Online Collaboration Suites and Why I Don't Get Zoho

Over the past few months we played around with a number of online collaboration suites. We were searching for a way to organize everything and have a central dashboard to keep track of projects, tasks, and timelines for multiple users.

Some of the tools we tried were Jotspot, PBwiki, Zoho, and Basecamp.

As much as Michael Arrington gets excited about Zoho (they’re a TechCrunch sponsor), I just don’t get it. They have Zoho Office, which comes in a hosted and a self-install version. Then there are subsets of office as well as a whole slew of “services” some of which are part of office, some of which are separate but can be integrated. Here’s a list of what Zoho offers:

Zoho Chat
Zoho Planner
Zoho Creator
Zoho CRM
Zoho Projects
Zoho Writer
Zoho Sheet
Zoho Show
Zoho Wiki
Zoho Notebook
Zoho Virtual Office
Zoho Challenge
Zoho Polls

Zoho was kind enough to extend us a beta invite, but after spending hours on trying to figure out the system, we gave up. Zoho (in its current state anyway) has massive usability issues. The systems are complex and capable, but very user-unfriendly. We spent hours to try to figure out where the different services were and how the modules fit together (and how they could even be enabled). We tried to add team members and give them permissions, but at one point even our own account was locked out from making admin changes.

Zoho is just a mess overall. I don’t get the hype (other than them paying for it).

We ended up settling with Basecamp, which is pretty decent, but there’s still a lot of room to grow in the online collaboration space. Maybe Google will make Jotspot into a real contender, but I really want someone else to do it. Google gets usability more than any other company, but  I’m just getting sick of feeding the Google beast.