Small Web Design companies and freelancers have three major concerns regarding the management and control of their activity:
- Project Management
- Time Tracking
There are hundreds of software applications that include these three components. And for this reason it is very difficult to find the right one for you. You have to test the applications – at least briefly, which can become extremely time consuming. And the most frustrating thing is to spend half a day setting up some new tool only to find out that it lacks some small, but important feature, and ultimately doesn’t fit your needs.
We were in this situation, so sharing our experience and recommending the software we’ve finally selected will hopefully save you quite a bit of time.
For starters let’s make clear which our search criteria were, because our choice will not fit – of course – all web design companies. So, our requests were:
- The software will be used by a small team (up to 10 people)
- Minimum project coordination (we were not interested in complex Project Management)
- A really useful and reliable tool for time tracking (with mandatory warnings for different situations)
- An invoicing tool with:
- Automated invoice numbering (this is available with any application, therefore easy to get)
- Highly configurable invoice template (this was our strongest request)
- Multiple currencies
- Automatic emailing of invoices to the clients (with CC to us)
We tested over 100 applications currently found on the market, but unfortunately none of them was meeting our criteria.
From our point of view the problem with all these applications is that they come packed with TOO MUCH STUFF! They do not focus efficiently on the scope they were developed for. Setting up is tedious, day-by-day use is tedious and time consuming, finally you see you have to pay more attention to the “management” of the application itself than to your work.
After a year of testing and rejecting we finally found a completely different kind of app. With a different approach to the goals we’ve listed above.
The name of the application is Fanurio.
Because of a very modest advertising this software was difficult to discover. But it was really pleasant and relaxing to work with from the beginning.
1. Documentation & Support
Unlike other applications, Fanurio documentation is, first of all, readable. Very concise and clear, it is extremely easy to comprehend. Documentation is online, accessible any time and very well organized. Everything is straightforward and explicit.
You’ve noticed I also mentioned the support. Well, here is the greatest surprise! Fanurio staff is extremely responsive and open to any suggestions. Besides, they promptly give the necessary advice when you get stuck, they are very receptive to any suggestion you make, to any need your specific business might have.
Actually this is maybe the greatest difference between this software and the competitors: the open attitude towards clients’ demands.
Any mail you send to Customer Support is answered almost instantly. And followed, if necessary, by more messages tailoring the final solution for your request. You will be surprised to see your idea or request as part of the next Fanurio version. But this is the way Fanurio staff values the clients. Personally we made about 8-10 suggestions or requests which are now all implemented in the latest version of Fanurio.
2. Application Setup
We already said that the biggest problem with similar applications is the tedious setup. Whether volume of work is too big, the workflow lacks logic or the details are overwhelming you reach the same result: you get frustrated about wasting so much time.
Fanurio setup is a breeze. Actually after just 10 minutes, following the quick-start tutorial from the documentation, you can already work with it. And it takes less that 1 hour to read the rest of the detailed description and to customize and fine-tune the application.
a. Project Management
The Project Management capabilities are very basic. But please remember that we were looking exactly for this.
Not too much to comment here, except the very intuitive (therefore easy) navigation. Items structure is very logic, you immediately find what you need and where you want to go.
Fanurio offers the usual steps, without going in-depth:
- Define projects.
- Define tasks (milestones). E.g.: lo-fi mock-ups, hi-fi mock-ups, HTML templates, CMS integration, etc.
- Define items (within tasks). Even smaller segments of project tasks. E.g. for HTML templates you may want to have: exporting graphics from PSD, writing actual HTML for home, page, for internal pages, etc.
We loved this simplicity. It was what we were looking for.
b. Time Tracking
Here is a lot to say. A timer (stopwatch) is very usual. A lot of applications offer it. But if rules are made to be broken, timers are made so you forget to start or stop them. A timer without a set of warnings and the subsequent logic of decisions is really useless.
Strangely, the majority of the similar applications offer only a simple timer. Bad luck if you forget to start or stop it. Period.
The complete set of necessary warnings for a timer is:
- In case you forget to start it
- In case you forget to stop it
- In case you paused the timer and you forget to start it again
- In case you started the timer but the computer is idle (i.e. you took a break but you forgot to stop it)
All the applications we tested before Fanurio that offered timer warnings never offered the complete set. Why? It’s a mystery. Fanurio was the only one we found offering complete set of warnings and – very important – the set of logic decisions you take after the timer error pops up. With Fanurio is very easy to reassign the erroneously registered time to the proper task (or to disregard it).
In matter of Time Tracking, Fanurio is definitely the best and most complete tool on the market.
Fanurio offers the auto numbering feature, which is not something extraordinary. Each and every application on the market offers the same.
The difference is made when you need to customize the invoice format. And here Fanurio stays in the top 5% of applications existing today. Many applications are offering only limited possibilities when it comes to invoice formatting. Fanurio is offering a total formatting of the invoice, if you need it.
Invoice template can be opened in any HTML editor, then you go about like with regular CMS template: there’s code chunks and there’s presentation layer. You can alter the HTML and move code chunks around to get the format you need.
And what’s unique, if you get stuck in HTML/CSS issues, Fanurio team will format your invoice as you need. This is to remind you about the exceptional client support I was already talking about.
The invoicing workflow is, again, very handy. You can issue, modify, add/delete items easily. In general the items manipulation is very flexible.
Invoicing can be done in multiple currencies, even on the same invoice (if this is legally allowed in your country, of course). Invoices are automatically sent by email to your customers (PDF).
Fanurio keeps track of payments, highlighting ones that are overdue. It also provides an impressive set of activity and financial reports, predefined or customizable. Moreover, you can keep track of your net profit in real time by defining the taxes, expenses or fees your company pays.
Let’s review our criteria list once again:
- Small staff
- Basic Project Management
- Strong Time Tracking
- Customizable invoices
- Multi-currency invoicing
- Automatically email invoices (PDF document) to clients (not just a link, like many applications do)
Fanurio definitely meets and exceeds our criteria. For small web design companies or freelancers Fanurio is the perfect Activity Management, Time tracking, & Invoicing tool.
It is a no-nonsense reply to hundreds of other applications which have forgotten the scope they were developed for.