As a freelancer supporting my clients’ content marketing efforts, I’m invited to use their project management tools to track content. These tools help corral important details of each assignment in one place, such as:
Once you use one of these tools, you’ll never want to go back to tracking content via email, with those endless email strings and attachments that clog your inbox.
While I’m a peripheral user – I see only my assignments, not the big picture – I’ve used enough project management tools for content to know what works well. Here are main ones that I’ve used so far, from the perspective of a freelance writer.
User interface: ProWorkFlow has a great user interface (UI). Text fields for conversations are nice and wide, each comment stacks on top of the other, and it’s clear how to attach documents to these conversations. The attachments also appear at the bottom of the window, so you can see the progression and you don’t have to read the comments surrounding them. The timeline graph is an attractive visual.
Profile: I can update information in my profile, too. This was handy, when I changed my email address, so that I could continue receiving alerts. I also liked adding my photo there. Obviously, as a freelancer, I don’t work in the office with my clients, but I think it’s important for them to see what I look like, that I’m a real person.
Alerts: It’s not clear how to limit the alerts I receive, such as daily summary vs. immediate, and I can’t adjust which alerts I receive. I may continue to receive alerts after my part on the project is done.
Mobile: ProWorkFlow works well on my smartphone. It’s not a native app; I just need to add the /m/ after the main URL.
Overall impression: Aside from the alerts, I don’t have any other quibbles with this tool. I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s my favorite.
User interface: Desk-Net is project management tool focused specifically on editorial. It gets the job done, but the UI is a little clunky. Instead of wide horizontal text fields for commenting on the overview page, the comments appear in a narrow column. The more you talk about an assignment, the longer that column becomes, so it blows out the page, like this:
If I seem hung up on comments, it’s because this is where the back-and-forth discussion of an assignment takes place. There will be questions and answers between the writer and the editor/marketing manager. The more room for this, the better.
Also, I found it hard to figure out how to add information, from notes about the original assignment to adjusting the due date. There’s a list of icons I can choose from to do so, but I had to mouse over each one to figure out what each one meant.
The section for attachments works well, although it’s under a separate tab called content, which I explored because I didn’t know what it was. It would have made more sense to call it attachments.
Lastly, the home page defaulted to the current week, which I can’t seem to change. Since I may not have an assignment for that specific week, it shows up blank, and I have to toggle back through the dates or use the search function to see the last assignment I was working on.
Profile: There’s no place to put my photo. Maybe that’s not a big deal, but I like a more personalized profile. And I like to see other people’s mugs too.
Alerts: These can be customized to a certain degree. I can choose to receive alerts based on whether I’m directly involved in the project or not. However, I can’t adjust alerts to daily summary vs. immediate. My only choice is to receive all or nothing.
Mobile: Desk-Net’s mobile-friendly website is in beta, so it might still be working out the kinks. I couldn’t find my assignments, because the scheduling page defaulted to the last two weeks. And there was no search function.
Overall impression: I figured things out after poking around, but the user experience could be improved.
UI: Basecamp has been around for awhile. It’s one of the first tools I was invited to use when tracking content projects. It’s intuitive, so I had no trouble figuring out how to use it.
One of the things I like about Basecamp is the layout for each project. It shows you the latest project updates, a snapshot of the latest discussions, and the latest files. For each of these, you can click to see more. It’s obvious how to post a new message and provide attachments. The latest version, Basecamp 3, has features such as chat and a client-side tool, so you can include clients in conversations.
Profile: This includes the basics: image, email address, time zone, etc.
Alerts: Basecamp offers the most customizable alerts. You can choose which projects you want to receive alerts on, and how often. Nice!
Mobile: Basecamp has a native app. But you could get confused in the beginning, because there’s one for Basecamp 2 and one for Basecamp 3. If you use the mobile responsive website, whether you choose 2 or 3, either log-in will take you to the right place. Just don’t get confused by the 37signals URL. That’s what Basecamp used to be called.
Overall impression: Basecamp works great. And it’s probably the most visually colorful of the three project management tools for content I’m mentioning here, if that matters to you.
I’ve also used Google Drive and Dropbox, but I consider these document repositories and collaboration tools. Maybe it’s because the main focus in Google Drive, for example, is collecting documents and editing them, rather than managing the workflow. I’ll admit that I’ve never used Google Drive and Dropbox on the enterprise level, so I may be out of the loop on the larger capabilities of these tools.
I’ve also used Streak, which helps you manage content projects within Gmail. I found this frustrating, only because it was a tracking tool, not a repository. I still had to edit documents in Google Drive.
Ideally, a project management tool for content is easy to use for everything you need: the ability to assign, provide due dates, upload documents, track those documents, comment on them, add art, alert the project team and – most importantly – close the project when it’s done.