Improving the dotProject User Interface – Part III of N

Via the wonderful crew at Technorati, I manage to keep an eye out for new dotProject users to happen to blog about it. I know, this is only a small part of the community, but it's a place to start.

I normally make a point of exchanging an email or two with them offering assistance where I can and attempting to get feedback. The vast majority of people get through the unpacking and install without a problem. Occassionally, there's a database connection problem here which causes all kinds of problems, but that is easy to diagnose and isn't the fault of dotProject.

The next area where I get comment is the User Interface. Most non-fulltime Project Managers want something quick and simple such as GanttProject which allows them to quickly draw a Gantt chart and move on with life. This works well for getting a nice picture into your proposal or on your wall, but doesn't really constitute a “project management tool.” You can't use it day to day to determine the status of the project, figure out how much time/money has been spent, or any of those other aspects that should be tracked.

dotProject offers this tracking, but in exchange, building a project plan is quite a bit more complex. For each task, you name it, then you have to select a start date and duration to calculate and end date (or a start date and end date to calculate duration). It is fully functional and powerful but it's not the most intuitive especially if you're just trying to get something for display.

I've discussed this before, but this is the first area which CaseySoftware is going to work to improve. We need to build something which allows a user to create tasks quickly and easily all at once. Then allow them ot go back, fill in dates, set dependencies, and watch the due dates shift around. We're still working to figure out the best way to allow this, I'm thinking some creative AJAX along with a dynamic Gantt chart but I'm not convinced…