I first discovered Zenkit about two years ago. I thought it was impressive and a notable contender in the project management space.
As an individual user with (usually) no teammates or collaborators to share projects with, Zenkit gave me features I needed to visualize and organize work without being charged an arm and leg for them. There were however some areas that needed work and that kept me from switching entirely, such as the way the UI was designed and some slowness when using the Kanban view.
Last April, Zenkit published an announcement that they’ve redesigned the product from the ground up.
We loved our old design, but it lacked a coherent structure, having been built upon bit by bit over the years. Each new menu was written separately, every new feature was designed on its own, and the app wasn’t that fun to use on mobile devices. We decided to unify the whole design language of the app while improving mobile usability…Siobhan O’Rorke, Marketing Manager at Zenkit
Peter Oehler, COO of Zenkit, reached out to me personally about the changes and invited me to revisit Zenkit to see the improvements and new collaborative features.
The latest improvements in Zenkit
I was excited, though I didn’t get around to setting up Zenkit again due to how busy I was at the time we exchanged emails.
When my schedule finally lightened up, I took a few hours across several days to create demo collections in Zenkit, testing out the improvements that were mentioned in the blog post, while discovering features that are quite new to me since writing that last review about the product.
The announcement shined the spotlight on the following improvements:
- Mobile apps get a huge UI and UX refresh – I was happy when they made huge changes to Zenkit’s mobile apps so they work hand-in-hand with the web app. The iOS app wasn’t easy to use and compatible with my iPhone X when I first tested it out, so it was nice to see items and item details displayed properly, added swipe gestures, and the ability to share files to Zenkit from any app.
- Profile, collection, and workspace settings – you’ll be able to view your profile, collection or workspace settings with just a single click. Changing these settings are also within the same window.
- Public and private views – a new collection-specific collaborative feature where you can edit a collection’s view and any attached filters, and then decide if you want to make this view private or public for everyone added to the collection.
- “More” button for activities – any changes to a collection are considered an “activity” and you can view each recorded change by clicking on the Activity icon on the right-side of the screen. The “More” button is specifically for content that was deleted from an item. You can click on it to view the entire text before it was deleted, and comment on it for clarification.
- 18 new label colors – I love customization and being able to choose from a wide variety of options to spruce up the look of my collection or to further highlight prioritization between tasks. These new label colors I welcome wholeheartedly!
As I was learning more and trying out each of these features with my Zenkit account, there were other features that I couldn’t recall seeing in the older version years ago.
I’m not 💯 if they’ve always been around or were introduced long after my review was published, but they were a nice surprise and a delightful productivity boost.
Before diving in, note that I’ve highlighted these features because they’re useful for a single user of Zenkit. If there are collaboration features that were important to you and your team, feel free to share them with me in the comments. I’d love to check them out!
6 other cool Zenkit features to get more work done
If you’re revising Zenkit as a potential project management tool, here are six other cool features that I recommend you check out:
1. New sign-in page and two-factor authentication – the new sign-in page looks so much more interesting and inviting. 🤩 Even cooler is being able to set up two-factor authentication to add a second layer of security for your Zenkit account.
I only discovered their 2FA option while checking out the new Profile settings page. I set it up with 1Password and can breathe easy knowing my account’s more protected from the baddies of the web.
2. Custom templates – starting a new collection with a blank slate can be overwhelming, so you have the option to create a collection based off of any of Zenkit’s custom templates. You’re then free to customize it after.
3. Connectors – Zenkit works well with other third-party apps like Zapier and Microsoft Teams for various purposes—migration, integrations, communication and file sharing (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive).
Connectors create “one-way integrations” between Zenkit and another third-party tool to extend its functionality and get work done efficiently. Any Zapier zap, for example, that’s set up for your collection will appear in the connector panel.
4. Activity panel – I had no idea you could view and comment on activities as they happen in Zenkit. I only found out while testing the “More” button while working with one of my items.
