Project management software can range from straightforward task management to more comprehensive end-to-end suites that consolidate and centralize your project’s assets, resources, and communications.
We looked at the most popular options and decided to review Basecamp, Asana, and Trello. These solutions covered a broad range for small businesses in terms of price, ease of use, and features. Read on for our comparison and review of these three options, as well as our top recommendations.
Best Project Management Software for Small Businesses: Basecamp
We recommend Basecamp as the Best Project Management Software for Small Businesses in 2017 because of its comprehensive list of features, thoughtful workflow, and straight-forward pricing model that elevate it above its peers.
Project Management Software Comparison Table: Basecamp vs Asana vs Trello
|Best For||Most businesses, because of its comprehensive list of features, thoughtful workflow, and straight-forward pricing model.||Businesses with limited budgets, if you’re willing to forego a longer list of features to trim costs.||Smaller teams, teams focused on continual product releases, and those who like a visual display for their projects -- particularly non-project managers.|
|Ease of Setup and Use|
|Centralize each user’s updates and tasks with “Hey!” tool|
Campfire communication tool encourages collaboration
Sync events natively with Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook
Create automatic check-ins for team members
|Predefined project templates|
Customizable dashboard allows you to view by tasks, projects, your inbox, or calendar by individual or team
|Customizable kanban-style dashboards
Drag and drop cards keep track of task details
|Some natively, plus more through automate.io.||Many natively, plus more through automate.io.||Many natively.|
|Time Tracking||With app integrations||With app integrations||With app integrations|
|Mobile App||Android and iOS||Android and iOS||Android and iOS|
|Ticket-based support, but no guaranteed response time; however, they suggest tweeting for a “near-instant” reply||Email or ticket-based support, but no guaranteed response time||Email support with guaranteed response in one business day or less|
Basecamp, Asana, and Trello are similarly priced for teams of up to 10-12 users, but Basecamp’s flat-fee pricing model makes it the most economical solution for larger teams. However, while all three software offer free options for teams with limited budgets (albeit with limited features for Asana and Trello), Basecamp’s offer expires after 30 days.
|Pricing Page Link||Basecamp Pricing||Asana Pricing||Trello Pricing|
|Pricing||$99/month or $1000/year for unlimited users||$8.33/month per user, billed annually||$9.99/month per user, billed annually|
|Free Trial||30 days with no user or feature limitations||Up to 15 users with unlimited tasks, projects, and conversations||Unlimited users, boards, lists, cards, checklists, and attachments|
|Additional Paid Features||Free trial and paid accounts are both fully featured, including:||
Best Project Management Software for Small Businesses: Basecamp
Basecamp was already our recommended project management software when we last reviewed them back in 2014, but the release of Basecamp 3 improves on an already great product and secures its spot as our Best Project Management Software for Small Businesses.
Basecamp’s minimalist approach to project management strips away the unnecessary complexities and redundancies that often plague other software. But don’t think that means that it skimps on the details! In addition to covering the basics of project management — to-do lists, scheduling, document and file management — it also encourages collaboration among team members.
Chatting and communication, in particular, are greatly improved with the addition of Campfire to version 3, which can effectively replace third-party applications like email or Slack. And they’ve added a new tab called Hey!, which filters your team’s updates to those that matter to you the most — your own.
There’s one final feature of Basecamp that stands out — it understands that you shouldn’t be working all of the time. You’re able to work better when you can stay focused and free from distractions, so Basecamp includes a snooze option on its notifications that lets you defer them for three hours. You can also define your working hours through its Work Can Wait feature, which turns off notifications outside of your working hours to respect your off time.
We found that Basecamp offered a more comprehensive and feature-rich solution than Asana and that it was better at consolidating and centralizing communications and each user’s updates and tasks. And while Trello is an attractive solution for smaller teams who need a simple task management solution, Basecamp dives much deeper into the full lifecycle of project management and offers much that Trello can’t.
Best Project Management Software for Limited Budgets: Asana
For teams of up to 15 users who are comfortable with limited access to certain features (see pricing section below), Asana is an attractive alternative to Basecamp if you’re willing to forego a longer list of features to trim costs. It falls short in a head-to-head comparison, but is nevertheless an excellent solution for teams on a limited budget who need more of an end-to-end solution than Trello can offer.
Designed by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana is aesthetically pleasing with a nod to its social network roots, easy to use, and includes a comprehensive range of features.
Users can create projects, sub-projects, and tasks within each project, assign due dates, attach documents and files to them, assign them to team members, and track their progress. And the Facebook wall-like dashboard encourages communication and collaboration within your team. Similar to Basecamp, Asana replaces email and third-party communication apps like Slack for communication as users can share notes and attachments with the team.
