It’s inevitable that most people in the web-development world, especially in boutique agencies, have experience with a few project management tools. There a lot of solid options, each with its pluses and minuses; personally, I’ve used Redmine, Manymoon, JIRA and, of course, Excel spreadsheets.
Here at NPG, we’ve found that Trello has come closest to meeting our needs. Here’s why:
Beautiful And Intuitive UI
Trello’s got a great metaphor: cards on a board. Imagine moving around a bunch of index cards between lists on a bulletin board and now you understand how Trello works.
The board view makes it easy for us to understand what is being worked on, who is working on it, and when things are due.
If you need to drill down, you can cram a lot of info onto a card: attachments (from your computer, Dropbox or Google Drive), comments, and checklists.
Easy To Update
Most project management tools have a bit of a learning curve, but just about everyone figures out Trello in less than 5 minutes. You can drag cards around instantaneously and everything is presented in a way that’s easy to grasp.
We can bring clients into our project management system without having to invest much time in training.
Declutters Your Email
Sometimes email can seem like an anti-productivity tool. After all, it allows anyone (anyone!) to put something onto your to-do list and it sits there until you actively respond or ignore it (or leave it in your inbox forever). Inbox zero can be an elusive goal!
On the other hand, we need a way to passively monitor progress on projects without having to check each board daily or hourly.
Trello threads this needle perfectly. Notifications (updates on cards you are assigned or subscribed to) collect in the header as they do on Facebook. Trello also sends emails a few times a day with a full list of notifications. We are informed, but not over-informed.
Strong Mobile Integration
In addition to a great mobile version, Trello has quite a few native apps: iOS, Android, tablet-optimized versions, even Windows 8! All that pinging when Android gives you your last 89 notifications can be a bit annoying, though.
It Keeps Us Honest
This is probably the most important. Trello is based on the kanban method of project management, which can be really useful regardless of how agile your development is. Trello’s board structure helps us identify bottlenecks better. We see a huge pile when the backlog of To-Do items exceeds our “Doing” capacity.
This doesn’t quite meet all of our needs, which brings us to some of Trello’s shortcomings:
- Boards have limited visual space, which makes it difficult to handle larger projects and larger teams without a lot of scrolling
- It’s difficult to organize an organization-wide view of tasks or even a list of what a single user has on her plate
- Trello has introduced a great project calendar tool, but it’s not available for users or organizations
- There isn’t any way to encode time estimates and tracking
A Well-Documented Service
We’ve said in the past that out-of-the-box tools usually only get you 90% of the way. Luckily, Trello has a very well-documented API that makes it easy for you to use Trello data in many other ways.
Stay tuned for a future post about some of the customizations and integrated tools we are building so that Trello can meet 100% of our planning needs.
In the meantime, you can take a look at some of the new features Trello is working on and some cool Trello use cases and features that third-parties have built to work on Trello.
Update: Check out our follow-up post featuring some excellent improvements and customizations for the Trello dashboard!