A very businesslike piece of project management software, Mavenlink will likely find a very appreciative audience among the no-nonsense crowd thanks to its efficient task distribution and built-in accounting functions. Slightly more whimsical users will like it less, as you can read in our full Mavenlink review.
Mavenlink is like most of the best project management software in that it offers offers the usual tools to help you plan your project and collaborate with others. It’s unlike the competition in that it also includes features to make expensing, budgeting and billing a key part of the process. Adding some complexity while remaining usable is no easy task, though. To find out whether it delivers, read on for our Mavenlink review.
Mavenlink shows it puts work before play with its busy logo and the focused expressions in its marketing material. The service is keen to help you succeed and provides free business guides and tips for making money on its website. If you’re serious about making money, it could be a good fit.
Many of the best project management tools feel like they are made by talented designers and developers, but Mavenlink feels like it was designed by business-savvy people. It includes a wealth of features geared toward getting things done. It isn’t the easiest to use, but for those looking for a serious, full-featured tool, Mavenlink is an excellent choice.
As we’ll see, its financial abilities are its strongest suit by far, though doesn’t have the full power of the best accounting software. It has a few user interface issues and its support isn’t the best, but its feature set is good enough to balance its weaknesses.
- Excellent UI
- Easy to use
- Versatile feature set
- No free offering
- No dependency management
- Fun to use
- Excellent in-app guidance
- Easy & intuitive
- Could scare users afraid of narwhals
- Slow support
- Cheap for large teams
- Free for educators
- Helpful wizards
- Expensive for small teams
- A few user interface issues
- Automatic invoicing
- Excellent financial features
- Business focused
- Advanced planning & dependency management
- Irritating sign-up process
- Patchy support
- Several usability flaws
Mavenlink is a level above many tools in terms of business features and includes things, such as automatic financials, that give it an edge over its rivals and make it a top choice if you are interested in automating your project cost tracking, though maybe using a service like OneUp, which goes the other way around, maybe be a better idea for some. Read our OneUp review for more on this service.
Mavenlink can help you generate PayPal invoices automatically to get instant payments in most, though not all, currencies. Indian rupees are out, for example.
Like other project management tools, Mavenlink allows you to set up projects and create tasks, which you can then comment on and track. Where it goes further is its time tracking and invoice generation. You can tally time spent on projects and set hourly rates for tasks, allowing you to keep a close eye on your costs.
Tasks can be expanded upon with checklists of items to tick off, so you can break what you need to do into chunks and mark things off as you go.
When you assign a task to someone, they get an email letting them know, so everyone assigned a task is automatically notified as you plan your project. That is going to save you time.
It offers a wide selection of views, allowing you to focus on different aspects of your project.
The activity view shows recent changes made, such as adding tasks. Its task tracker shows you what needs to be done and who needs to do it and it offers plenty of sorting options, so you can focus on what you need to.
Its gantt view gives you a visual of how tasks run together. It allows you to drag them forward or backward and add subtasks.
The time and expenses view lets you keep track of time spent on particular tasks and assign a cost to each chunk of time you add, so you can bill for it later and manage your budget.
We thought Mavenlink got the balance right with notification mails. It only sent us the messages we wanted, rather than bombarding us with notifications for things we weren’t interested in. There was a message telling us we had saved our customization settings, which we didn’t need, but there are options that let you control what you receive.
Dependency management is included, but this review was the first time we needed to look up how to add basic dependencies. It is an advanced system that allows you to add various kinds of relationship and plan things in detail.
Mavenlink has a wealth of customization options. You can set your logo, color scheme and favicon. You can also change your URL, support URL and give your team a custom logon message. It lacks custom backgrounds in the main area, but it gives you plenty of ways to make it feel like your own.
It is fussier than other tools, though, and running into problems is common. We encountered several minor errors with it, but they were rarely showstoppers and, once we’d figured things out, we were generally able to make progress. The issues don’t feel disastrous, but the competition offers a more refined experience.
Once you get over the snafus and figure things out, there is a powerful system that allows you to do a lot and manage many aspects of your project. It will require effort to get started, though.
That said, its complexity won’t be for everybody. For something simpler that lets you manage tasks and communicate without as many issues, take a look at our Basecamp review.
