Product Review: Tick
By Dickie Adams
“The time which we have at our disposal every day is elastic; the passions we feel expand it, those that we inspire contract it, and habit fills up what remains.”
- Marcel Proust
In the realm of freelancing, one of the most important tasks you have is tracking your time accurately and efficiently. It is your product (or creates it), and therefore, you need to simultaneously protect and distribute this valuable commodity. Unless you consistently bill and quote flat rates, you’ve likely experienced the extreme pain that timecards and time tracking can create. Seeing that our goal here is to provide you with the resources you need to be successful, we are reviewing Tick, a web-based time tracking solution from Molehill.
How does it work?
Since Tick is a web-based solution, the main interface works on any browser and on any OS. You simply point your browser to either the main site link (http://www.tickspot.com), or to your own customizable URL for the login page. Then, depending on your user level (only two, administrator and non-administrator), you can either enter time on an existing project, create a new project, view reports, or perform user maintenance.
Other than the somewhat confusing example images, the interface itself is clean and somewhat easy to use. Not that the examples aren’t interesting, but I found myself trying to figure out what these other projects, tasks, etc. were every time I came upon a new section of the site. Personally, I would have rather seen blank nothingness with a notice that data would appear once it was appropriate, and relegated the example screenshots to a FAQ or tutorial.
Once you have created new clients, then you can create projects. Only administrators have this functionality, and so you will need to do, depending on your client load, a bit of footwork to prepare your company for other users (if any). As you can see in the example, the site says each project name must be unique to the client, this is inaccurate. You can have the same project name (at this point) if you so desire, but similarly named projects will not be linked together.
An overall view of the project budget is easily accessible as is the ability to close tasks or projects when they are completed. And yes, you can have projects with no budget at all, if so desired.
Depending on the granularity you desire for the project, you can break out individual tasks and even assign time from your budget to said tasks. This enables you to track progress within a specific project more efficiently. The example demonstrates how one can analyze the project, without a lot of detailed bits of data, the budgets and times for a task. You can mine a little further into the data by selecting a specific username link.
Creating users is a straightforward task, and if you like, you can even assign them to specific projects (by either doing so while creating the project or editing it after the fact). Other than an issue with SPF (Sender Policy Framework) due to the way that Tick sends emails (as if they are coming from the project owner, apparently so replies are easier), there weren’t any problems.
Once users are established, and your projects are in place, you can start delving into the most important feature, the actual time tracking. By selecting a day, client, project, and task (if appropriate), you then type in the time, leave a note, and enter the time. Non-admin users will only see this interface while admin users have access to all areas.
Want to know what’s been done? Or simply want to see your Timesheet? At the bottom of the timecard area is a link to view one’s weekly time. There isn’t currently a way to generate data in larger chunks (such as monthly), but you can navigate forward and back, week by week.
Another way to enter time is through Tick’s widget. This requires that you install Yahoo Widgets (originally Konfabulator) on your PC. Unfortunately, while the interface is nice looking, and it can connect to your Tick account, there isn’t a password prompt, but the timer does pass the time to the “Time to Enter” box, rounded to the nearest minute. It also takes a bit of time to connect, thus leaving your browser open and connected to Tick is a much more efficient way to enter time. Personally, I would have liked to see the timer available through the web interface, thus allowing for even more accurate time tracking without the overhead of Yahoo Widgets.
At this point, there is no direct integration with any financial software such as Quickbooks, but Tick does connect to Basecamp and can export .csv data. Or, you can simply print/view the data directly from the web interface. This is where Tick is at its weakest. The lack of integration into, or the inclusion of, billing software does mean that the process of turning this highly important data into real world dollars and cents is not completed efficiently. I am certain that we will see this change in the near future in order for Tick to survive long-term. Otherwise, it will simply be yet another timesheet with a couple of neat features.
Last, but certainly not least, we must speak on Tick’s customer service. The turnaround time for bug reports and suggestions was very good. They obviously have a vested interest in making their product work, but as one email mentioned, “If you are considering running Tick full time we will be happy to work with you to resolve the issue.” (regarding the SPF issues). Although the responses ranged from “happy to help” to almost gruff. But in all, we found that the service level was well above average.
- Fast (even with higher level encryption)
- Once configured, it is easy to use
- Simple interface
- Prompt customer service
The Not So Good
- Issues with SPF (Sender Policy Framework) due to way emails are sent
- Widget needs additional functionality
- Examples on pages can be confusing
- Customer service replies seem a little hit and miss
- At the time of the review, only integrated with Basecamp and had only .csv exporting capabilities
Ranging from free (limited to one open project) to $79 per month (with unlimited projects), Tick offers five subscription levels with 30 day trials available. You can read more about the pricing plans here.
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