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Trello Review – Is it Good Enough?

Trello is the most famous Kanban-centric project and task management tool in the world. It claims over 50 million active users, and it’s used by everyone from multinationals executing globe-spanning projects to individuals mapping finances and holiday plans.

If you’re looking for a system to manage your projects, see who is doing what and where they are with it, Trello is a natural candidate. But is it up to the task?

In this post we’ll go over what Trello does best, what it’s not so great at, how to get the best out of it — and who’s best off using something else.

Let’s start with a brief overview of what Trello is.

Trello overview

Trello is a Kanban tool. It uses cards, arranged into lanes, on boards. The card is a task, the lane a vertical division with its own title, and the board is where it all happens. Kanban started life as a way to manage production and distribution in factories in Japan, before spreading to software development; now, it’s so effective that it’s used everywhere, for everything.

In Trello, a card typically contains a task assigned to one or more members of a team. Subtasks can be added as a checklist on the “back” of the card — which you can see by clicking on the card — as well as files, additional team members, and messages.

This is the core of Trello, and its appeal is its simplicity. It can do a lot of other things, using extensions called Power-Ups that let you sync Trello with various calendar apps, track time used, and a lot more. But when you sign up for a Trello account, the basic Kanban system is what you’ll be working with while you figure out what — if anything — you need to add.

There’s a messaging system that syncs with your email and a Commands system courtesy of Butler that lets you create If-This-Then-That automations, customize Trello to fit your workflow and accelerate your productivity — but there are limits on the number of commands you can create, depending on your plan.

Trello pricing and plans

Free

  • Free
  • Unlimited personal boards, members, cards, and lists
  • 10MB maximum file attachment size
  • Mobile apps
  • 10 team boards
  • 1 Power-Up per board
  • Add simple automations
  • Commands limited to 1 card button, 1 board button, and 1 rule
  • 50 Command runs per month
  • 2-Factor Authentication

Gold

  • $45 per year (paid annually) or $5 per month (paid monthly)
  • Unlimited personal boards, members, cards, and lists
  • 250MB maximum file attachment size
  • Mobile apps
  • 3 Power-Ups per board
  • Custom backgrounds, stickers, and emoji
  • Premium Stickers
  • Advanced Butler automation: rules, buttons, scheduled commands, and more

Business Class

  • $9.99 per user per month (paid annually), or $12.50 per user per month (paid monthly
  • Unlimited personal boards, members, cards, and lists
  • 250MB maximum file attachment size
  • Mobile apps
  • Advanced checklists
  • Custom background and stickers
  • Priority support
  • Observers
  • Unlimited team boards
  • Team board templates
  • Board collections
  • Unlimited Power-Ups
  • Custom fields
  • List limits
  • Card repeater
  • Calendar view
  • Map view
  • Voting 
  • 100+ app integrations including Slack, Jira, Adobe XD, and a menu of browser extensions
  • Unlimited Butler buttons, rules, and scheduled Commands
  • 1,000 Command runs per team + 200 per user, with team quota pools up to 6,000 per month
  • Command administration
  • Email notifications
  • HTTP requests
  • 2-Factor Authentication 
  • Advanced admin permissions
  • Domain-restricted invites
  • Deactivate members
  • Google Apps sign-on
  • Simple data export

Enterprise

  • Scaling pricing: $17.50 per user per month for 20 users, $7.38 per user per month for 5,000 users
  • Everything in Business, plus:
  • Unlimited command runs
  • SAML SSO vie Atlassian Access
  • Power-Up administration
  • Attachment restrictions
  • Organization-wide permissions
  • Organization-visible boards
  • Public board management

Trello key features

  • Quick access to detailed card information: Just click the card to see the back.
  • Nesting cards: You can turn a card into a board, or tasks on a card into their own cards, with a few clicks.
  • Easy upload of files: From DropBox, Google Drive, and Box, as well as integrations with Drive and Microsoft 365.
  • Card records archive: Cards are archived rather than permanently deleted.
  • File attachments: Attach images, documents and any other file to a card. There’s no limit to the number of files you can attach to a card, only to the size of each attachment.
  • Deadline alerts and notifications: Trello is designed to keep things moving and manage teams that see a lot of changes. Set deadlines on Trello cards and they’ll alert their owners.
  • Task assignment: Tasks can be assigned to both individuals and groups.
  • Developer API: RESTful API from Atlassian gives each card and board a URI that developers can interact with.
  • Automated email notifications: Trello alerts users by email when they have new messages or when a card they’re added to moves or changes status.
  • Flexible card management system: Trello cards can be moved between lanes, and they can also be labeled with color-coded tags.
  • Checklists: You can add to-do lists and with advanced checklists, individual items can be assigned to team members.
  • Flexible structure: Add lanes, rename them, and create new boards with a few clicks. Boards can be nested (using the Nests for Trello extension) and checklist items can be turned into cards. Boards can also be added to cards as attachments.
  • SSL data encryption: Trello data is SSL encrypted for security and privacy.
  • Mobile-friendly views: Trello’s mobile apps work well, giving you a completely different, mobile-first experience.

