Two years ago I authored a simple project visualization plugin dubbed “Project Status.” The inspiration for Project Status, was a simple question I heard frequently. Over the past ten years of client services, I’ve received numerous e-mails and phone calls with the simple and reasonable question… “Where are we at?” It turns out, even with milestones, deliverables and calendars its really hard to visualize the process of design and even harder to picture where you are within it… even if you’re an experienced designer. We tried to prevent the question in a variety of ways, each with lackluster results. First we tried educating clients, then it was giving them access to our Basecamp projects, at one point we had shared calendars and even painstakingly time-consuming “regular check-ins.” Nothing worked to our satisfaction.
The basic issue is this… you’re really busy and so is your client. Your client has a lot on their mind and on their plate. They don’t have time to review the proposal, project timelines or sift through all the TO DO’s in Basecamp every time their curious about progress. They want to– at a glance– know exactly where you are with their project and what’s happening next. Because clients are busy, we knew “at a glance” was key. What’s the best way to communicate information quickly? Through visuals.
Thus Project Status was born. Project Status simply let you indicate percentage of project completion through the use of a progress bar. To give that percentage some context we also added the ability to define four key milestones.
Since publication Project Status has been downloaded over 10,000 times. It was much popular than I ever expected and still has a loyal following. I was never fully satisfied with it however. I always thought that given more time and effort we could come up with something much more useful. Over the past six months we’ve built a “sequel” of sorts and released it as Project Panorama.
Project Panorama – Simple Project Management for WordPress
While we wanted a more capable plugin, we didn’t want to lose sight of what made the original plugin so successful — its simplicity. When designing Panorama, we constantly assessed the impact of a feature on user management and dropped any idea that took too much effort. We realized that if the Panorama took too much time to manage, it would lose it’s utility.
Focused on Efficiency
To improve the efficiency of project owners, we came up with a handful of ways to reduce the time required to keep projects updated. Some of the more interesting capabilities include:
- Project cloning to prevent having to setup the project every time.
- Automatic progress calculation based on task or phase completion.
Efficiency for efficiencies sake is not useful however. The real value of Project Panorama lies in visual communication.
Focused on Communication
A key area Project Status lacked was the ability to communicate detail. Sure, you could indicate what percentage of completion a project was but you could add little context that percentage. After all, what does 27% complete mean? What are you working on? What still needs to be done? Project Panorama addresses this by allowing unlimited projects phases, each with unlimited tasks. Now, you can communicate project progress on multiple levels of detail. A “bird’s eye view” with the overall progress bar, a “forest view” with phase completion charts and “trees view” with individual tasks.
It took time to figure out the best way to bundle Panorama. Eventually, we decided there should be two versions, “Lite” and “Premium.”
Lite and Premium
Project Panorama Lite is a stripped down “birds eye view” version, for those with modest needs. Project Panorama Premium is a fully featured, fully supported package. We decided to release a premium version for two reasons. One, extra income is nice (hey, at least I’m honest.) Two, revenue allows reinvestment. This was a fatal flaw of the original Project Status plugin. While it was a great idea and useful to many, we could rarely justify putting resources towards it. So many features, updates and support requests fell by the wayside. We didn’t want this to happen with Panorama.
Please, take a moment and check out Project Panorama. We’re running an initial launch promotion and you can get Project Panorama Pro for 50% off, through this Sunday (March 23rd, 2014.) using coupon code “checkitout.” We’d love to hear any thoughts, ideas and suggestions.