Trello is a popular project management tool that enables teams to organize projects, break them down into manageable tasks, assign deadlines, and track the progress of tasks in a visually appealing, easy-to-use drag-and-drop user interface. Agile businesses will find Trello useful for organizing their work processes and collaborating across teams in a more efficient manner. Since Trello connects to other apps in your workflow, such as Slack, Google Drive, and Jira, you can effectively communicate and collaborate throughout every stage of your projects, from start to finish.
- Ranges from $5/user - $20.83/user per month
- Free tier also available
Table of Contents
- Full Review
- Key Features
- Should you go pro?
- Is Trello the right software for your business?
Launched in 2014 by Fog Creek Software, Trello is popular among companies (including Google, Adobe, and Kickstarter) because it helps users collaborate on projects, and organize and prioritize tasks to create a cohesive workflow. In 2017, Trello was acquired by Atlassian, a company that also owns other business tools like Jira. Designed with an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, Trello is appealing to many types of users, ranging from entrepreneurs and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.
Businesses typically use Trello to prioritize and organize tasks in an efficient manner. Each team can create and maintain its own board, in order to create a high-level overview of the status of each project, and make sure that nothing falls off the radar. It also provides an organized way for teams to track and fulfill requests from other teams throughout their organization.
Trello offers a generous free tier that enables companies to create unlimited cards, boards, and checklists. This means that companies can try it out risk-free before deciding to upgrade to the business or enterprise level, which is typically what they would need to do if they wanted to be able to connect Trello to other applications, like Google Drive or Slack. Connections to other applications are called Power Ups in Trello, and the free tier only enables you to add one Power Up per board, while paid memberships are able to add unlimited Power Ups to each Trello board.
Trello cards can be as minimalist or as fully detailed as required. You can attach files directly through Power Ups like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, which helps increase productivity by enabling team members to directly open and preview files directly within a Trello card.
Below, we discuss the key features of Trello, and how they can benefit your business.
Organize and create a sensible workflow for projects
Trello's design may look similar to columns of sticky notes, but it offers much more functionality than a physical bulletin board.
To use Trello, you simply create cards, which are meant to represent ideas or tasks. Cards can be logically grouped and organized into lists, or columns, which are arranged from left to right as a way to symbolize progressive stages over time. This visual style is typical of a kanban board. For example, a magazine staff may want to create a Trello board that organizes each issue's planned articles into various stages, ranging from "Ideas" and "Researching," to more advanced stages like "Writing," "Editing and Graphics", and "Scheduled".
This gives each user a clean view of exactly where each article stands, and which articles require follow-up. It also provides a clear-cut platform where members of the team (and members of other teams) can add their own ideas/requests in an organized manner.
When a card is ready to progress to a new stage, you can easily drag and drop it into the appropriate column. The sidebar menu (shown on the right side of the screenshot below) will automatically track any change on the board (whenever a card is edited, moved, added, etc., and who completed the action), for future reference.
Trello provides a collection of Inspiring Boards that provide users with a starting point for their own use cases. As these examples demonstrate, virtually any project and any team can benefit from creating a Trello board to assign, organize, and keep track of tasks. Use cases range from personal journeys like marathon training, to more professional applications, such as a place for employees to submit requests to the company's design team.
Enhance productivity with labels, checklists, and other features
In addition to organizing your tasks into a sensible workflow, Trello also enables you to add as much detail and context to those tasks as you want, through the addition of file attachments, labels, and checklists. You can add one or more of the following elements to each card in order to provide additional context and enable assignees to quickly take action:
- Specify team members who should be associated with a particular card
- Checklists that can be dynamically updated to illustrate progress over time
- Attach files up to 10MB on the free tier, or up to 250MB on paid plans
- Add color-coded labels that help you categorize and prioritize tasks/cards
- Add adjustable due dates and enable members to mark when complete
One of Trello's major functions as a project management tool is to make it easier to assign tasks to various members throughout your organization, and visualize the progress of those tasks as they progress through each stage. As such, being able to add and assign team members to each task is a key feature of Trello, When creating a card, you can add yourself and/or other team members to automatically notify any individuals who may be interested in getting notified about any progress or activity on that particular task.
For example, if you are a manager on an engineering team, and you need to get access to the company's recruiting software, you can create a card requesting an invite, and add the member of the HR team who is responsible for granting access, as well as any other individuals on your team who may also need access. Adding users to a card automatically sends them a notification that they have been added to that card, so they can in turn check it out and decide if they want to subscribe to future notifications about progress on that task. Members of a card will also get notified whenever they are mentioned in a comment on any Trello card, even if they are not currently a member of that card. This helps encourage conversation, and enables users to stay in the loop and weigh in on conversations without necessarily having to follow every single Trello board throughout their organization.
For example, because the card below includes a clickable checklist, team members can mark each task as it's completed, enabling colleagues to see which tasks still need to be fulfilled, and which ones have already been tackled. Just as each Trello board logs any action taken across any card on that board, each card maintains its own activity log that shows a record of any changes made to the card over time. This enables any team member to simply click into a card to easily track its progress and follow up with the correct individuals as needed. Instead of having to check in manually individuals across your organization, and potentially waiting for them to respond, you'll be able to search across Trello for the project you're interested in, directly view the right card/task, and instantly be able to tell exactly where it stands.