What makes Trello different?

Trello stands out for its simplicity and its versatility. You can build as many lanes as you want, name them anything you want, and move cards around for any reason you see fit.

For example, name your lanes “MQL,” “SQL,” “Closing,” and “Support/Success,” and Trello’s a CRM, with each card a customer record. Name them “Ideas,” “Outlines,” “Drafts,” “Edited,” “Publish and Promote,” and Trello’s a content calendar management tool. Setting up Trello for any purpose takes a couple of clicks, and that’s it.

Consequently, Trello is the project management tool of choice for people and teams who would really rather not be doing project management — 50 million of them and counting, including Accenture and Medium.

Its galaxy of integrations means it’s simple to plug Trello into other tools, from Slack to Gmail, and because they focus on bringing functionality into Trello rather than bringing Trello to them (usually), they encourage the use of the core product. Using Power-Ups you can turn a Trello card into the starting place for a videoconference (Moxtra), pin a Slack chat to a board, or attach a Mailchimp campaign to a board.

Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of Trello.

Trello Pros

Easy to get started

Trello has basically no learning curve. You can start cold and be getting value from the product in minutes, literally. Even the team and administrative options are largely intuitive. A side-effect of Trello’s simplicity, this is a major advantage if you want to start organizing a team without everyone having to learn their way around a whole new interface and system.

Customizable to purpose

A lot of tools can be customized to be better for a specific team, but Trello is unusual for the extent to which it can be customized for a specific purpose.

For instance, we’ve mentioned that it can be used as a CRM or as a content calendaring tool. It can be used for general project management, for software, for marketing, and for all sorts of other purposes simply by changing the content that’s placed inside the basic Trello structure. But it can also be extensively customized with Power-Ups to make it more effective at each of these tasks.

Real time

Trello updates blazingly fast. Real time is real time, even for globally distributed teams. That’s a major advantage for collaboration on projects that require responsiveness.

Mobile-friendly

Trello has unusually good, full-featured, and easy-to-use mobile offerings for iOS and Android. The mobile interface is as intuitive as the desktop one and mobile users can receive push notifications from Trello cards. These are now customizable by users.

Trello Cons

Limited features

Trello does what it does, and not much else. The easiest way to emphasize Trello’s simplistic nature is to compare it with a tool like Basecamp or Bitrix24. Trello can replicate huge swathes of their functionality, especially at a more basic level, but it doesn’t have the dedicated workspaces, ready-made structures, or built-in resources of larger, more powerful tools.

Even the relatively lightweight Asana is more feature-rich. Power-Ups and integrations only partially make up for this, and it’s Trello’s most central drawback.

No calendar

Trello can be synched to calendars and a calendar view is available in Business Class and Enterprise, but there’s no calendar in the Free and Gold versions. That means if you want a calendar, you’ll have to use one of your (one to three) Power-Ups on Calendar for Trello.

Hard to visualize very large projects

It’s difficult to get a bird’s-eye view of a large, complex project with a lot of different tasks using Trello, because of the inherent limitations of the Kanban presentation style. Other tools that let you see timelines and lists can address this issue, as can tools built specifically to handle very large projects.

No task dependencies

Trello doesn’t have a system for showing task dependencies. With simple tasks or smaller teams, you can get around that somewhat, using the checklist-as-card functionality. But for multistep tasks with multiple dependencies, it can be difficult to adequately map the process on Trello.

Wrap up: Here’s what we recommend

Should you use it?

Trello’s major advantages and its major drawbacks are both functions of its simple, basic nature. It suits smaller teams best and tends to appeal to teams that don’t have very rigidly defined structures.

For instance, it takes several Power-Ups to make Trello a full-featured Agile project management tool. And multidepartmental projects with dedicated project managers might benefit from more feature-rich tools with project templates and defined workplaces.

Trello’s greatest strength is that there’s not much to it. If you’re a small team and you want to start getting things done, you can make a couple of lanes in Trello and go.

Who should use it?

If you’re comfortable with Kanban as the main or only way to view project progress, and you’re happier creating your own structures within a tool than you are using readymade templates, Trello is a solid choice. It’s project management at its most basic, but it works for a lot of people and teams, and can be Power-Upped into a really effective tool.

Who should avoid it?

If you want a full-featured project management tool right out of the gate, Trello isn’t your answer. The very same freedom and minimalism that suits some teams will be an obstacle that you’ll have to work your way around with Power-Ups and complex arrangements of boards and cards — all to get Trello to do something that a more feature-rich project management tool can do right out of the box.

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