We posted this article in our Planfix blog in March 2011 for the very first time. Nothing much has changed since that time, and we publish it here in the same wording, except the examples are more various and our ideology is more readable and visible through the system interface. We often refer to this text for a good reason: it's crucial to understand our approach to build the app. Whether you plan to use Planfix in your work or you want to understand the primary difference from the applications you came across before, we strongly recommend to read this article first.
Simplicity' is the most trending world today. «Simple system», «simple user interface», «simple functions» — those are typical watchwords of many web-based online CRM, BPM or PM applications. We also determined to proceed along the road of simplicity, having used it at least twice on our main page. However, if we go deeper, even such a simple thing as simplicity people understand in different ways.
How the Products Similar to Planfix Usually Grow
The founders, or authors, create a simple data structure, for example, «project-task-comment» or «lead-contact-closed deal». They also create a simple design with a good use of negative space. Then they start using the product themselves, offering it to others.
The start is very impressive.
They start to collect a feedback: «Let's create To-do list along with Tasks because I don't want to mess my individual To-dos with the teamwork. Please, do the To-do lists, and I will use your app only, what's more, I will refer it to my friends.»
The time goes by...
Well, it sounds reasonable, To-dos are essential, so the app gets a new section.
A new request from another user comes: «You lack Events! You should make them as a Calendar, so I can set them up, i.e. schedule an appointment or a team debriefing».
More things start to happen.
Day by day, suggestions and requirements come one after another: «We need Discussions! Forums! Blogs! Get us a Chat! We urgently need News!».

The authors either parry these pleas and suggestions or keep on 'improving' the system, adding more and more new functionality and new sections. At the same time, when building a new section and fitting it into the UI, they add another one pinnacle to the sand castle named 'integration'.

What's more, they go crazy with the new requests: «Hey, we need to attach the files not only in Tasks but in To-dos as well!», «I want to attach the featured messages to my Tasks not to search for them», «I urgently need an option to convert To-dos into Tasks!», «Why don't you make an option to create an Event for a deal in my Calendar?»
And more...
Okay, Events seem to be a useful thing, so they add the «Events» section.
Such a Situation Gives the Authors Only Few Ways To Go:
Either to build up the 'ZOHO'-like application where the functional sections are merely or even not connected with each other.
Or to stay the Holy simplicity, like Basecamp, with no functionality added.
As a result, all the systems we had a chance to review, were spread on this «Basecamp — ZOHO» scale with an obvious attraction to ZOHO. It's neither good or bad in itself, it's just a reflection of evolution: from «single-cell» simple systems with a limited features to slowpoke «dinosaurs» that could hardly understand their tail is being chewed by another dinosaur.

It's not an easy decision to leave the system a «single-cell» one when everything around is growing big. That's why many systems get a random functionality set for collaboration (blogs, discussions, chats, emails), sales management (contacts, leads, deals, funnels), task management (projects, milestones, tasks, comments and events) and individual planning (to-dos, appointments, schedules, etc.). At a closer look, you can see these substances have more common features than differences.

See, the task you committed to yourself is a To-do, isn't it? The task set for a specific time could be called an Event or even an Appointment. And comment is a comment, no matter where you leave it in: a blog, a discussion, a chat or an email. So, why should we add more substances, increasing the range of diverse data and facing the integration problems in future?

We noticed this contradiction long ago, and since then, we consider it when planning the Planfix functionality. We could briefly describe our ideology this way:

We Enable You To Build a Management System That Covers All of the Company's Activities, Using a Limited Set of Substances.

"

At the Moment We Have 4 Substances in Planfix:
It serves to combine the tasks.
It's a basic semantic unit in Planfix. Everything in Planfix is around the tasks, they can have numerous subtasks embedded with no limit, and you can add any properties (fields) or disable unwanted ones.
Is the "information atom" of Planfix, which reflects any changes to tasks: the addition of a new file or comment, change to the implementation date or user, addition of reminders or analytics, etc.
It's any additional information you want to consider while working on the task. This is a Planfix invention. The simple examples of analytics are incomes, expenses, time spent, etc.
A Project.
A Task.
An Action.
Analytics.

You will not find «To-dos», «Events» or any other derived from tasks features that differ only a little. Thus, we resolve the mentioned above problems, like «we want notifications for To-dos as we have in Events, while we also want to attach the files to Events» in the bud. We have these features by default because all of them are realized in Tasks section.

If a user requests to add to Planfix a new substance, we want him to describe the difference between the new and the existing one. When we talk, it comes out the main difference is in how we call it and what task settings we use. Finally, our user can change it in his account settings himself, calling Tasks the way he and his teammates need: either «To-dos» or «Events» or even «Production requests».

However, the name «Task» isn't a good one. It confuses users, limits their perception with an ordinary sense of this substance. If we started Planfix today, we would probably give it a more versatile name, i.e. «a Form» or «an Object». Maybe, we will do it in future.

We totally understand people should get used to Planfix ideology, as this approach cannot be found in other systems. That's why the idea where a Task replaces all other substances, known from various systems, is hard to take.
it's a Task without a due date, with the people, required for a discussion, connected as followers.
Discussion
Let's Go With a Few More Examples for Practice:
it's also a Task without a due date. You can add even all company employees as task followers, if the news requires it. Otherwise, if the news is a local one, i.e. for a sales department, you add only the required group of people and it's visible for them only.
News
it's also a Task, which probably requires only a few more properties added, i.e. «Total Deal Value». But working with deals isn't much different from working with other tasks: you keep the contact with customer, add team members as followers, go through the sales funnel steps (which are easily adjusted the way you need) and close the deal.
Deal

No need to say that a simple internal structure does not necessarily provide an overall simplicity of use. Yet, we have a lot of things to do, considering the user interface adjustments. We believe that eventually it will be crystal clear, more flexible, and comprehensive. We will polish it and get rid off extra clicks, and a simple Planfix internal structure will help us to get it done.