Podio Review

In this Podio review we go over all the ins and outs of one of the more original project management tools we’ve reviewed. That’s not necessarily a good thing, though.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large, Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-07-20T20:47:04+00:00
Starts from $ 720 per month
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Podio is a project management platform we won’t be featuring in our roundup of the best project management software anytime soon. While we admire its dedication to being different, and like certain aspects of how it works, overall it falls a little flat. This is mainly due to its user experience being pretty rough, though there are some issues with its feature set as well.

Key Takeaways:

  • Podio has one of the most confusing interfaces out there. Be prepared for lots of clicking and feeling lost.
  • Podio is the most flexible project management tool out there. However, its massive number of choices means it’s not very focused on any one task.
  • In the right hands, Podio could be a comprehensive project management tool, but you’d need to invest some serious time and effort into it to get there.

Unlike any of our favorite project management apps, like monday.com or nTask, which are ready to go straight out of the digital box, Podio relies on you to create your own environment. This kind of freedom is great, of course, but because of the less-than-intuitive interface, it becomes a massive chore to get anything done, let alone design a function from scratch.

That’s a shame, too, because the team behind it clearly had some very interesting ideas about how to integrate task management with CRM functions. For large companies — and we mean huge — it may still be an interesting option, as it clearly requires a full-time project manager to operate, but smaller companies are probably much better off with a service like monday.com.

  • 07/14/2021

    Cloudwards.net completed a fresh review of Podio with new criteria and images.

  • Podio is a piece of project management software that can help you keep track of tasks and projects, as well as manage what team members are doing.

  • Podio offers a free plan, but it’s rather limited.

  • Podio is owned by Citrix Systems, one of the largest software companies in the world.

Podio Project Management Alternatives

Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros:

  • Flexible
  • Generous free plan
  • CRM functions

Cons:

  • Rough interface
  • Annoying tutorials

Features

60 % – Fair

When it comes to features, Podio isn’t as clear-cut as most of its competitors, like Asana or Wrike. Unlike them, it comes with very few functions that are ready to go, instead expecting you to add functionality to your taste. It’s incredibly confusing at first — which isn’t helped by its awful interface (more on that later) — and we have our doubts about the efficacy of it all.

That said, part of our issue with Podio is that we’re judging it as a project management tool. When seen as a more general tool that can do some project management — emphasis on some — as well as keep track of clients and other functionality you’d associate more with CRM software, then it might be more interesting. As just a task management solution, though, it’s weak.

Before we go into that, we first need to set out our terms. Annoyingly, Podio has decided to appropriate several commonly used terms for specific features and functions of its software. Between this idiosyncratic jargon and the interface, the learning curve is unnecessarily steep: it took us several hours to come to grips with Podio.

Podio Workspaces

Work in Podio is divided up by “workspaces,” which can represent divisions within a company, or different teams; it’s up to you. It’s reminiscent of Basecamp in this way (check out our Basecamp review).

Each workspace has room for several “apps,” which are modules suited to a specific purpose. We realize that’s vague, but it’s pretty hard to describe something that you can tailor at will like you can Podio’s apps.

podio new app
Making a Podio app from scratch is pretty much like painting with a blank canvas.

This is, without a doubt, Podio’s greatest strength. You can tailor apps to be whatever you want: a client database, a schedule for projects, a calendar, as you like. There’s a lot to tinker with here and we admire the flexibility it offers.

However, this strength is also a weakness. While it’s nice to be offered this much freedom, it makes Podio extremely hard to get used to. As a result, you’re going to spend quite some time just floundering. 

Another issue is that of time: while it’s great that you can tailor apps to your liking, not everybody is going to have the time to mess around with getting an app just so, not to mention more than one. Many professionals need a project management tool to be up and running quickly; they don’t have time to putter about with the digital equivalent of IKEA furniture.

Podio App Market

There is a solution to this issue, though, in the form of ready-made apps, which can be found in the app market. These are designed both by Podio team members as well as fellow users and take a lot of the work of designing apps away from you. At the same time, you can still personalize apps as you wish, making it a pretty good fix overall, though still a bit too fiddly for our tastes.

podio app market
Podio’s app market is just huge, with something for everybody.

One problem we came across is that many of the apps expect you to already have a good working knowledge of Podio. Another issue is that a lot of the functionality you find in specialized tools (like Gantt charts, or setting up dependencies) can’t be found in Podio, meaning it’s a bit limited as a project management platform.

