Ask LH: What Tools Can I Use To Get Group Projects Moving?

Dear Lifehacker, I have volunteered as a web designer for a community initiative set up by a few local women. While it's a totally great idea, everybody seems to get really confused as with what is happening. They are currently using a Facebook group and online chat to try to keep up, but everything gets lost after a few days, buried under all the equally important posts. So, I am looking for solution to our problem. What is a recommended way to manage a project with about 30 people on the team? Thanks, Anti-Chaos Warrior!

Group picture from Shutterstock

Dear ACW,

There are plenty of group management tools and utilities available that can make shared tasks a lot easier to navigate. Basecamp has grown to be one of the web’s most prominent tools for online collaboration. It provides shared to-do lists with assignable items, a shared calendar of events with visible deadlines, a private chat function and document sharing.

On the downside, Basecamp isn't free -- pricing starts at a rather hefty $20 per month which gives you 3 GB of file storage and the ability to share 10 projects at once.

If you'd prefer a more affordable, low-frills option, it's hard to look past Remember The Milk. This is a simple to-do manager that includes some handy features suitable for groups. It allows you to tag to-dos with location, organise sequential tasks and share your to-dos with others who have work assigned to them.

Setting up an accounts is free, but advanced features such as Outlook Sync and email support carry an additional fee. There's also a range of mobile app versions.

Podio is also well worth checking out: this is a web app that makes managing your projects simple via a drag-and-drop interface. The UI is reminiscent of Facebook which should make it extremely easy to adapt to. It also supports Dropbox integration, which is handy if your team needs to share and store large documents.

Another well-regarded service is Producteev -- this is a free task management tool specifically designed for teams that allows you to create to-do lists, assign tasks to team members and share documents, workspaces and whiteboards. It also provides automatic email alerts for new tasks and deadlines and it all syncs with Google Calendar.

Then there's Kona. This is a free to-do manager that allows you to create multiple workspaces for multiple projects. It features a dashboard view that lets you focus on one task at a time as well as see your overall progress, making it the ideal solution for tracking team-based projects. It allows you to isolate and categorise tasks which can then be send to others to work on. Kona is available as a web app as well as Android and iOS. You can find out more about its features in the below video.

You're probably wondering which of the above tools is the best. Naturally, that all depends on your personal tastes and those of your team. Indeed, choosing the "right" tool is only half the battle -- you also need to get everybody on your team to accept it. In other words, user-friendliness is a must.

It's therefore a good idea to play around with all of the above products to see which is the best fit. (Thankfully, there are free trials available for the paid versions.) As mentioned, Podio has a bit of a Facebook vibe which your team is already used to, but all of the above provide useful features and functionality. It's really down to you and your team to make a decision and then stick to it.

Once you have a tool chosen, the next step is to ensure that everyone on the team knows exactly what is expected of them, including the specific tasks and responsibilities that fall into their domain. If each person's role is fuzzy or unclear, no amount of to-do software is going to help things move faster. Good luck!

Got your own to-do app suggestion or group management advice? Share your tips with ACW in the comments section below!

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    PBworks ( is also another great free team collaboration tool. I use it for group projects at tafe. It's got version control, tasks and timelines with the ability to assign them to certain users. It also has user role management. For example I give everyone in my team editor access whilst only allowing say the instructor read only access. best of all it's free :)

    Try Moovia. It is a fantastic tool for collaboration and project management.

    Try ASANA. Very quick text based to do list. Can keep track of all users and get followups if tasks are not being met.

    I recently used Freedcamp for a group project. Really easy to use. Lacks a few features however other than that its fantastic.
    Another I found is Zoho Projects. Feature rich, great interface, and free.

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