Let’s face it, bug tracking is a chore. It’s by far the least sexy side of software development and, frankly, many of the tools available to handle the process reflect this. That’s something that London-based startup PlayNicely Labs is trying to change with its first offering, PlayNice.ly, a web-based bug tracker that focuses on speed, UX and, well, fun.
Yes, you read that correctly. PlayNicely is attempting to actually make bug tracking fun. It does this in part by adding gaming metrics via Foursquare-style badges, which as gimmicky as that sounds, Flickr’s own internal bug tracking app already does this. So perhaps it was inevitable that a publicly available offering would do something similar, and PlayNice.ly might just be the first. To that end, Beta testers will have already got the “Early Adopter” badge, while 20 bugs cleared unlocks the “Squasher” badge and so on.
(And to think PlayNicely Labs co-founder Basheera Khan, a former TechCrunch Europe alumni, left us to squash bugs. It takes all sorts.)
In terms of the app’s speed – and it does feel very responsive – PlayNice.ly is utilizing Redis on the back end, one of the so-called ‘NoSQL’ databases that is getting quite a lot of buzz at the moment and whose development is now being funded by VMWare. But it’s in the usability stakes where I’d argue that time can really be saved. And in this aspect, PlayNice.ly fares pretty well.
Upon sign-up, you’re presented with a nicely designed tutorial that’s based on the app’s functionality itself. This prompts you to do things like file a new task or bug, add a comment, re-order items via drag ‘n’ drop, create a new milestone etc. It’s not overly long either, I think I counted 7 steps in total, after which you’ll pretty much have the app down to a tee. That’s because PlayNice.ly focuses on doing a few things well and, for now at least, steers well clear of any feature creep. One aspect I really like is the realtime feel of the app; lots of nice use of Ajax on the UI side and a Facebook-esque activity stream to track updates from team members. There’s also support for GitHub or Subversion.
That said, one thing missing is the ability to attach an image to a bug report or an idea added, which considering PlayNice.ly’s particularly creative take, seems a bit lacking although I’m told it’s on the roadmap along with time-tracking and productivity reporting.
PlayNicelyLabs is founded by three freelancers – Adam Charnock, Rob Hudson and Khan – who are bootstrapping the startup. While Kat Neville has been a designer on the project.
To date, PlayNice.ly has 735 users managing 1,063 projects. It costs from £9 per-month for 5 projects, up to £100 per-month for an unlimited package aimed at large agencies.