If you’re anything like me you sign up for so many web apps that it can be difficult to keep track of them all. In the design industry there are so many dazzling bits of software being developed it is tempting to try as many as you can to find the perfect one for each part of your workflow. I’ve lost track of the number of accounts and trials I have with that I’ve signed up to test out. Most get briefly tested, dismissed within minutes or just forgotten about.
Hundreds of Project Management Apps
When it comes to the type of software I trial the most it has to be Project management tools and to do lists. In my search for the Holy Grail of perfect organisation for client projects these types of apps stand head and shoulders above all others. I must have tried hundreds over the years! Desktop web apps, iPhone apps and software that can be accessed on any device, the list is endless. Wunderlist, Asana, Basecamp, Firetask, Remember The Milk, Google Tasks, 2do, Toodledo, Things, Omnifocus, Podio, Teambox and most recently Wunderkit.
All of these apps have features that I like. Wunderlist is so simple and easy to use, perfect for making lists. Basecamp lets you work with a team, or even your clients, when collaborating on projects. Google Tasks integrates with Gmail and Google Calendar. Despite the plethora of choice I’ve never found one that fits in intuitively with my workflow but I think I’ve finally found the right one for me…
Say Hello to Trello
I remember signing up for a web app called Trello back in October 2011. Essentially Trello is a free project management tool for individuals or teams that can be used for pretty much any purpose.
Fog Creek describe their app as “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.”
It uses lists containing “cards” for each individual task. These are displayed in vertical columns making it easy to see a visual overview of a project in an instant. The thing that jumped out immediately was the speed and simplicity of it. Everything is so clean and clutter free but still allows you to store detailed information about each task. Clicking a card will flip it over to show you comments, check lists, due dates and votes (particularly useful for software development).
Despite my early favourable impressions I didn’t actually start using Trello for my client projects immediately because I knew the Wunderkit beta was being released as soon which I was really looking forward to trying. Trello was bookmarked and filed away as one to come back to in the future…
After a week of using the Wunderkit beta I was impressed but kept thinking to myself that I wish it did certain like Trello. Don’t get me wrong, I can see a lot of potential in Wunderkit and I’ll certainly be keeping my account to see how it develops and grows. The amount of work 6Wunderkinder have put it in to it is incredible and the design is absolutely sublime. Every pixel has been carefully created to produce a wonderful interface that I look forward to using and testing out more in the future.
The trouble is that, as with so many things, finding the perfect system for your workflow is a very individual thing. It soon became clear to me that what I wanted from a project management tool was something with Trello’s speed, simplicity and flexibility. I soon realised that Trello was my perfect project management tool all along, it had just taken me a bit longer to appreciate it.
How Trello Works
Trello is a very visual system. On a single screen (known as a board) you can see a snapshot of your whole project and what needs to be done at teach stage. This has many advantages and allows Trello to be used for a multitude of purposes.
For example, on my “Clients” board I’ve created a list for each stage of my web design process (eg. planning, design, development, testing, launch) and I drag each card across to the next column when each stage is finished.
My target is to get all projects in to the far right column to indicate they’ve launched. I can click on any of the cards to see all the information about that client’s project. I can create check lists on the flip side of the card, upload attachments, make notes and set due dates. I can also allow my client to view these details and add their own comments and ideas.
A good way to see the kind of thing I am describing is to view Trello’s own public mobile app development board: www.trello.com/mobile
If you’ve read Harry Ford’s blog post on his visual task system you can think of Trello as a digital version of this in many ways. To see Trello in action below take a few minutes to watch the short video below. It explains how Trello works very clearly:[youtube width=”540″ height=”437″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaDf1RqeLfo&list=UUNrr66WP-3ulk2fAWH_IKfw&index=2&feature=plcp[/youtube]
What I Love About Trello
I should point out at this stage that this blog post isn’t a paid review or a promotional post by a guest author. I just found Trello so useful, fast and so easy to use that I want to spread the word. You know the feeling when you see a great film or read a great book and you just want to tell everyone you know? It’s the same with web apps I guess.
I don’t just use Trello to manage my client’s projects. I’ve got boards set up for everyday lists, plans for the house and garden, my personal website projects, business ideas, recipes, travel ideas etc… You get the idea, you can use Trello for almost anything!
The amount of data you can store on each “card” is wonderful too. Simply click any card on your Trello board and you can add check lists, attachments, photos, embed videos, invite others to view the card and set deadlines and due dates.
Everything in Trello happens in real time. You don’t need to refresh the page, your changes show up instantly to anyone else viewing the board – perfect for collaboration. There is also a Trello iPhone app that works really well and the web app itself scales down nicely to smaller resolutions and tablet devices.
There are several great resources on how other people make the most of Trello which you may find useful:
- Six Reasons I Love Trello
- Using Trello to Manage Projects
- Project Process Tracking with Google Docs and Trello
- Trello Online Collaboration Software at it’s Finest
If you haven’t tried Trello out then I urge you sign up at https://trello.com and give it a go. It’s free to use and I think you’ll find it very useful.
Feel free to leave a comment with tips on how you use Trello!