Podio Task Management

Workspaces and apps are just the framework of Podio, though. The real work is done with so-called items within apps. Though the term “item” comes up often when reading Podio’s documentation, what they are is hard to define. Podio itself admits as much, and encourages you to think of them as “living, social documents.”

We have no clue what that’s supposed to mean. In practice, though, items are just the stuff inside apps. If you make a client database, each entry is an item; if you want to keep track of projects, each one of those is — you guessed it — an item. That said, if the term “social document” revs your engine, you do you.

This brings us to a major issue we have with Podio: even though it’s kinda-sorta marketed as a tool for project management, it doesn’t do a very good job of managing tasks. For instance, in the template that’s set up for you when you get started with Podio, there is an app called “projects.” Click it, and you’re presented with a kanban board of sorts.

podio projects
This is the closest Podio comes to a conventional project management screen.

This is kinda-sorta like a kanban board, with each card representing a task. However, with the way it’s named and the example cards you’re given, you’d think you could use each card to manage a separate project. This is not the case, however. Each card can have tasks added — basically just a checklist — but that’s really just about it.

podio card back
We must admit we like the flexibility of Podio’s cards.

In a pinch, you could use Podio as a kanban board, but without the overview and thorough functionality of the best kanban apps. If you want more from Podio than just basic task management features, you’re going to have to get very good at putting together your own apps, or just switch to something like Asana or monday.com.

Collaboration Tools

Though we’re not sure about using Podio as project management software, it could be very useful as an overview tool for managers in large organizations, or with several teams under them. This is because while it only gives some basic overview of the actual work being done, it does make it very easy to link up between teams and with different departments’ resources. 

One good example is the intranet, which is a Facebook-like messaging center where anybody and everybody can see what has been happening in a workspace. Like Facebook — or most other social media — team members can react to events (like a new project being created) or other people’s comments. It should make department-wide communication a lot easier, especially in larger companies.

Automated Workflows

What’s even better, though, are Podio’s automated workflows, which work more or less like no-code solutions such as Zapier or Integromat. They allow you to set up simple automations between apps with just a few clicks of the mouse.

podio workflows
Podio’s workflows are a nifty feature.

Do note that we said “simple,” though: compared to dedicated apps, the options you have fall a little flat. For example, you can’t set triggers except where Podio tells you to, and you’re limited in the number of actions to which you can assign triggers. Still, it’s a nice little addendum for people who like Podio’s flexibility.

Podio Features Overview

Management Views
Kanban board
List
Calendar
Timeline
Spreadsheet view
Gantt charts
Workload planning
Long-term planning
Management Features
Multiple project management
Dependency management
Native scrum management
Set user permissions
File storage
Time-tracking
Built-in integrations
Reporting features
General Features
Free plan
Free Trial
Web app
Windows
MacOS
Android
iOS
Support
Ticket-based support
Tutorials
Knowledgebase
Forum
Live chat
Phone support

Pricing

70 % – Decent

Podio is priced at roughly the industry average. However, comparing it to other project management tools is tricky as it doesn’t share much of their feature set. Podio is pretty unique in the things it can do, so whether or not you should upgrade from the free plan is very much dependent on what you need it for. Let’s take a look at the pricing table.

Podio Cost

Podio’s Free Version

Podio lets you use most of its features for free, with a limit of five users and 500 items. This isn’t as generous as the best free project management software, but the free plan is pretty decent considering that you get relatively free rein of the program. Only advanced features, such as reporting and setting user permissions, are locked away.

The Basic plan’s purpose seems to be to remove the Podio user cap and give you some extra options, while the Plus plan is where you can make the most out of automated workflows. The Premium plan gives you access to advanced automation and some nice-looking reports.

Overall, we’re hard pressed to pass judgment on Podio’s pricing structure. The Plus and Premium plans seem a little pricey considering that they’re really just small upgrades, though the added automations might be a boon for certain businesses. As with the features, it’s all very situational.

User-Friendliness

40 % – Terrible

What’s less situational is Podio’s user-friendliness, or rather lack of it. It’s one of the most annoying interfaces we’ve had the displeasure of using, with menus having no easy way back, no central hub that you can always return to, nothing like that. It honestly made reviewing the program a chore and has made us reevaluate every single interface we ever used before.

The realization that this was going to be a bad one was when the tutorial started. Getting a Podio account was easy — we just clicked the right buttons on the website — and the very first screen we saw seemed pretty standard, too: the regular interface with a black bar to the right with the tutorial. Standard fare.

podio first screen
After clicking that green button, your life will change forever.

