Small web team needs a better way to track requests than MS Outlook.
June 1, 2009 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Small web team needs a better way to track requests than MS Outlook.

We're not a big web team, just three guys including the designer. We manage a site, not a complex web application. 90% of our work is creating or updating content: we don't do builds (we push to the live server individual changes after they are tested), don't do rollbacks (can get backups as needed for past year), and don't track bugs (we deal with content, not features, typos are the most likely issue). Requests can be for changing content, creating html emails, rebranding sections of the site and the occasional functional enhancement (mostly associated with pulling content from a db).

Our current workflow:

1. all requests come through a shared inbox
2. as we work on items in the inbox, we flag them in Outlook, each person has their own color.
3. when an item is done, we send a reply, then move the item to an archive folder.

It's simple and efficient, but I'm looking for something the team can use that would replace this, as colored flags don't work in Entourage and Outlook is the only Windows app we still use besides IE for testing.

Ideally it would be web based, have the ability to assign ownership, to set deadlines, allow for attachments and keep a thread if there are replies. I'm on the fence if it should require a login or not (e.g. just create tickets based on emails to the old inbox).

If it can handle projects that's great, but it's not necessary as I'm the only one who does projects here and OmniFocus works great for that.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at Trac? It does almost all of what you require, and has some extra features too. It's a bit basic in the looks department, but it definitely gets the job done. I have a good bit of experience with it, so I can recommend. FogBugz might also suit your needs, but has a heavy focus on time-tracking, etc. It's also hosted and a bit pricey. Then there's the venerable Bugzilla. Worth a try, but it's what my last team ditched for Trac.

By the way, your nickname is most excellent. Good luck!
posted by littlerobothead at 9:46 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: I should have specified "hosted" instead of web based. I'd like to avoid using a tool that needs installation, configuration and lifecycle maintenance, and as such prefer a hosted solution, although I am willing to entertain ideas for web based apps we'd have to run ourselves.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 9:55 PM on June 1, 2009

Best answer: You should try something like sifter. It looks like it might be what you're looking for.
posted by someguynamedcarl at 10:05 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

A really simple suggestion: couldn't you use gmail? You could either just label an email with the name of the person taking care of it, or if you need color you could use the Superstars Labs extension that gives you multiple colored stars. You could forward email from the current inbox to gmail, or perhaps set up Google Apps for your domain?
posted by jacalata at 10:15 PM on June 1, 2009

apt-get otrs2
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: jacalata: We've definitely thought of that, but they block email forwarding at work and the IT guys are understandably against the idea.

Carl's suggestion of Sifter is spot on, and much better than the deluge of Basecamp suggestions I was expecting.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 10:28 PM on June 1, 2009

From wikipedia: A comparison of issue tracking systems. It lists every bug or ticket tracking system I have ever heard of.
posted by GuyZero at 10:43 PM on June 1, 2009

Best answer: Sweet mother of jesus do not install bugzilla. It's not that bad once you get past the initial hassles, but it's light years beyond overkill for what you want. If you do want to install your own, take a look at Redmine.

If you want hosted, a few more to look at:

(pilfered from here, which is a cache of a defunct page from, a panic developer)
posted by O9scar at 10:53 PM on June 1, 2009

Gmail can

* pull mails from POP3 servers, so you don't need to forward things to them
* use different colors for different tags

You could easily replicate your existing workflow with a Gmail account that you set up for your team and use via its web interface, and your IT guys would not need to do a thing.
posted by flabdablet at 11:36 PM on June 1, 2009

We (my colleagues and I) suffer a bit from hammer-nail syndrome for this sort of thing in that we use Mantis for everything remotely like your needs. Mantis might be overkill, but at the same it does have the ability to track an issue/task, assign it to the person individually and is accessable in a web browser. Creating a new task only requires a couple of fields to be filled in, and you can set up categories that will pre-assign a task to a particular person if you like. One nice thing is you can set Mantis up to be very chatty with mail so any time an issue is updated or resolved the system will send out an email to the reporter of the issue automatically if desired.

And installation is a relative snap. Make directory on your webserver, import the database .sql file, a couple of settings, and done.
posted by barc0001 at 11:37 PM on June 1, 2009

The above assumes that you do in fact have POP3 access to your work mailboxes.
posted by flabdablet at 11:38 PM on June 1, 2009

Get Trac or if you want to dabble with Ruby/Rails try Redmine.
posted by PenDevil at 2:42 AM on June 2, 2009

Seconding Mantis. It's touted as a bug-tracking frontend, but in practice it's trivial to use it as an issue tracker. We use it for both where I work.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:03 AM on June 2, 2009

It might be a bit overkill, but I use JIRA and love it.
posted by purephase at 5:10 AM on June 2, 2009

Best answer: I don't want to turn into the guy who recommends our company's product everywhere (I work for Pivotal Labs), but Pivotal Tracker could work well for your workflow (except we don't do per-task/chore deadlines, because the product is designed for agile teams). It's a free hosted solution. I've written a slightly more elaborate explanation of how to use it here (we're still working on getting really good tutorials up).
posted by ragaskar at 7:26 AM on June 2, 2009

RT is pretty good and sounds like it would fit your needs.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:53 AM on June 2, 2009

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