Treenga, the new issue management system
First of all, let’s define how issues (let’s use “tasks” further) can be grouped. We will talk about operational tasks here, not strategical, which require different tools and workflow.
The first group of tasks can be called the keynotes. These initial task descriptions work as the catalyst for the consequent associations and steps in the reader’s mind. For example, If I write “buy milk” on my to-do list, this keynote creates a chain reaction of more in-depth thoughts and actions: I should go to reliable retailer, find a 1-liter carton of skim milk from “X” producer, check the expiration date, and buy it. “Buy milk” is therefore a tag which precedes a discussion with relatives, friends or even with oneself.
Take another example: you as a designer, have a meeting with a product manager and after the meeting, you are assigned two tasks:
☐ modify pricing page
☐ make an illustration for contacts page
Whilst each of these brief tasks may say a lot to you and the product manager, they probably mean next to nothing to anyone who was not present for the meeting. Good examples of management tools for keynotes such as these in the examples above are todoist.com, www.wunderlist.com, workflowy.com.
Keynotes have one big advantage — they are fast to create. All you have to do is type a couple of keywords and this is usually enough for you to recall the discussion.
The second group of tasks is the detailed task explanation. These tasks differ from the keynotes as they include task goals and notes on how to achieve that goal. They are likely to be written by a UX designer or product manager, and if needed, the system architect could add technical details. The detailed task explanation might be used to provide general recommendations, or, depending on the task fulfillment process in a specific company, it could include more detailed specifications. Now, the task is ready for implementation. At this stage anyone in the team can open the task, read it and proceed. Ideally, by this time everything should be clear enough that a product manager can step back from the task and allow everyone to play their part without the need for any additional clarification.
There are many task management tools which are developed to cover both short keynotes and full-blown descriptions. As a result, user interfaces out there generally provide space for only brief task descriptions, and these short descriptions may lead to issues:
- Only part of the task description is covered. This is especially problematic if you have a teammate who works in a different time zone as they may be unavailable when a question regarding the task inevitably arises.
- The lack of detailed description could also lead to less efficient use of time by teammates and continuous disruption as they switch from their current task in order to provide required explanations for others, and then switch back to their own work.
- When there is not enough space to write down the details, disagreements may arise as teammates debate what is or is not on task, or forget what was verbally discussed; as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”.
4. Lack of detail may also cause problems with quality assurance. When there are no clear requirements outlined, there is no stringent checking process.
I started writing task descriptions in 2006, when my first e-commerce attempt was developed. The initial concept was described in a Word file, all further modifications were sent as separate PDFs such as this:
The task management software I tried over the next few years allowed text-only descriptions, which in most cases, was not suitable for my work. I like to use my page as a big canvas to explain everything, utilizing a combination of written paragraphs and images to make my vision clear. I don’t like to have to attach my images at the end of a document, but rather to integrate them in order to better explain the text. For this reason I couldn’t adjust to tools like Trello:
I want my images to be placed right after the text they relate to, because I want my readers to be able to review all visuals before moving on to the next paragraph. This is why I favor text representation such as Medium, where images are first-class citizens used to enhance descriptions, and are not treated like an afterthought or text appendix.
When creating task descriptions, I frequently needed to include screenshots from the live website or from a prototyping tool to better explain what needed to be done, so I used OneNote (note-taking tool from Microsoft) or good old-fashioned emails (add text, images, files — everything kept within a single message). OneNote, despite its simplicity, didn’t work all that reliably for document sharing, so once I discovered Dropbox’s Paper two years ago, I instantly switched to it:
For another project, I had to use Github and created more than 1500 tasks and it’s pretty good most of the times, apart from one thing — I don’t like to use Markdown for text + images task descriptions. I really don’t like this constant switching from preparation (no images) to result view (text + images). There were many times where I realised the wrong image was attached, or while modifying the task, I had to try to remember what text was near the image as when I switched to preparation mode, the images were no longer visible, making it difficult to find what I wanted to change or reposition. Eventually, I realised that what I wanted was to use a mix of Paper and Github, so a “single task at a time” interface with rich task descriptions, along with category/people assignment features. I knew that I couldn’t possibly be the only person with these needs, and that this tool would be helpful for others too.
From here, “Treenga” was born. Below are a couple of screenshots.
The task description page:
So we have a list of tasks which are easily manageable through the use of hierarchical categories, and every task has a large area available for a detailed task description, in which images can be easily integrated where and when you want them. You may have already found your perfect task management tool, but if, like me, you’ve ever struggled to find that simple and efficient interface, this may be your answer.
Give Treenga a try, possibly it will make your life easier as well.