How much time you spend on a project? Do you feel like time is slip-slip-slipping away?
At the end of the week are you wondering where it all went?
I have those same problems. I feel your pain. PayMo, the time tracking app from Romania, can help.
Bottom line: PayMo is the best free time tracker for windows users.
I love it. It delights me. But there are some things, a few things, that annoy me. However, I feel confident in continuing to use the software and recommending it to others. Why? Read on to find out.
I jumped into the world of time tracking via the personal analytics blog, quantified self. And, after hearing rave reviews of time tracking apps, Harvest and Freckle from the a Web Ahead podcast and at the LessConf conference, respectively. I’ve been working with time tracking for about 3 months now. In that time, I’ve done a monster survey of time tracking tools and an in depth review of Harvest.
Today I get in deep with PayMo, which I’ve been using for a few weeks. I’m going to review it based on the following criteria.
- Stylisch – I work at the computer all day. The tool must be pleasant to ‘touch’ multiple times in the day. It will be become a trusted work colleague. It must be consistent, clear and give good feedback.
- Smart – I’m a dumbass, at times. That’s why I need a timer tracker. My tool MUST be smarter than I am. It must streamline and integrate my workflow. Idle time detection is a smart feature. It says “Hey Newman, I noticed you haven’t been doing anything in the last few minutes. Were you dicking around or on task?” Smart!
- Inexpensive – I’m poor, but not dumb (all the time). Monthly fees add up and I can’t justify 120 bucks a year – unless there is a ton of value. If the tool costs more than 100 bucks. And then I have to pay every month or year. Good grief.
Now that my tastes are maturing in time tracking, I’m starting to look at other features like contact management and invoices. I don’t expect a tracker tool to do these things completely, but it should leverage other apps and … well, be smart about it. For instance, many tools integrate with LessAccounting and Freshbooks. Smart. Billings, a Mac only time tracker and invoice tool, works with the native contacts application. Smarter!
I discovered PayMo while doing the mega survey last week. It was the only one that met my critieria of being both inexpensive and usable. The free plan had the essential features of idle time detection and reports. Two features which are crucial in time tracking apps. Easily integrated invoices (very important, but not essential to me) are available in the $10/month plan.
You can interact with PayMo two ways: either on their web interface or downloadable Windows Gadget. It’s straightforward to start up and use right away. When you log into PayMo you see a dashboard with a menu of all the features and tasks you can do. In minutes, I had added all of my contacts / clients, projects and tasks. And, I was time tracking.
Stuff I liked about PayMo
The Free Plan
I’m using the free version of the software that includes idle time detection and reports. The only thing hobbled on the free version is the invoicing. I figure I can use another app for invoicing. I used PayPal before or I might use Harvest, which includes invoices in their free plan.
Idle Time Detection
Idle time detection is the killer feature of PayMo. Here’s how it works. Almost immediately after starting on a task, I got hungry, left my little Acer laptop, and made a sandwich. Guess what happened when I came back? That’s right! PayMo, that smart MF’er, detected it and asked what to do about the time. Oh happy day! My computer and software are smart and make me smarter.
Like the way the milestone calendar in the dashboard slides to show you a week out -notice it starts on Thursday in the above picture – SMART! Or, the cool data graphs in the dashboard – all those colors equate to different projects. This tells me the designers are thinking about the experience of the user.
In general, the app is good and met my needs. But like any designer and builder, I’m always thinking, “How can this be better? What can I fix?” It’s easy for me, as a reviewer, to be very negative. It may seem that way. But please don’t interpret it as a ‘slam’ on PayMo. I’m giving my feedback, YMMV.
Stuff I didn’t like about PayMo
At the risk of sounding like a negative creep, here is a list of stuff that I didn’t like about PayMo. I will continue to use and recommend it, but improvements can be made.