You can view, comment, and @ mention any of your teammates under an activity. It comes in handy when asking for clarification or more context about the changes made to the item, collection, or workspace. It’s a great collaboration feature for anyone using Zenkit to manage team and company-wide projects where many are involved.
5. Add-ons – these are extra features you can enable or disable in your Zenkit profile or in a collection to further enhance your experience and get more work done. This was also released to keep Zenkit as clutter-free as possible, allowing you to hide or use only what you need.
You can turn on global add-ons like My Calendar and My Favorites to implement these features for your entire account. Task List and Colored Items are collection add-ons that only affect collections they’re enabled for. I’m a huge fan of this feature because I prefer to turn off features like My Teams and My Favorites that I won’t be using when working on my collections.
My favorite add-ons so far are:
- Task list – any item created will have a checkbox added to it. Click to mark it as “Done”
- Colored items (Zenkit Plus feature) – items in Kanban view will display the same color as the label that’s attached to it, making these items more visible and emphasizing they’re priority within the collection
- Calendar synchronization – being able to sync my collection to my calendar allows me to keep an eye on tasks that are due without needing to sign in and check Zenkit every time.
6. References – similar to how you can attach cards and boards in Trello, Zenkit lets you connect or reference two items that belong in different collections. This comes in handy when you’re working on multiple projects that relate to and/or depend on one another.
For example, you’re building your app’s knowledge base with a Kanban collection. Each section or category pertains to a specific aspect of your app (e.g. Account management or Billing). There are articles you want to publish before the knowledge base goes live, so in each topic or category you’ll reference items that involve writing and publishing these articles.
There’s so much more under the hood, but these six in particular stood out as huge improvements to Zenkit. You can check out Zenkit’s knowledge base to learn more about other powerful features like custom field types and workflows, utilizing add-ons, and more.
Other areas for improvement
There’s no doubt the Zenkit team put in the hard work to make the user experience simpler, easier, and more collaborative this time around. It shines in how the Settings pages look so much cleaner, how the iOS app works seamlessly, and in the newer features that were introduced to the product.
There are areas that I think still need improvement, though it’s hard to say if it’s because of the app itself or factors like my internet connection.
I’m currently using a 2018 MacBook Pro and the latest version of Firefox, but while navigating Zenkit it takes about 1-2 seconds for profile or item windows to open and/or close.
The slight lag isn’t consistent as well. I’d open an item and it would take 1-2 seconds for the item details to open. I’d then click on another item and it opens and closes right away.
I then revisited other collection views like mind maps and tables. With mind maps, moving items into the space was a bit awkward. In one test I moved the item to some other area besides the indicated space at the center, and it disappeared from my view. I switched back to the Kanban view and back to locate the item again.
I tried moving items a second time into the mind map, but this time making the mistake of creating a new item in between.
I archived and tried deleting this new item, but it didn’t want to go away. After a third attempt at deleting the item, an error message appeared about not being able to find the item in the archives. 🤷♀️ After refreshing, the new item is now “An error occurred” in my mind map.
I then switched to the Table view, thinking it’d have at least the basic capabilities as Google Sheets. Reading more about it, columns represent the fields of data in your collection while rows represent the items in your collection. You can’t perform mathematical functions in a cell as how it’s done in Google sheets, so it’s really just a visual representation of your information.
Looking forward to Zenkit’s continued progress
Zenkit has improved significantly since the last time I used the app.
The team’s done a great job at focusing on what could be cleaner and simplified, while giving users the option to add or remove what is or isn’t needed.
While it’s still a good project management tool to use if you’re a single user looking to organize and manage information, new features like public vs. private views, activity comments, and item references all point to Zenkit steering towards helping small to large teams manage projects and collaborate with one another.
Hopefully the next batch of updates will tackle overall performance and improvements for other views like mind maps and tables. I’m excited to see how, where, and what else is up next as it continues to develop and progress.