactive whiteboard provides a digital space for teams separated by distance to collaborate meaningfully.
Teamwork Projects (read our review), another perennial favorite in the project management world, is an excellent project management platform designed to grant just about anyone the ability to manage projects effectively. One of the things I appreciate about Teamwork is that it is a very scalable product; if you have aspirations of growing your business beyond the “small” label, this could be the project management app for you.
Teamwork Projects is priced per user. Like Redbooth, Teamwork has a free option, offering a reduced feature set to users for either limited use or use as a trial phase. If you want the rest of Teamwork Projects’ features, you are going to be shelling out $9/user/month, though only 100 or fewer users can jump on board at that price. While 100 user slots will be more than enough for small businesses, if your ambition is to grow rapidly, the flexibility here might come in handy farther down the road.
Like both prior apps, Teamwork Projects is exceptionally easy to use. When viewing your projects and tasks you can choose from one of several views that allow you to customize your viewing experience (a feature that can be found in many project management apps), and the interface is well designed and logical.
I think the X-Factor for Teamwork Projects would have to be the team behind it. Few project management applications that I have reviewed embrace new features and ideas quite the way Teamwork Projects does, certainly not while maintaining an otherwise excellent product. Most recently, Teamwork Projects gained the popular new “board view,” giving you yet another way of visualizing your projects.
There are two other applications* that also fit the bill of “small business friendly project management,” but are too limited in scope and function for me to feel good about adding to the main list. They are, briefly:
- Trello: Available free to anyone who cares to sign up, the team at Trello is responsible for the original “board view” that was so recently implemented at Teamwork Projects. Trello is easy to use and brings a sense of humor to project management with their cute husky Mascot, Taco.
- SquidHub: Similar to Trello but much newer, SquidHub is a free project and task management app that is so easy to use that I have a hard time accurately describing how simple the program is. Like Trello, SquidHub is a little on the cheeky side, heavily featuring a smiling squid mascot.
*I recently compared these two apps in another post.