Note: I originally wrote this post back in 2012. We've gotten so. much. better. at optimizing Trello since then (and we'll be publishing more soon!), but everything you read below is still true!
Trello is a web-based collaboration tool that's kinda like using post it notes on a wall, kanban-style. Using boards, lists, and cards, Trello empowers you to organize projects and people (check back soon for a post on how our team uses Trello to get things done). Here's an example of one of our department's boards:
And now, my top 10 reasons to jump on the Trello Train:
1. Keep (almost) everything in one place
So, let's start out with a few disclaimers. First, if you're looking for powerful project management software that also combines extensive document management, then Trello isn't your pick. Secondly, we will give you a super exhaustive but also refreshingly concise list of said software options in the near future, so please stick with me and read the rest of the reasons why you should consider Trello.
That being said, Trello has a wonderfully convenient feature that allows you to attach photos, videos, and documents from your computer, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Dani and I are Google Drive fanatics, and we suggest attaching Google Docs because they will be automatically updated after editing and do not require re-attaching multiple versions.
2. Cut down on email... like, a lot
It's a widely accepted fact that email is inefficient and disliked. So why not explore options to minimize (and eventually eliminate!) it? Because Trello allows you to comment on individual cards, you and your team can have entire conversations about a task or a topic directly in Trello, instead of through an email thread of 32 messages. When new activity on Trello happens, the notification button on the top of a board will turn red to alert you.
You can also subscribe to a board or a card, and choose to receive email notifications. Trello has a inspiring philosophy on email, so you will only receive an email summary of the unread notifications that you've missed. You can even choose to adjust the frequency of the emails--"instantly" and "never" are both options. OH! And, you can now create cards via email. Yay!
Since using Trello, I've noticed a significant decline in the number of times that I curse the "reply all" button.
3. Stickers! Puppy dogs! Pretty Things!
Trello's mascot is a husky pup named Taco. Upgrade to Trello Gold, and you can stamp Taco's face EVERYWHERE! Or, you can use the standard set of stickers. Oh, and you can create custom emojis. What's not to love?
UPDATE: Our new favorite way to make things pretty in Trello is to add custom backgrounds. Check out Dress Your Tech for an amazing, expansive curated collection of desktop backgrounds that work wonderfully in Trello.
4. All hands on deck, even the old ones.
Trello allows for real time collaboration, so everyone can work at the same time. It's also so easy to use that even, er, baby boomers and beyond can catch on.
5. Accountability, or it's obvious when you're not doing shit
Members can be added to boards and/or cards, which is suuuuper helpful when you need to keep track of who's doing what. You can assign specific tasks to teammates, or they can claim tasks on their own. And because all activity is logged and visible, it's plain to see who's working, who has room to take on more tasks, and who needs a help getting things done.
6. Deadlines. One more time--deadlines.
It's no secret that Dani and I work better under deadlines. With Trello, you can set deadlines on cards and set up reminders so that you don't miss said deadlines. You can also enable the Calender view power-up to view all of your deadline enabled cards by week or by month. Setting deadlines is also a gentler, non-naggy way to get your team to get things done and avoid a work flow bottleneck.
7. Visual Organization
By default, Trello boards are set up with three lists--To Do, Doing, and Done--but changing the name of the list is certainly possible (again, more details about how we use this feature in the post to come). You can drag and drop cards from list to list, and it's all very nice. Copying and moving cards, using color coded labels, and adding checklists are additional features.
Side note: I LOVE the flat design of the Windows 8 Trello App. And that might be the first time I've used the word "love" and "Windows" in the same sentence...
8. Security and stuff
Although you have the option to make Trello boards public, by default they are private so any secrets you want to keep will be safe. Traffic to and from Trello servers is SSL encrypted, and backups are frequent. You can also export data from Trello, which is nifty.
9. All the screen sizes!
In addition to having a responsive design in web browsers of any size, Fog Creek Software (makers of Trello) have been working tirelessly to develop apps for just about everything. Currently, there are apps for iPhone, iPad, Android phones, and Windows 8. Trello for Android tablets is currently in beta.
10. No monies, no problem
Trello is FREE! Yep, it's true.
So, what are you currently using as a project management system? Fellow Trello users--have I left something off this list? Do you have a favorite collaboration tool? Use the comments to let us know!