Pictured above: Hours 2.0 for iOS and Hours for web, coming in just a few weeks — check out the Hours website to learn more and sign up

Hours: Building the Ideal Time Tracking Service

Jeremy Olson
Jan 4, 2016 · 7 min read

There is a reason why almost every time tracking service out there says it takes the pain out of time tracking. Time tracking stinks! For companies, unreliable time tracking is literally a multi-billion dollar a day problem. For employees, time tracking can be one of the worst parts of their job (hint: the two are related). You would think that by now someone would have come out with the ideal time tracking service that solves the fundamental problems.

First there were the big enterprise services for which time tracking was an obligatory and neglected feature. Then Harvest came out in the web 2.0 era and proved that a dedicated time tracking solution could be a much better experience than the establishment. Since then, Toggl and others have innovated in the space. However, some of the fundamental problems with time tracking remain unsolved. With the Hours Web private beta coming out today, I think it makes sense to lay out our vision for solving those fundamental problems. These are the reasons why we are passionate about a space some people consider to be over-saturated.

If this stuff clicks with you, you can sign up to our newsletter to get more details over the next few weeks before we launch.

The best time tracking software makes tracking time in real time habitual

By far the biggest reason people track time inaccurately is because they wait until the end of the day, the end of the week, or even the end of the month to retrace their steps. I used to do this myself. That is because tracking time in real time has been nearly impossible except for the most disciplined of people. The biggest frictions to tracking time in real time are:

  1. You forget to do it and most services don’t remind you.

You forget to do it

Hours uses your work day and other factors to nag you at just the right times so that you don’t forget to start and stop your timers. This nagging eventually trains you to track your time habitually.

It takes too many steps

The reason most time tracking apps take so many steps to switch between tasks is because they assume you are working on something different every day, so they ask you to indicate the project you are working on, then the task (which usually involves typing), and then you can finally start a timer.

Hours assumes you generally work on the same stuff day to day. You create a timer once and it is there until you remove it. This way, you can switch between your common client, project, task combinations with just one click.

It is hard to find and fix mistakes

Hours is the first time tracker to display your time on a timeline. This way, you can easily see how you accounted for each hour, identify mistakes, and adjust your time in-context.

The result is that tracking time in real time is not only feasible, but even addicting. We have had users say they don’t necessarily need to track time for work, but tracking their time as they go keeps them focused on one task at a time, and makes them accountable to themselves for where they spend their time. This makes Hours useful for any team, regardless of whether they bill for time.

The activity of live time tracking itself makes employees more focused, accountable, and productive.

On the administrative side, live time tracking allows companies to identify if the team is focusing on the right things in real time and course correct within hours instead of weeks.

Turning live time tracking into a habit is Hours’ number one priority, and I think we are the only company focusing on it. I am really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish on the web version of Hours — we’ll share more on this soon.

The best time tracking software balances the needs of employees with the needs of admins

For example, one of the biggest pain points with all time tracking software is that admins want to be the only ones to add clients, projects, and tasks because otherwise you end up with an account rife with duplicates and incorrectly logged time — a reporting nightmare. On the other hand, employees want to be able to start logging time to new projects or clients right away, and oftentimes, the admin hasn’t gotten around to creating it yet.

We have invented a pretty cool solution to this problem, which we’re excited to share with you soon.

The best time tracking software makes reporting fast and visual

Creating a great reporting interface requires making some assumptions. For example, instead of assuming you are trying to generate a completely unique report every time, we assume you generally like to see the same stuff for the same period (whether that is 15 days, a month, or something completely unique) and default to that report automatically, giving you tabs to quickly jump back to an earlier report of the same kind. You can filter and adjust from there however you please and see your changes instantly reflected in the report.

We also believe that visualizing data can yield big insights — insights that are difficult to glean from a table of numbers—so we heavily emphasize visuals in our reports.

The best time tracking software embraces the contracting phenomenon

The reality is that the percentage of workers working for multiple companies at once is increasing astronomically but time tracking solutions haven’t evolved accordingly. We realized that this trend is so huge that v1.0 of Hours on the web had to allow users to belong to multiple teams and track time for multiple teams in a unified interface.

The best time tracking software is amazing on mobile and wearables

It baffles me that most major time tracking companies don’t invest more in mobile and wearables. We live in a mobile world and being able to switch tasks on the go or stop a timer after you leave your desk can be essential to making you a great time tracker. I believe Hours is the first mobile-first time tracking service. Forbes describes our app as the “perfect time tracker for the iPhone”. We have also created an Apple Watch app that allows users to switch timers really quickly from their wrist.

We intend to continue to invest in mobile. The next step is opening up Hours to all mobile users by creating a knockout mobile web experience (released along with Hours for web). You will be able to switch timers with one tap just like in the app. Even better than the current iPhone app, you will be able to drag time around the timeline with your finger! This is super cool and I can’t wait to see how Android, Windows Phone, and iPad users take advantage of it.

The best time tracking software is beautiful and fun to use

We believe business software doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, if your employees enjoy using an app, they are much more likely to stay engaged and track their time accurately. Slack proved that business users are human too — we all prefer enjoyable interfaces that have a personality over boring, dry ones. From the on-boarding copy to subtle animations throughout the app, we are always looking for opportunities to go the extra mile to make you grin. We are pretty stoked that some of the user reviews for our app use words like “fun” and “addicting” to describe Hours. We hope to take this a lot further.

The new Hours logo

The above issues are the fundamental ones and they are not being adequately addressed in the current time tracking market. Hours exists to solve these problems. Hours 2.0 — which means a refreshed iOS app and Hours on the web—goes into private beta today and should be publicly available in a few weeks.

If you think we may be on to something, go to hourstimetracking.com to sign up for our newsletter and get the details on how we are trying to build a better time tracking service.

If you are really interested, our early access crowdfunding program ends in just a few days so you will want to check it out now. Back us early to get big discounts, instant access to the just-released Hours beta, and direct access to our team to help us make Hours work better for you or your team.

The Hours Blog

Hours news plus time tracking and productivity hacks from the Hours team

Thanks to Michael Aprile, Todd Olson, Stephen Wise, and Gilad Ronat

Jeremy Olson

Written by

Designer at Coda. Formerly: Founder of Tapity - Grades (Apple Design Award), Languages (App Store Best of 2012) & Hours (acquired).

The Hours Blog

Hours news plus time tracking and productivity hacks from the Hours team

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