Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nokahuna and That Other task manager

The name of that other task manager is Trello. Even though the name is forgettable, it offers some interesting features. Things like auto-updating, and a very strong visual metaphor.

In contrast, Nokahuna has a kind of 1950s style - the pastel lime green made me think of the worn out Formica of some old diner out in the middle of some old, mostly abandoned downtown.

To be fair, Trello isn't visually stunning itself. But it does offer a more chunky version of the todo list. The metaphor is one of pinup boards with cards stuck to them, and highlighter colors used for labeling. It is not an unpleasant departure from the creamy, everything-runs-together-until-your-eyes-bleed shtick that dominates almost every project management system and todo list manager under the sun.

Unfortunately, in it's current incarnation Trello doesn't work well on my iPad2. There was a "transport unavailable" error on every page... I doubt that the auto-updating feature works as expected... And whatever they did to code up the browser UI, it has jerked up the touch events to the point that every action requires at least two touchdowns to register one.Some things that were pointed out in the welcome board simply did not work, like Drag and drop, or the elusive user manual (um, where is it exactly?)

That brings me to the last feature that seems to be missing: the ability to delete your account. Trello doesn't give you that option. It seems that some users adopted the practice of appending "delete" to their screen names. Maybe that is in the missing manual.

So I turn my attention to Nokahuna. First issue up: the welcome screen offers me (an iPad2 user) to view a Flash based screen cast. Not exactly the best first impression.

The rest of Nokahuna reaffirms my initial style impressions.... This _is_ an old dive. There are no frills in Nokahuna, and for the most art that is a good thing. It is a task list manager, and that is it. Teams with fixed functional roles for people may find the minimalism a little too simple, but I can see the appeal to Agile folks who collaborate as independents or in a tiny cross-functional team.

For visual metaphors, Nokahuna is much weaker than Trello. It is unremarkable and like a dozen other tiny todo list tools I've seen, hacked, or used in the past 20 years. This isn't a remark about the minimalism, but about the absence of pleasant variations and of the tired look to the thing. For all the weird stuff that cropped up on my iPad2, Trello is still more attractive.  A name like Nokahuna raises expectations a little higher, and the visual appeal of a list just doesn't meet that expectation.

Summary: I'm sure both work well enough on a desktop browser. Trello aims at being multi-platform, but doesn't seem to have reached that goal in practical terms. Nokahuna is the more minimal of the two, perhaps too much so; Trello is more feature filled, almost trendy. Minimalism aside, Nokahuna still needs a facelift. 

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