Despite several minor flaws, Mavenlink has an excellent feature set with several standout points that are worth a high score in this category.
Mavelink Features Overview
After making us grit our teeth in its sign-up process, Mavenlink welcomed us to its app with a brief tour.
Its tour introduced the basics in plain English and took us to the dashboard, Mavenlink’s top page.
That said, after its second pop-up bubble of informative text, our tour abruptly stopped, leaving us to wonder what we did wrong. It was like being welcomed into the building by someone with a slick suit who smiles and points out a couple of things, then vanishes, never to be seen again, leaving you alone in the lobby.
Left to explore, you’ll find that Mavenlink has a professional, no-frills interface that looks like something designed for people who want to get things done without the software getting in their way.
Screens are easy to navigate and include a lot of information. It isn’t a tool with which you use a few simple features as building blocks to make what you want, but is more prescriptive.
Once we created our first project, some help text popped up, which was par for the course. Weirdly though, there were two pop-ups in different styles, one in the middle of the screen and one in the bottom right.
The bottom right window included tips on what to do next. There were three icons at the bottom, but it wasn’t clear what they did. The text advised us to invite people to collaborate, but we couldn’t tell if the thumbs up icon meant we’d do that or indicate that we liked the tip.
It was confusing, and there was no explanatory hover text to clarify the ambiguity. Even clicking it didn’t help. It just highlighted the icon without giving further feedback.
There are no templates to help you get started. You have to set them up yourself. Other tools with templates offer a variety of ready-made setups.
After setting up our first project, we tried to add a task, but, after filling in the name, start date and end date, we weren’t able to save it.
We couldn’t assign it to anyone, either. We couldn’t even add ourselves in the “resources” column, which only allowed us to pick from those who had been added to it. Our default user wasn’t there.
There was no text explaining why we couldn’t save. We added another user to the project, but, when we tried to add the task again, we were able to do it without assigning anyone.
That kind of issue isn’t a disaster, but it doesn’t compare well to other tools. Check out our Monday.com review for an example of a user interface that’s so good almost everything you do is self-explanatory.
Though Mavenlink is tricky to use at first, it isn’t hard to use once you’ve figured it out. It could use an overhaul of its pop-ups and tutorials, though. The competition is better at that.
The tone used throughout is businesslike and professional. Those familiar with business terms will find that Mavenlink speaks their language. It could be off-putting for those unfamiliar with the company boardroom, though, so if you’re looking for something more welcoming, take a look at our Asana review.
We have to give Mavenlink a low score in this category because we ran into so many things that didn’t quite work correctly. That said, they were mostly minor bugbears, not major problems, and shouldn’t put you off too much if you plan to invest time into learning the platform.
Mavenlink takes an unusual approach to pricing in that it doesn’t tell you what its most popular plan costs unless you contact it. We’ve seen other companies do this with their top-tier offerings before, but never for the standard.
The Teams tier only offers collaboration and task management tools. The Professional tier adds time tracking. For resource planning and financials, you’ll need the Premier plan and, if you need business intelligence and advanced services, the Enterprise plan is for you.
The Teams tier offers 10GB of storage and the next two levels offer 50GB and 100GB, respectively. The Enterprise plan gives you 1TB to play with. To see how those compare to dedicated storage platforms, take a look at our best online storage for teams article.
You don’t sign up, you request access. Instead of the usual password confirmation after you’ve provided your details, you get a message that says a representative will be in touch within 24 hours. That said, you do get a confirmation message and another set of details to fill in, so you have to enter your information on two forms.
Fail to choose a password that matches its rules — which will only be supplied if you fail — and you will have to enter your details a third time. We’re not sure if Mavenlink is playing hard to get, but that is sloppy from a usability perspective.
It doesn’t demand your credit card details to access its 10-day trial, though, so that’s a plus.
Mavenlink is one of the most expensive tools out there, so the wallet-conscious may want to look elsewhere. Its Teams tier is a good value way to try it, though.
For comparison, Wrike comes in at under $10 per user on its standard plan, so take a look at our Wrike review if you’re looking to spend less.
Mavenlink takes a strong approach to security and privacy. It uses TLS 1.2 for data transmission and AES 128-bit for storage. It has its security credentials verified independently, meeting the standards for SOC1 Type II and SOC2 Type II.