Clicking on the “create a project” button opens a list with all the steps necessary to do so in the sidebar. Each step is accompanied by a little green flashing dot that jumps around the screen to show you where to click or what to do. The “tutorial” consists of Podio users following this dot around like meth-crazed felines. Podio is pretty unique in this, and we know why: it sucks.

podio green ball
This image doesn’t do the flashing, pinging dot justice.

What’s worse is that you can’t skip a step, because if you do, the dot will just stay where it is until you’ve ticked the task off your list. It feels like you’re being talked down to by a dot.

This distrust of the user extends to other things as well: one example is deleting an app. When you do so — after you find the right button, which takes some doing — you don’t just get a regular “are you sure?” dialog box, one most of us appreciate. Instead, you need to type in “delete this app” in a special dialog box and then click a box with the exact same text

podio delete app
“Are you sure? But like, really, really, really sure?”

I guess if you’re worried about misclicking four times in a row Podio is a good option. Anybody else will likely just get annoyed.

Managing Tasks With Podio

Our annoyance with Podio doesn’t stop there, either. Once you’re actively using the program, there’s plenty more to raise your blood pressure. One odd choice is the lack of a dashboard where you can access all the program has to offer; instead you have several dashboards for different types of use.

podio main screen
Though we like the wall of updates on the left, the right side of the screen could be a lot more informative.

There’s no easy way to cycle between these screens either, which can get exasperating. On top of that, when you go into an app or another item, there’s no way to switch back, or go from there to another screen. In the end, you click around a lot and need to use the “back” button on your browser quite often. It’s weird.

Managing tasks isn’t much easier: while each entry is simple enough to create by pressing “T” on your keyboard, it will assign it to the item you’re on at that moment. If you don’t keep an eye on where you are (no easy feat in Podio), you might append a task to the wrong item or app. 

Also, the only way to get an overview of your tasks is in the above screen. It makes figuring out what needs to be done a real pain. Using Podio really feels like you’re fighting the program rather than being helped by it. Thumbs down.

Security & Privacy

60 % – Fair

When it comes to security and privacy, Podio is governed by the rules set out by Citrix, its developer. When it comes to privacy, the company collects a lot of your data, from the personal information you enter to get the account, to information from the files you upload — a big no-no — as well as the location data from your phone. 

According to Citrix, it needs all this information to improve its services as well as offer you better products, but honestly it’s all a bit much. Plenty of other services do a fine job of this without slurping quite this much data, so we’re docking Podio some serious points here.

Is Podio Secure?

Podio security is a little better, thankfully (the details are in a downloadable PDF on that page). Your data is protected in transit using TLS protocol and stored with Amazon Web Services. Though there have been some issues with leaky buckets, AWS is pretty safe overall.

While we can’t fault Podio security, we’re not huge fans of the privacy policy; your files may be safe from outside threats, but we’re a bit leery of exactly what Podio does with users’ personal information.

Service & Support

70 % – Decent

Overall, we’re not blown away by Podio’s customer support. While it answers support tickets pretty quickly and fairly thoroughly, the knowledgebase leaves a lot to be desired. As this is the only avenue you have to get to know the software (unless you like following a green ball around like some goofus), this can be a problem.

Let’s talk about the good stuff, though: Podio’s direct support — reaching out to the company for help — is pretty decent. We sent out an email ticket inquiring about free trials (there aren’t any) and got a reply back in about an hour. The formatting of the reply was a bit awkward, but it answered the question in good time, so no problem there.

The Podio Help Centre is a different story, though. While it’s clear that the people who wrote the articles believe strongly in their product, the articles are filled to the brim with Podio-specific jargon, making them hard to read for a beginner. Also, there’s no beginner course like with, say, Asana, so you’ll have to pick out articles at random from the list on the support page.

podio support
Just labeling the articles in a series would help a lot here.

Eventually you will be able to get a handle on using Podio, but we feel the process could be speeded up a lot with some fairly minor tweaks. Let’s hope those are implemented soon.

Final Thoughts

Taken altogether, we’re not huge fans of Podio. Maybe because we’re a small company that we don’t quite understand the features Podio offers, or maybe because we’re used to ready-to-rock solutions like monday.com, but we just couldn’t get to grips with Podio. Though the sky is supposed to be the limit, thanks to its flexibility, all we could see was a product failing to take off.

The biggest obstacle to using Podio is the interface and tutorials. Maybe if those were better we would have dug a little deeper to find where Podio excels. After spending a few hours with it, though, we’re about ready to give up. There are simply much better project management solutions out there.

What do you think of Podio? Did we hit the nail on the head or did we miss something obvious? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.

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