Stacks: For Managing Group Tasks

Some of the best apps are ones developed when a real problem needs a real solution, the solution is developed and the developers of the solution later on realize their solution would be very helpful for other people with the same problem. You might think most apps are created this way, but that’s not the case.

Stacks, a group task management app, was first internally developed to solve a problem. Once its creators had used it for awhile, they realized it was something that could be greatly beneficial to others and turned it into a public web app.

Read on to see how Stacks can help your group or team better manage tasks.


Stacks Home

Stacks Home

Overview

There’s a million and one apps for task management, though a bit fewer for group task management, so what makes Stacks any better than the competition? For starters, they’ve been using it internally for awhile already because it was developed to solve their own group task management problems. Beyond that, they understand that simplicity, prioritizing and instant visualization of workload are key factors in an app of this type.

Overview Features

Overview Features

They tell you right from the beginning, the app is intended to visualize the workload, ensure task accountability, provide subtle (non-distracting) alerts, see co-worker workload, easily prioritize tasks and keep all this chaos management simple.

Pricing

In the world of web apps, pricing always seems to be one of the top “do or die” aspects. At first glance, I would say Stacks’ pricing is fair, especially for group task management. I’m a believer in the “freemium” pricing model, but not at the expense of quality. I think some will argue that Stacks’ pricing is higher than it should be, and I think the price plans could offer perhaps a little more storage. However, development is expensive so paying a higher premium for a quality app is to be expected.

Pricing

Pricing

An important point here is the 60-day Free trial. Most apps offer a 30-day Free trial, if any trial at all, so it’s refreshing to see an app offering an extended trial period so you can really get to know the app and fall in love before being asked to open your wallet.

User Interface

Sign Up and Getting Started

The all-important sign up form is quick and easy, no email verification required. Enter some info. and get going.

Sign Up

Sign Up

Right after sign up, followed by signing in, you’re greeted with tutorials, getting started information, browser requirements and the security that support is always there when you need it. I rarely see pages like this, especially ones which aren’t pushing “Upgrade!” or “Invite Your Friends!”. Major kudos to the Stacks team on this.

Tutorials and Requirements

Tutorials and Requirements

App Interface

If you’ve skipped the tutorials, you’ll jump right into the app. From a design perspective, I’m not too hot about some of the colors and design elements. However, I prefer a Mac-like interface and this app’s design slightly reminds me of the older days of Windows. With that being said, I’ve felt like this about apps many times before and still fell in love with the app. Change can be uncomfortable; that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

App Interface

App Interface

Overall, the app is designed very hierarchal, giving you an immediate view of workload, task priority, etc. The top right of the app shows your week with task load and overdue task load. These bars display task info. when hovered over; also clickable for a deeper view.

Workload Overview

Workload Overview

A bit farther down the page you’ll see task alerts for new and completed tasks. These alert boxes can be partially minimized by clicking the thin bar with a centered arrow at the base of the alert container. I think the placement of the alert boxes are perfect, partial minimization absolutely appreciated and necessary. Viewing and managing tasks within these areas is quick and easy.

Task Alerts

Task Alerts

Lastly you’ll see your task list, which is easily sorted by client (on the left) or group/team member (on the right). The ability to view all tasks or drill down to specific clients or team members is an absolute must. Additionally, when a specific client is selected, you can sort down to specific projects as well.

Task List

Task List

Columns are also sortable by clicking the column title. The column arrow will change to indicate the current sorting selected.

If you need to see an overview of all team member’s workload, just view the Dashboard page.

Dashboard

Dashboard

Usability

One of the most important aspects of task management apps is the ease in which new tasks can be created. Many apps overcomplicate or muck up this aspect. The first thing I noticed was the Add a New Task button being visible at all times, in the exact same place. Perfect. Access to this at all times is key!

The Add a New Task dialoge is simple, yet provides the options you need to appropriately prioritize and assign tasks. The task details input is hidden until shown, if needed; adding task files done similarly.

Add Task

Add Task

Overall, viewing, adding and managing tasks is dead simple. The appropriate elements are linked to quickly edit or view the information you need. A small Status icon is displayed when a status message is entered. This Status icon can be hovered over to quickly see the message, no click required.

JavaScript Enhancements and Keyboard Shortcuts

One aspect that separates good apps from great apps, is the utilization of web technology such as JavaScript. The Stacks team apparently hates reloading pages for each action as much as the rest of us and it clearly shows in their app.

Stacks is loaded with AJAX sweetness. The only page loading I noticed was when switching to the different tab views (Dashboard, Active Tasks, Completed Tasks). Everything else seemed to be AJAX enabled and very responsive. You don’t wait for the app, the app waits on you!

Aside from JavaScript, Stacks also features keyboard shortcuts! We all know that keyboard shortcuts are the king of productivity and efficiency, so it’s great to see them integrated.

Final Thoughts

Stacks has it right. Period. There are many apps around for this type of thing but if I were a member of a team, this is likely the app I would be using. Granted, I’m not much of a fan of the app’s graphical design as far as colors go but it’s an absolute pleasure to use regardless and it actually does what it’s supposed to — and very well at that. The design layout is very well done, however, with the right elements in the right places and the right resources always easy to find.

Overall, I think the pricing could probably be a little lower to appeal to smaller groups likely using “freemium” type apps and I think perhaps the integration of different color schemes would be really appreciated. An offline mode and mobile access are hopefully on the way as well. Overall, Stacks is a solid 9/10, well on it’s way to being a notch higher.


Summary

Stacks is a task management solution built to make teams nimble. Visualize individual and team workload without losing speed or accountability.

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