PC Magazine review: HuddleJanuary 12, 2011
by William Fenton
With the ability to manage projects, store files, schedule and hold meetings, and facilitate communication through wikis and forums, Huddle’s free online service hands small businesses many of the tools they’ll need to get organized. While services like Zoho Projects and AceProject function as Swiss Army Knives of online tools, Huddle acts as a scalpel. Despite some limitations in its entry-level offering, where Huddle operates, it’s effective: file management is exceptional, and online collaboration is finely tuned.
Consider Huddle an intermediary between the more focused approach of Basecamp and the wider ambitions of Zoho Projects. While its feature set pales in comparison to Zoho’s, Huddle delivers more online storage (100 megabytes); more tutorials; and options to integrate Web, phone, and video conferencing. Huddle competes more directly with Basecamp in functionality and ease of use, and provides ad-supported file storage; however, Huddle is less widely used (especially outside the U.K.) and doesn’t have any sibling products. This should not detract from its capabilities in project management and online collaboration, but if you’re a small business looking to invest in a suite of products for the long haul, Huddle cannot provide the same kind of one-stop shop as Basecamp or Zoho Projects.
At first glance, Huddle couldn’t be more different from Zoho Projects. Huddle has less, does less, and aspires to do less. What is missing in it is online chat and project reporting. Also absent, however, are Zoho’s faux tabs for unavailable features (like time tracking and bug reporting). The good thing about Huddle’s entry-level offering is that yes, you’re driving a Toyota, but at least it isn’t plastered with stickers for a Lexus.
Although Huddle has a streamlined interface, that’s not to say that it doesn’t provide handholding when you need it. As soon as you sign in, there’s a video tutorial awaiting your click. It sounds like it was recorded in a cavernous, empty room, but the content is clear and concise. There’s an introductory video—typically between two and five minutes, occasionally longer—for just about every page. I preferred watching these clips to reading help pages or scrolling through screen caps.
Widgets, Workspace, World Traveler
As with other online project management software, you begin at your Dashboard, an overview of all your workspaces. What’s different about Huddle, however, is that the Dashboard displays in widgets that can be rearranged, minimized, or hidden. There’s also a convenient drop-down for jumping between workspaces—think: projects—though it’s a moot point, considering you only get one for free.
One workspace isn’t much, but at least Huddle gives you 100 MBs of online storage. This is above par for a free service—Basecamp gives you zilch and Zoho provides a paltry that is 10 megabytes, subsidized by ads. There are oodles of upgrade options, ranging from $8/month for a gigabyte of storage to $200/month for 25 workspaces,25 gigabytes, 10 managers, and a litany of other features including Web conferencing. The best deal, as far as I can tell, is the “Small Team” option, which runs $40/month and provides a handful of workspaces, plenty of storage (2GBs), and document versioning. Huddle claims that the $200/month option is most popular, which gives you an idea of their customer base.
When you step back and look at the functionality of Huddle, the software seems best tailored to multinational companies. There’s a lot of attention to time zones and different means of electronic communication, be it web, audio, or video. The company is also English, so it makes sense that the feature set is a bit more globally sensitive than its U.S. competition. If you’re a small business collaborating with international partners, then this may differentiate Huddle; however, domestic businesses shouldn’t be dissuaded on these grounds alone.