An unintuitive interface and odd design choice hamper an otherwise wonderful project management tool
- Cheaper than most rivals
- A strong selection of features
- Overcomplicated interface
- Too many glitches
Zoho Projects is a reviewer’s nightmare: it offers amazing functionality, but it’s so hard to use you can’t recommend it to anybody but masochists. Read on to see if this challenge may be worth it to you.
Zoho Projects review: What do you get for the money?
A huge selling point for Zoho Projects is its pricing. The free plan is pretty good, offering basic functionality – including a Gantt chart, which is rare – for up to three people. You could probably manage even relatively advanced projects for such a small team with Zoho Projects’ generous free offering, although Wrike’s free plan is even better.
Zoho Projects takes things up a notch with the Premium plan, which is only £3.20 per user per month, cheaper even than Smartsheet or ClickUp. This adds a number of valuable extra functions, such as subtasks and the ability to create custom views, as well as removing the user cap from the free plan.
However, it’s the Enterprise plan that makes things really interesting. It costs £7.20 per user per month and offers a host of advanced functions, most of which would set you back twice as much with any other project-management software. These include long-term planning options, as well as advanced user management.
However, as attractive as Zoho’s pricing is, it does underline that price isn’t everything. What you save in pennies and pounds, you may end up paying for in pure graft.
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Zoho Projects review: What’s it like to use?
Zoho Projects presents a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, we love how its features have been implemented. All the functionality you could need is there and it all works really well. On the other hand, it seems like user friendliness was of minor concern, with Zoho making some decisions that can only be described as borderline hostile.
The tutorial is a good example: when you start up Zoho Projects for the first time, you get a special board to choose from, as well as your own. This is promising.
We’ve not seen much like this, and we really like how you’re encouraged to move cards around. We expected that tooltips would pop up as we followed these instructions, or that explanations would come on what we were doing. However, there was… nothing. No tooltips, no pop-ups, nothing. You’re left to figure things out on your own.
You might welcome this absence of handholding if you’re experienced with project-management software, but Zoho Projects works differently to most.
Unlike most competitors, Zoho Projects seems to think the board should be the centrepiece of its software. The board looks fantastic, almost as good as Trello’s. Cards are big enough to read all the information on the front, but they’re not crowded, either. Moving cards among the columns is also easy. It’s a great board.
However, nasty issues rear their head as you use it. For example, changing the statuses each column represents is a deep dive through three menus, using terminology we’ve not seen before (what makes a status “open” or “closed”?). Once we changed everything, we then made the fatal mistake of saving only the statuses and not the overall options as well, meaning we had to start the whole process all over again. It was awful.
Creating new tasks is equally painful. Any other project management tool has you click a single button, type the name of your new task, hit enter, and the next task in the list will open up. It’s fantastic when you’re adding several tasks at once, which any good project manager will tell you is the best way to do it.
Not Zoho Projects, though. Here, you click to create a task and the task’s details open up. But once you type the name and hit enter, it just creates another line, forcing you to use the mouse to hit save, after which the details card opens in a new window. Click that away, and you need to click once again to start a new task. This is terrible design. Even adding just a few cards for the purposes of this review took about three times as long as necessary.
On top of that, the interface is simply confusing, with random terms thrown around that aren’t explained anywhere except in Zoho Projects’ massive, convoluted knowledgebase. Even that doesn’t explain everything, meaning you’re left to flounder, randomly clicking stuff and hoping it will get you somewhere, then having to retrace your steps like some kind of white-collar hedge maze.
Add to that some nasty glitches and inexplicable slowdowns and it’s hard to recommend Zoho Projects. It’s such a shame, because the core functionality is there and it works extremely well when the design doesn’t get in its way. For example, it has a fantastic Gantt chart that lets you change dependencies on the fly, but just figuring it out will take more time than most people will be willing to spend.
Zoho Projects review: Are there other useful features?
Zoho Projects is stuffed with useful features you won’t find everywhere else, with only a few competitors, such as Asana, offering more high-level functions than Zoho Projects does. These include a neat dashboard that helps you get an overview of how tasks are progressing, as well as long-term planning functions.
Again, though, usability issues abound. Getting the dashboard to display what you want can be tricky, as Zoho Projects seems to think it knows better than you and won’t let you fiddle with the settings. Deciding on milestones is only possible within the parameters Zoho permits, too, which made us feel hemmed in.
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Zoho Projects review: Should you sign up?
If you have the patience to get to know the program and put up with its many quirks, Zoho Projects could be a long-lasting and productive relationship. To find out if you can handle it, we recommend you give the free 10-day trial a spin – we likely won’t try again, though.