Flow, a prettified new web-based task manager just announced today, is hoping to upend the sorry state of to-do apps. Take a look:
I’m one of those people who masochistically whipsaws between overcomplicated to-do “systems” and apps that are barely more sophisticated than paper, so I asked MetaLab, the UI-design gurus behind Flow, why their thingy is better than any of the other zillions that exist. His answer: Flow combines all your annoying, disconnected to-do thingies into one. (Ideally, not annoying.)
“You might delegate some tasks via email, store others on your personal to-do list, and use a tool like Basecamp to collaborate with your team at work,” Andrew Wilkinson, CEO of MetaLab, tells Co.Design. “The problem with working this way is that things get lost easily and you end up having to constantly make rounds. With Flow, you can keep everything from your personal grocery list to big work projects in one place.”
Flow is filled with fancy-sounding functionality like comment threads (intended to replace all those back-and-forth emails), tagging (to make it easier to instantly filter out the important stuff), even Twitter-style “following” (to help small teams stay on top of what everybody is doing). But isn’t this whole “moar featurez!!1” idea exactly what’s wrong with most to-do apps? Doesn’t all this junk just distract you from, like, actually getting stuff done?
“Absolutely,” says Wilkinson — which is why they’ve designed Flow to be “totally workflow agnostic.” In non-GTD-dorkspeak, that means it’s flexible enough to be as simple or as complicated as you like. “On our own team, some of us are big into that whole Getting Things Done system, others use Flow as a simple list-making tool, while others just respond to the email notifications,” he says. “We don’t want people to feel intimidated by the app — there’s no right way to use it.”
Although Flow has an iPhone app coming out soon, MetaLab intends it to be a web-based tool that you can access from anywhere, at any time, including smartphones (so no worrying about whether Flow is Android- or Blackberry- or WhateverYouUse-compatible). But just like Harvest and BankSimple, the “big idea” with Flow isn’t really the features, it’s the interface. If you can make mega-powerful, inherently un-fun, enterprise-class software look and feel like a friendly li’l iPhone app — a philosophy that might as well be MetaLab’s motto, if their previous work is any indication — you’re well on your way to getting people to actually use it and benefit from those features. Furthermore, by keeping Flow web-native, MetaLab can keep it ultra-flexible: the key to any useful to-do thingy. (I speak from experience here. Sorry, Things!)
Will Flow’s combination of webby flexibility, beefy features, and iOS-esque design be the magic bullet for inefficient would-be to-do’ers? That remains to be seen. But MetaLab’s focus on user experience (compared to some other much-hyped task management thingies shows that they’re at least headed in the right direction.