Navigation and Menus
The dashboard website needs a good Information Architect makeover. Doctor Newman’s prescription is ‘Cartsorting’, stat! All those top menu items do nothing visually to help me navigate to common tasks. The ‘Flow’ doesn’t seem well thought out. The design doesn’t suggest a flow. That being said, it doesn’t get in my way. But I have to discover the pattern for myself. The learning curve could be lessened by a better information architecture, definition of the critical paths and navigation.
It seems like it’s got feature-itis – Too many features all at the top with equal visual weight suggesting equal importance. Additionally, farther down in the site, links jump from one place to another without much ‘feedback’. I’m an expert web user, and I feel lost after clicking on some links.
Idle time detection is an example of the PayMo intelligence. It’s smarter than other apps. But it could be smarter. Like connecting to other apps. Ben showed me how Billings connects and imports contacts from the standard Mac contact manager. Like integrating into the work flow of the Operating System. Computers are smart with that sort of thing. Who makes an app smarter?
The visual design of PayMo is sparse. It could use a CRAP refresher. Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Let’s take proximity: Check out this page:
The left aligned list is fine. But why the even spacing – It’s a simple CSS fix to give me a visual clue that one goes with another. Also, why the underlined links? I don’t really know where the will go if I click them. This happens all the time in the app. “I’m just sayin'”
If you read one thing- This will save a scream
Here is the thing I hope you never learn the hard way, like I did. If you click on the ‘Timer’ in the menu, you get a pop-up window with a fresh timer. Pick the project and task, and away you go. If you are like me, you get up for a sandwich or smoothie. If you come back ready to work, and click that timer button to see where your timers are, OPPS! You lost all that time. The pop-up OVERWRITES the old timer with a fresh one. You have to manually add the time back. The app should warn you that you are about to overwrite a timer.
Stuff I wish for
Certainly, I would wish for all the above problems to be addressed. But in addition, here are a list of my
Default Client or Project – Can I make a default client or project pop up in the menu? As it stands now, it’s always my Client Alan – who I rarely work for, but he’s always first in the list because of the A in Alan. It’s extra clicks and cognitive load. i suppose I could ‘archive’ his project.
A Quick ‘Which timers are running now?’ view – Currently, I Alt tab over to the ‘timer web browser window’ and check. I would rather use the existing grammar for time checking and status updates – which is my task bar. Is there a way to get this timer info in the taskbar? Or better yet, a hot key, one click or gesture. It must fit with my workflow and not break my concentration. Billings does this pretty well, BTW.
Off line support – Because I work away from the internet some of the time, I need a tool that handles the intermittent network connection. The widget does work, but it won’t download new tasks or info, and other info. The dashboard site doesn’t work at all. Bummer
Summing Up with PayMo
I’m feeling that the concept of activation energy fits here. It’s all about the learning curve. high motivation – the activation curve – I’m willing to put up with alot to get good tracking data on my time and good invoices. I’ll suffer, if the pay off is good.
So despite the learning curve, I’ll continue to use the software and learn the more advanced features like milestones, project budgets, and invoicing. Why? Because I trust them. They re-designed there ‘brochure’ website and it’s a complete improvement. If the same team redesigns the ‘back end’ of the app, we can expect very good things.
PayMo’s star rating
Cost: 4.5 / 5 I’m very happy with the free account. And, Free is great. 10 bucks a month is still to high at my current pay grade. For this utility, I see it as 5 bucks a month. I struggle with the ideas of Software as a service and monthly fees.
Easy of Use: 4/5 There are problems with visual design and navigation – Honestly, it may need a woman’s touch (check out the about us page on PayMo’s site). I don’t ding ’em to hard here because we can learn to use it… but c’mon shouldn’t our tools conform to us?
Met my needs: 4.5/5 PayMo does everything I need it to do. Invoicing in the free plan would be great. (One is kinda silly, c’mon now)
Would use again: 5/5 I like PayMo and I’m going to continue to use it. I figure many of the things I don’t like about it are really just getting to know the program and system. For a Windows user looking for a full-featured time tracker, PayMo is the way to go.