Managers and admins may also find it useful to assign labels to cards as a quick way to categorize tasks into logical groups within any given board. Below, you can see that this board's cards have been labeled by department, which enables you to filter cards to see all tasks related to the People team, for example. Color-coded labels also provide a quick visual cue about how many types of cards in each category any given board has in each list.
Users can also add due dates to time-sensitive cards. Once a card is within 24 hours of its due date, the due date will turn yellow. If the card has passed its due date, it will turn red. This color-coded organization enables team members to quickly tell at a glance which types of tasks are overdue/running behind, and which ones have a less urgent timeline. Users who are subscribed to a card will also get notified 24 hours before the due date of any card.
Attaching context to tasks with file attachments
Attaching files to Trello cards can help provide even more context about the stage of any particular task. Interestingly, Trello does not place a limit on the amount of storage it provides for your files/attachments across all of your boards—it only sets a limit on the maximum size of any given attachment (10MB on the free tier, or up to 250MB for business/enterprise customers). As such you can use Trello to store as many files as you want—and you get the additional bonus of being able to reference much-needed context about current and past projects. Like a cloud-based file storage solution, Trello provides a history of past files that you can download whenever you want—but it also provides much-needed context about those files, since each card will contain a description of the project in question, as well as a comment history of the conversation that took place among the team members who worked on that project.
You can attach images, PDFs, Google Docs (through the Google Docs Power-Up/integration), or other files to mark the progress of any given task. For example, going back to our editorial calendar board, you might attach the latest draft of a blog post on a card, and mention someone else to ask them to take a look at it. Below, you can see what an image file attachment looks like in a card, as well as an @-notification to another member of the team. Once you mention another team member, they'll receive an email that tells them what triggered the notification. Instead of having to email a colleague about the latest version of a draft, anyone on your team can see every stage of its progress, and weigh in as needed. Communication is no longer limited to email between a limited set of parties—with Trello, every team member will be able to see exactly what stage any given project is in, and either contribute or make educated decisions about their own projects based on the status of other projects throughout their organization.
Note that certain types of high-security files may not be suitable for sharing in Trello. If you directly attach a file to Trello, Trello will store a copy of the file on its own servers, and it will create a custom shareable link that will enable anyone with the link to view the file. There is no way to set custom permissions on which team members should be able to access the file. If you want to continue sharing it in Trello, anyone with the link will be able to access the file, though if you really want to disable access, you can delete the file from Trello if needed. If you need to set viewing permissions on a file, Trello recommends using its integrations with OneDrive or Google Drive, and setting the permissions through those services. This also enables you to automatically provide the most recent version of a file, instead of having to reattach a new version every time it is updated.
Trello offers a wide selection of Power-Ups, which are extra features and/or integrations with other applications that are crucial to your workflow. Some of the most useful Power-Ups fall into the following categories:
- File storage solutions like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox
- Issue tracking/product management software like Jira, GitHub, and Zendesk
- Communication tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Join.me
You can also enable another category of Power-Ups that doesn't just link Trello to apps throughout your existing workflow—this category is meant to boost your usage of Trello itself. Certain Power-Ups enable you to customize the way you use Trello, by adding more functionality to your boards. For example, the Custom Fields Power-Up provides a way to add custom fields to your cards, including start and end dates, numerical values, and any other field that can help categorize a task into
One example of a Power-Upis the Card Repeater Power-Up, which enables you to create recurring tasks on your Trello boards, either weekly, monthly, or yearly. Another example of a Power-Up is the Card Snooze Power-Up, which enables you to archive a card until a future date, when it will reappear on your board. This helps declutter your board of tasks that you know you won't be able to tackle until later in the year. If you're a paying customer of Trello, you can enable as many Power-Ups on each Trello board as you like, and thereby customize your usage of Trello to your organization's specific needs. The free tier gives you access to one Power-Up per board, so you can still test it out in a limited capacity before deciding if you would benefit from going Pro.
Trello also provides an API, allowing technical teams to create their own custom Power-Ups that are tailored specifically to their organization's needs. Trello offers a number of resources and guides to get teams started on creating their own custom integrations, which is a nice bonus for technical teams that want to integrate Trello into a specific aspect of their workflow.
Should you go pro?
Trello's free tier includes all of the basic functionality any team needs to organize, assign, and track tasks. With the ability to create unlimited cards, boards, and checklists, Trello's free tier is enough to give organizations a taste of what Trello has to offer. The main value of upgrading to Pro comes with the ability to enable more than one Power-Up per board, which can be useful to organizations that want to integrate Trello more neatly into their workflow. If you anticipate the need to attach files larger than 10 MB to your Trello cards, you will also need to upgrade to a Pro or Enterprise plan. In general, we recommend trying out Trello's free tier to see if it suits your organization's needs, which it very well might. If you find that you'd like to take enable multiple Power-Ups per board, or attach larger files to your cards, you can then consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
Is Trello the right software for you?
Trello is one of the most popular project management and collaboration software options on the market, for good reason. Its user interface is very intuitive, and it offers a generous free tier plan, which makes it very accessible for teams at all stages of growth. If you need a simpler way to organize and track tasks across various teams throughout your organization, Trello is a full-featured option that can help take your workflow to the next level.