The Best Online Project Management Software
What user research has told us about the top project management tools out there
The best task software, reported by users
Over the last year, we interviewed over 100 people to understand what tools and methodologies people use to manage their projects and tasks to see how those tools stacked up against Subtask. Here’s what we found.
Subtask is a project management tool we built to help teams work more effectively. We designed Subtask to make it easy to break down and organize work the way you want. You can choose different ways to view your project -- either on a kanban board, calendar, timeline, assignment board, or priority matrix. Subtask’s priority matrix helps teams identify the costs and benefits of the work at hand and have meaningful discussions about the right tradeoffs and what to do first.
What did people like?
People we talked to regularly called Subtask “intuitive” and the interface “clean” and “simple”. They loved that all of the standard features they wanted were easily accessible from each task card’s menu -- setting the status, assigning to team members, setting due dates, adding descriptions, comments, file attachments, and more.
Many people commented on the effort/value priority matrix, noting that it was a feature that many other project management tools were missing. Being able to visualize priorities was noted as a helpful view to assist in their project planning.
People also loved being able to switch views. “It lets everyone see tasks the way they want to”. Whether it’s in a kanban board, on a calendar, in a timeline, or on an effort/value matrix, you can easily switch back and forth, and manage all the details of your tasks from any view.
A few other features that people have noted are integration with Google calendar, as well as Slack and email notifications to keep up to date with what is happening.
What was lacking?
A few of the things people asked for that we haven’t added (yet!) are:
Github integration: Some software engineers said they rely on github integrations to easily associate the tickets they work on with the code branches as they build, test, review, and deploy them.
Mobile App: although many people use their project management software on their computer, some rely on a mobile app to give them access when they’re away from the office. While Subtask’s web app is mobile-friendly, it does not have a presence in the app store.
Recurring tasks. Some users rely on recurring tasks to easily track work they need to do at a set time every week.Update: Subtask now has recurring tasks!
Top project management tools - what users liked and disliked
The people we interviewed worked in a variety of companies of different sizes and in different industries. Some of them have used certain project management tools for years while others had only used theirs for a few months (and a few others were in the middle of switching from one tool to another).
We heard a variety of reasons why people chose the tools they used. In many medium and large companies, it was a decision made by upper management, while at smaller companies people chose tools they knew well from previous jobs.
Here are some of the most common tools people used and the things they liked or disliked about them.
The most common project management tool that people in medium and large companies reported using was Jira. Jira was most used by technical teams, usually following some sort of agile development process. Engineers and Project managers were typically more likely to enjoy working in Jira. Here are some of the positives and negatives we heard from everyone:
- People who work on software development like that it is designed for agile scrum and kanban processes.
- Compared to other enterprise tools, many engineers felt it was user-friendly for them.
- Engineers like the ability to integrate with Github or other code version control tools.
- Many parts of Jira are complicated and not intuitive. Even simple tasks require a lot of clicks or button presses to get somewhere. "It's more work to use Jira than it is to do the work I was assigned."
- Changing the way its setup requires admin / IT help.
- It often took a long time to learn how to use and often requires having an expert around to train the team on it.
- The most common reason for using Jira was because "management told us to use it" -- teams don’t feel like it’s designed for them.
- Lots of fields to fill out / the number of fields/ required fields can make it a burden to add new items; too many choices to make.
Asana is another widely used project management tool that was most often used by non-engineering teams. Most of the people who favored Asana were designers, marketers, product managers, and event planners. Many of the Asana users we spoke to worked at small or medium sized companies. Here are some of the positives and negatives they had to say:
- It has a clean UI and is easy to use.
- Great for sharing work with others and keeping everyone on the same page.
- Easy to see what’s in progress & who’s working on what.
- Has built in calendar and timeline views.
- Good for high level strategy planning.
- There’s a free version.
- Can only assign one person to a task.
- It can be hard to find past content.
- Some features can be hard to navigate to.
- Not as structured or detail-oriented as tools like Jira.
- Some people found Asana too complicated for their needs.
Trello is often touted as a simple task management tool that’s easy for anyone to use. It’s used by a wide range of people across many different industries. Most of the people we spoke with either used it with a small team or on their own for personal projects. Often it is simply used as an online post-it board, where cards can be moved from column to column as work progresses on a project.
- Easy intuitive interface.
- Great for keeping track of small projects.
- Some said it was great for brainstorming, high level project planning, or tracking design work.
- Many people found it useful to track their own personal projects-- anything from planning a trip to daily chores.
- You can use it for free (with a 10 board limit).
- Lacks a lot of features that make other tools more attractive, especially for larger, more complex projects.
- There's only one view for managing work. No calendar, timeline, or other view.
- The free version has limited access to add-ons.
- There are no built-in reporting features.
Notion sells itself as an all-in-one workspace that includes task management, documentation, and team wikis. Most of its avid users praise it for the ability to easily build a knowledge base and manage documentation. Notion often positions itself as a lightweight competitor to Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence.
- Many engineers found the interface intuitive for them.
- Many find it helpful to keep tasks and documentation all in one place.
- It's great for keeping track of small projects.
- It has a kanban view for managing tasks.
- Some people found the text editor to be clunky. For non-technical people it can be difficult to get used to the command interface and shortcuts.
- Unless teams put deliberate care into how they organize content, it can become very disorganized and grow into a giant mess.
- Missing some task management features that make other tools more attractive.
Basecamp touts itself as an all-in-one workspace that includes team chat, message boards, document management, scheduling and task management.
Some people liked Basecamp for its simple todo lists, how easy it is to assign tasks, and see what's assigned to you. Others have reported it missing important features and not being user friendly.
Github is mainly a tool for managing source code for software projects, but many engineers also use its integrated features for the task management that goes along with software development work.
Some of the things engineers like about Github’s task features are the close tie-in they have with code commits, pull requests, code reviews, and merging branches.
Some Github users also report using the Zenhub add-on which lets you manage issues on a kanban board inside Github.
Microsoft Project has been a common tool at large companies with large program management needs. The software is often used by project managers for scheduling work, assigning resources, and planning handoffs.
Few people reported that they liked using MS Project (with comments like "it’s awful"), but it is often required at some large companies, and also with many companies who work with government agencies.