Trello is a web-based Kanban-style list-making application that’s commonly used by teams to organize project tasks into lists, especially when those teams are using the Scrum project management framework like we do at Howard Development & Consulting.
Or, in Trello’s own words:
Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.
Imagine a white board, filled with lists of sticky notes, with each note as a task for you and your team. Now imagine that each of those sticky notes has photos, attachments from other data sources like BitBucket or Salesforce, documents, and a place to comment and collaborate with your teammates.
Now imagine that you can take that whiteboard anywhere you go on your smartphone, and can access it from any computer through the web. That’s Trello!
If you’ve ever worked within the Scrum framework, then you’ll already be familiar with how most project tasks are organized — project backlog, sprint backlog, in progress, blocked, and done. So, given Trello’s layout of boards and lists, it’s a natural fit for these projects.
Let’s look at the basics of this layout.
First, this is a board:
Next, this is a list on a board:
Then, a card within a list:
And finally, the details of the card:
Relating this back to Scrum, you can make the following equivalencies:
- A board is a single project
- A list can be either a backlog, tasks in progress, blocked tasks, or completed tasks
- A card is a task
- The card details contain the details of the task, such as the user story, acceptance criteria, or any relevant files as attachments
But the benefits of Trello aren’t limited to its layout.
One of the most useful features is that, like many web-based applications, multiple team members can work on the same board at the same time — with each team member able to see changes in real-time. For example, a project owner could be refining a user story or adding attachments that the developer working on the task can access immediately; or, one developer can start to work on a task without the risk of another developer duplicating their work.
Another feature that we like is that Trello is extremely simple to use. The learning curve is minimal; you can create boards, lists, and cards, each with a single click; and, cards can be moved up and down within a list or from one list to another by dragging and dropping them. I’ve worked with a wide range of teams, from developers to HR writers, and never once has Trello’s UI or UX been a barrier to its use.
Finally, Trello is extremely flexible and adaptive to how your teams work best. While we use Trello as a Kanban-style board at Howard Development & Consulting, you can create lists and cards for any purpose and organize them in any way you like. Trello also offers hundreds of power-ups, which are plugins that expand the features available to you. Some of the power-ups are developed by Trello, but most are from third-parties. Either way, they integrate seamlessly with your boards and allow you to fully customize your experience.
For example, we use Butler to create automations, Google Drive to integrate our files from the productivity suite, Custom Fields to add new fields to our cards, and Slack to connect Trello to our Slack workgroup for automatic notifications, card creation, and to attach conversations to cards.
As a development team that embraces the Scrum framework, we’ve found Trello to be one of the most useful applications for managing our projects. While the bulk of our work is done in Basecamp (which we’ll discuss in another post), Trello allows us to drill down into some projects at a much more granular level — and some of our clients prefer it because of this and its ease of use.