Organizing tasks is easy too, which helps project managers to streamline workflows and meet deliverables more efficiently. As soon as a task is assigned or a change is made, Asana sends notifications to the appropriate user’s inbox and they can check, follow, like, or comment on the update. The same process applies for all project-related activities and is how Asana balances timely project delivery and thorough communication.
Feature-wise, Asana boasts task relating, following and searching public tasks, prioritizing completion, and change management processes. And from the team’s perspective, it lets users manage their working space, prioritize and organize tasks the way that works best for them, upload files, delegate duties, and generate clean and detailed reports.
Best Project Management Software for Small Teams: Trello
Trello is a fantastic option for smaller teams, teams focused on continual product releases, and those who like a visual display for their projects. Users represent tasks using cards that display in lists on a board, making it easy to see who is doing what at a glance. Cards can then be dragged and dropped between lists as their organization, assignment, or status changes. However, because Trello doesn’t extend any more deeply than these boards, it’s not suited for high-detail or more complex projects.
The ability to fully customize your boards to match your workflow makes Trello an excellent option for teams who may be less accustomed to traditional project management tools. That said, however, organizing your board into a kanban-style project backlog, to do, in progress, in testing, and done lists will be immediately familiar to anyone who has worked within the Scrum framework.
Where Trello falls short is that it is not a comprehensive end-to-end project management solution that can fully replace other apps and systems in the ways that Basecamp or Asana can. But if your team is only looking for task management, if they’re not used to working within traditional project management methodologies, if they’re focused on the continuous delivery of a product (like, say, software with frequent new version releases), or if they’re a smaller team working on less complex projects then Trello’s relatively simple approach may make it an attractive solution. And in many of these cases, the free package may be sufficient to meet your team’s needs, making it the most economical solution as well.
In-Depth Review: Basecamp vs Asana vs Trello
Ease of Setup/Use
The learning curve of any new software is probably the most significant barrier to its adoption. No matter how powerful it is, it’s only as useful as the people using it. And for project management software in particular, it must become the go-to application for any and all project touchpoints. So how easy are Basecamp, Asana, and Trello for new users to onboard?
Any project management software will offer a similar basic range of features — task creation, resource assignment, reporting, etc., but what will separate one solution from another is how efficiently those features are incorporated into the software’s workflow as well as any additional functionality that helps to solve common project challenges more easily.
While Asana and Trello are both excellent products that may be a good fit for your team’s needs, the comprehensive list of features that Basecamp offers, as well as its thoughtful workflow, elevate it above its peers.
Basecamp: Rather than discuss all of Basecamp’s individual features in detail, we’re going to focus on the three that will help you manage your projects the most — and that Basecamp does better than its competitors.
1. Discussion threads. Front and center on your project page is the ability to create or view a discussion thread. They ensure transparency on the project and help to consolidate conversation in one place. Think of how many times you’ve sent a group email to your team, received multiple replies back with the rest of the team copied, as well as more that were just sent to you and how much this fragmented the conversation. This is how details get overlooked or lost altogether.
With Basecamp, that email thread is replaced with simple chronological page of messages, each clearly identified by its sender, and the entire team has access to it at all times. You can create individual discussion threads for each aspect of the project — for example, one for the creative brief, one for the design mocks, one for copy feedback, etc. — and the team can post their progress or ask any questions. You can also help to guide the flow of information so that it follows your company’s processes and organize it so that it’s easy to communicate the status of individual deliverables to your team.
2. To-dos. Speaking of your team’s deliverables, Basecamp allows you to create, assign, and track to-dos for everything. To everyone. Breaking a project down to its component tasks is project management 101, and Basecamp makes the process easy for you. Each task is created as a to-do and assigned to the team member who is responsible for it. You can include start and end dates, the amount of time you estimate or allocate to complete it, and attach any required documents or files. You can then document and track the accountability for each to-do.
Another benefit of to-dos is that it allows each team member to see all of their assigned tasks across all of their projects. Basecamp will even send a reminders before the task is due so everyone can manage their time.
3. Profile pages. Every user has their own personalized profile page, which shows them everything they’re working on — projects, to-dos, and due dates. This makes planning your day easier and puts accountability for your deliverables front and center. And the Hey! menu is a single inbox for nearly every kind of Basecamp notification — @mentions, new messages, to-dos, and completions are listed and threaded in the Hey! menu.
Asana: Asana’s list of features covers the full lifecycle of a project, from task management to communication and offers multiple views to give you visibility into its status. Teams can build their projects according to their own workflow or use one of Asana’s pre-built templates.
Similar to Basecamp, projects, tasks, and subtasks can then be created, assigned to a teammate, and include due dates and any relevant documents or files can be attached to them. And once a project or task has been created, users can add comments to help centralize communication and maintain momentum.
