Trello: organize anything, anywhere with anyone
“We use Trello for product management and design. I’ve played with most product management applications out there, like Asana and Basecamp, and Trello works best for us. We use the Kanban technique for visualization, and Trello fits in well with that. I like the open-ended framework and flexible nature of Trello.”– Jiyan Wei, Co-founder of BuildZoom
38% of startups use Trello and most love it. (You know who also loves Trello? Atlassian, the company that just acquired it for $425million, but moving along …). Trello stands out in the project management market because it’s largely based on the Kanban framework – which is very familiar to product people. The rest of us can think of Trello as the digital version of that post-it note eye candy you see all over your co-working space.
The board is the center of the Trello experience. A Trello board might house a specific, complex project. It could also be the primary dashboard for a team wherein members can view priorities, tasks and goals. You can even have a personal Trello board that acts as a to-do list.
A board is divided into lists. It is up to you to name the lists to best fit the project. The most common use of lists is to identify steps in a workflow. Ex: To Do + Doing + Done.
Cards live in and among lists, and are the primary task object around which you set deadlines, assign tasks, describe the tasks, collaborate with team members, upload files, comment on the activity of the card and more. You can also express your love for all things post-it notes by color coding cards.
Notifications & Project Tracking
Trello sends any card updates via email to the person assigned to a task, along with notifications about pending or passed deadlines. Trello also uses card “subscriptions” to let other members of a Trello board get updates about any changes to a card on that list. That eye in the upper right corner of the list (“Sprint” in this example) shows that you’re subscribed to that list – or “watching” it.
Trello offers a wide variety of integrations with other products. They’re called “Power-Ups.” Trello Power-ups let you add very cool and useful features to Trello for things like repeat cards (which is great for repeating tasks), and integrate with other existing services like Google Drive or Slack.
2016 was a big year for Trello introducing Power-Ups for all wherein every board can enable one Power-Up for free.
The Trello app is almost exactly like its web client. Mobile is another way the simplicity of Trello really shines; you still have all the strength and ease of Trello’s web interface when you are on mobile without the loss of any functionality
“I love that the Trello iOS app is the same as the web app. Trello is also as robust as you want it to be while being super straight forward. We are very fluid in how we achieve and get things done, and Trello doesn’t put much emphasis on deadlines, so it works well for startups.”
Trello does have the highest market share among startups, whether it’s a team of 3 or a team of 150. However, while Trello’s Kanban approach to projects can be a godsend to many smaller teams, larger teams have found it problematic. With 10, 20+ people on a board, the visual alerts and other tracking become less of a valuable cue and more of a clutter – it becomes really hard to know what’s important, what’s due soon, what was recently updated, etc.
Some founders say they’ve outgrown or expect to outgrow Trello. These growing companies tend to start making project management software decisions at a department level. This often means that the engineering team goes to a JIRA or Pivotal tracker, while other teams, like marketing, stay with Trello.
“Our engineering team moved from Trello to JIRA because they had outgrown it, but the rest of the company uses Trello. The same things that made Trello powerful when we were small made it a barrier once we grew in size–lack of ability to sort, filter, and a very manual/visual nature. Those features are great when you can touch/see everything, but when you have too many things to touch/see, it doesn’t work anymore.”
“Pivotal Tracker is expensive, but the engineering team needed something more advanced than Trello.”
… while also saying this about Trello:
“Our marketing team uses Trello to track their stories. They don’t need something as advanced as Pivotal Tracker.”
“We take an agile approach to project management and use Trello across all of our groups–including people in finance, ops, and engineering. Everyone likes it, and it’s scaling nicely for us.”
Trello has also tried to address the needs of larger teams through Trello Enterprise.
Trello’s free plan offers unlimited boards and users. Their business plan is $9.99 per user/per month with features like unlimited Power-Ups, more security options, background customization options, collections to organize boards, and more.
Their Enterprise Plan offers personalized on-boarding, customer service support by phone and email and several additional security features.
“One of the main reasons we’re no longer using Trello is because there’s no discussion board. Team members can’t talk back and forth or have discussions about anything; it’s just a place for a list of tasks.”
Common gripes about Trello tend to be about its simplicity as well as how easily tasks and updates can get lost in the card structure. For teams that use only Trello for project management, it can be frustrating not to have a Gantt view.
And, for bigger teams, we’ve noticed that Trello users often need to a more robust tool to help them manage the new departments, team members, and projects that come with growth.
To wrap up, it’s appropriate to go back to Jivan Wei, co-founder of Buildzoom. In telling us what he loves about Trello, he made a great point about why ease of use is so important in a company-wide tool.
We can adapt the software to suit our different approaches, and it’s super easy to use. We also like that it’s light, so we don’t have to set up a bunch of rules… People will be more likely to use a tool if it’s easy to use, and Trello’s easy to use.”
Now go forth and build beautiful boards. The best boards you’ve ever seen. They’re gonna be 10 feet tall, these boards …
Alternatives to Trello
The most popular project management tools among startups are Trello, Asana and Basecamp. We did a deep dive on each one to help startups identify which tool is best for them; you can find our reviews on Asana here and Basecamp here!
And for a side-by-side comparison of Trello vs. Asana vs. Basecamp, checkout this infographic.