It complies with the EU-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. privacy shield frameworks and the General Data Protection Regulation. If you’re unfamiliar with that, read our GDPR article, which explains what it is and how it affects you.
It has an intrusion detection system and is careful with your data. Staff who have access to your details need to pass background checks.
It also participates in bug disclosure programs, allowing the community to contribute to making it safer. If you’re interested in learning more about the dangers that lurk online, take a look at our guide to cybercrime for more information.
There is no two-factor authentication, which is unfortunate, but its security settings panel is one of the best we’re seen, offering a good selection of information and useful ways to provide your team with the level of protection you need.
You can review your active sessions, for example, which is useful if you suspect nefarious activity concerning your account. Take a look at our article on website security for more on the threats found online.
Mavenlink Password Options
There are all sorts of options to tune your password settings, too, including expiry dates, inactivity periods, minimum password length and lockout periods. We’d prefer a maximum lockout period longer than 60 minutes, but that’s being picky.
If your team members are having trouble managing secure passwords, direct them to our best password manager article, which includes several options to help them.
We were happy with Mavenlink’s security. The customization options are good. The only downside is the lack of two-factor authentication, but we still give it high marks in this category.
Clicking the “help center” link for the first time got us a message telling us to verify our email before visiting it. We’d already been through the sign-up process, so that was an unwanted surprise. Email verification is not what you want to be doing when you’re in need of help.
Trying to access the link again opened a duplicate of the page we were on without giving us an error message.
When we made it to the help center, we saw options to start a live chat or submit a ticket. Continuing Mavenlink’s habit of making unnecessary UI blunders, clicking the live chat button brought up a form with two option buttons: email or chat.
When we clicked the email button, our two-line inquiry uploaded with a progress bar tracking the small amount of time it took. We got a response almost immediately, but it was a message asking us to create a new password for the help system.
We didn’t have to set one up before getting a reply, though. Mavenlink responded to our question about two-factor authentication by asking what we meant by two-factor authentication. Its support team may want to check out our what is two-factor authentication guide, which explains it in detail.
After we explained what two-factor authentication was to them, they let us know that it wasn’t offered.
We asked the live chat system if Mavenlink offered payment methods other than credit cards and it took three minutes to give us a no.
Its knowledgebase is good, though, and includes detailed answers to many of the problems you will no doubt have. This is fortunate because Mavenlink is the project management tool we’ve needed the most help with to get started.
Mavenlink’s support could be improved. That said, its knowledgebase is good, so it gets a decent score.
Mavenlink is a fantastic business tool that can do an awful lot for you. It has great features and does things other platforms don’t.
The financial and invoicing options are big pluses and could be worth the price of entry alone if they are features you plan to use regularly. We did see several missteps in its workflows, though, which isn’t great. When using financial features, you want things to behave as you expect them to.
Though it is a high-quality tool, it repeatedly left us wondering what to do when we first started, more so than any other project management program we’ve looked at.There are a lot of UI missteps, too, but they are minor and Mavenlink is still good to use.
In its worst moments, it gives the impression that the designers had the occasional argument and never resolved their differences. Sometimes, the platform feels like it was built by a bunch of talented people who have never met one another.
Who knows, though, in time its quirks may even become cute. If Microsoft did the same things, we’d hate it, but we can’t help liking Mavenlink in spite of its flaws. Beneath its ramshackle user experience, we suspect there beats a heart of gold.
With polish, Mavenlink could go from being good to excellent. It has been around a while, so who knows what its future holds. We think it is worth a look and worth persevering through the teething problems you are likely to encounter.
We do feel that a product that manages your finances would inspire more confidence if it got the small things right, though.
We’ve talked a lot about bugs and UI issues in this review, and there are plenty of them, but the core experience is still strong. Mavenlink’s core features are good enough to make it worth your time. None of its problems are that serious.
If you’ve ever thought the sorting hat might have put you in Slytherin, Mavenlink is the software for you. It is businesslike and great for planning and costing every aspect of your projects. Hufflepuffs looking for more assistance might want to shop around, though.
If you’ve used Mavenlink, please let us know whether you agree with our assessment in the comments below. Thanks for reading.