Of particular note, and the clearest evidence of Asana’s design pedigree, is the Facebook wall-like dashboard that encourages communication and collaboration within your team. Users get a quick overview of their projects and tasks to help better manage their time, get automatic notifications in their inbox whenever an update or change is made to their tasks, and can customize their dashboard by project, task, calendar, or file views.
Upgrading from the free to the Premium package enables additional features, including task dependencies (something essential to project management), an enhanced search functionality, the ability to create custom fields, and the ability to make any projects private if they contain particularly sensitive information that not everyone on the team should have access to (HR projects, for example).
Asana makes an admirable effort to improve the flow of communication and information between team members, but in our experience we preferred Basecamp’s Campfire and Hey! features for both. They felt more intuitive, thoughtfully integrated, and enhanced the user experience enough that we can foresee a higher adoption rate. After all, any project management solution is only as useful as the users who engage with it; they depend on every team member using them as their primary tool for every project touchpoint.
Trello: Trello’s greatest feature is its relative simplicity and ease of use. The design visually represents your entire project in a drag-and-drop format, letting you organize according to your team’s established workflows, update tasks quickly and easily, and have all the information you need available at-a-glance. But as good as Trello is at task management (and make no mistake, it is very good), it falls short of Basecamp and Asana as a comprehensive end-to-end project management solution.
Trello organizes information on a board, each board contains multiple lists, and each list contains multiple cards. Boards represent projects, lists represent your workflow, and cards represent tasks and all are fully customizable according to your needs.
Cards can include a description, document and file attachments, checklists, due dates and times, and be assigned to any team member. They can then be dragged and dropped between lists as their organization, assignment, or status changes.
What makes Trello such an attractive solution is that this format will appeal to both project managers and those with no project management background at all. Trello’s boards will be immediately familiar to anyone who has worked within the Scrum methodology as they’re based on the kanban workflow model (you can imagine Trello boards as a wall of Post-It Notes); and for non-project managers, the visual representation is easy to understand and follow.
One of the more exciting features of Basecamp, Asana, and Trello is the ability to expand on their functionality by adding third-party apps or integrations. These add-ons are much like apps on your smartphone — they add additional functionality that’s above and beyond what’s included natively, and allow you to customize your user experience to meet your business’ needs. Here are some of the more useful options for each.
Basecamp, Asana, and Trello all offer multiple support options that range from support tickets, social media, and user documentation. None of them offer phone support, but this is to be expected from any cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) product.
All Project Management Software Options
While Basecamp and Asana offer comprehensive end-to-end solutions for managing your team’s projects and Trello is an effective and easy-to-use tool for smaller projects/teams and/or a continuous product delivery model, there are other project management software tools that might be a better fit for your specific needs.
Best Project Management Software for Development Focused Teams: JIRA
A fourth project management software option that we particularly like is Atlassian’s JIRA. Because of it’s history as an bug/issue tracker, JIRA would be a good fit for more development focused teams. And like any good project management tool, it replaces the need for email by consolidating and centralizing communications and document storage, and wraps it into a pretty easy to use user interface.
It’s also highly customizable, so you can configure it to your team’s particular workflow — such as kanban-style backlog, open, in progress, in review, testing, and user acceptance. JIRA Core has also opened JIRA up to other areas of business (marketing, ops, HR, etc), making it a viable comprehensive solution, and there is extensive documentation available for support.
There are many other project management software solutions on the market that may be a better fit for your business’ needs. Here are some of the others that we liked and what makes them unique:
|Software Name||What Makes It Unique?|
|Basecamp||Comprehensive list of features and simplified flat-rate pricing|
|Asana||Economical solution for teams with limited budgets|
|Trello||Visual style is easy for non-project managers and small teams|
|ActiveCollab||Prioritizes collaboration among team members and includes native invoicing app|
|Freedcamp||Advanced add-ons, like CRM, invoicing, issue tracking, and wikis|
|Podio||Highly customizable and can also be used as an intranet and/or CRM system|
|Teamwork Projects||Productivity and organization tool with an emphasis on project visualization|
|Zoho Projects||Advanced reporting and the ability to create wiki-based repositories|
|Paymo||Paymo is a great tool for software or web development teams. It integrates with Kanban project methodology and has Gantt charts coming soon.|
|Workfront||Features real-time reporting, custom project dashboards, resource and portfolio management, team collaboration, and more.|
The Bottom Line
Basecamp, Asana, and Trello are all excellent products that offer different solutions to the challenges of project management. Asana strikes a balance between the limited features of its free option while still delivering a comprehensive product, making it suitable for teams working with a limited budget. Trello shines at task management and offers an attractive visual dashboard. But Basecamp’s outstanding combination of a comprehensive list of features, thoughtful workflow, and straight-forward pricing model make it our recommended Best Project Management Software for Small Businesses in 2017.