Simone Corgan reviews Trello – an app championing itself as a collaboration tool that makes organisation simple but effective.
Essentially, Trello makes project management easier to regulate.
How? It allows you to work on your own or in a team to keep track on multiple projects to see what’s being worked on, the progress being made and who’s working on what task.
The best way to think of Trello is like an old fashioned pin board; it has a plain look but can be used as a productive place to collate plans and lists.
Trello may have a humble interface but it is super smart. It is a board – you can create as many as you like – that can have ‘cards’ pinned to it, each card can represent a project or stage in a job, and on each card you can create lists, attach documents, pictures and provide updates.
If multiple people are working on one project, you can assign people to cards so you know who is working on what, and you can colour-code them too.
So you can prioritise or set an extra level of organisation. It’s the kind of tool that super organised people (think Monica from Friends) would jump up and down in excitement about.
The app’s interface is horizontal so it works perfectly – and in the same format – on a desktop, smartphone or tablet, which means the user can work on it intuitively without needing to navigate around the same tool in different ways on different platforms.
All changes are saved simultaneously, so no matter who’s accessing it they know they’ve got the most up-to-date information and, once a project or task has been completed or moved to the next stage, the cards can be dragged across to the next list, reordered in terms of importance or achieved.
Released in 2011, Trello has been on the path to perfection for three years.
It wasn’t put through relentless testing before it was released either. Instead the makers of Trello – Fog Creek – decided to be bold and brave by making a model that would continuously improve.
Writing on blog.trello.com Joel Spolsky, founder of Fog Creek Software, the developers of Trello, said: “We thought we could get away with this because Trello is free, so customers are more forgiving.
“But to tell the truth, the real reason we get away with it is because bugs are fixed in a matter of hours, not months so the net number of ‘bugs experienced by the public’ is low.”
As of May, four million people were using Trello.
It claims to be infinitely flexible – it’s not just about collaboration in the workplace, it could be used to help plan a wedding, used as a checklist for Christmas presents or become your very own digital to-do list.
Why is it so popular? Joel explained: “Trello is probably the simplest thing in the world: it’s a web page where you make a bunch of lists. Each list contains cards. Each card is a thing that someone might want to work on.”
What I really like about Trello is not the app itself but the people behind it. Taking the tour to get to grips with the app shows the techno-savvy team doesn’t take themselves or their app too seriously.
My first test of Trello was to upload my trusty to-do list, which is usually scribbled on a pad of paper every morning. I was a little click happy initially and created too many lists, all relating to different tasks.
If I could go back in time, I’d have created three lists ‘to do’, ‘in progress’ and ‘done’. Why would I do it differently next time? Well, I wouldn’t buy a new car and get it straight on a racetrack. I’d understand how it works, its little faults and the best way to drive it first.
There are neat little shortcuts that you learn through trial and error (or you can visit the ‘help’ section) which will help save time.
But the really great news is it’s a freemium app, which means the standard service is free of charge but a more premium version is available, at a charge.
My biggest gripe with Trello is the ‘collaboration’ part. Yes, it’s great that I can see what my colleagues are working on and we can all keep tabs on what stage we’re at with different projects.
But the issue lies within collaborating on documents. I’d hoped to see colleagues editing a document simultaneously, but it only works that way if you’re sharing a Google Docs.
If you’re sharing a traditional document from a desktop, to be edited someone would need to download it, edit it and reload it.
The creators of Trello aren’t afraid to listen to their users and act.
In fact, the ‘Trello Development’ board allows users to request developments and it provides updates on whether it’s being considered, in progress or testing.
Joel added: “Every week there’s a new thing, and it arrives continuously.
“It’s not like Microsoft Windows where every five years there’s a new version, it’s more like Gmail where you’ve never noticed a new version because the little tiny things have accreted over time, that have gotten better and better and better.”
It looks as though Trello’s developers only plan to go from strength to strength.
Trello – Organise anything.
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Final thought: I think Trello could really whip some businesses into shape but it would need everyone’s buy in. If there are several different projects running at multiple stages and in strict processes, I think it’s a no-brainer to use Trello. However, I can’t look beyond its need to allow documents and attachments to be edited within the app itself. IF that happens, Trello will become the perfect collaboration app.