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The Trouble With Trello – It’s Almost Too Useful, And Fun Too

Curiosity often draws me to look at specific apps; but, occasionally the driver is pure necessity. That was the case when I started looking for a way to keep track of a growing list of recurring projects. Charting and sharing progress on two blogs, two newsletters and a stream of other writing assignments plus the occasional workshop was becoming too much to handle using a regular calendar.

So, like Goldilocks and her experiment with porridge, I started testing apps with editorial calendar potential. But, like Goldilocks, I found some were too hot: they were more comprehensive than needed and pricey too. Others, like Google Docs proved too cool for my taste; because they were overly simple.

Eventually, though, my journey brought me to a lovely little gingerbread house…Oh, sorry, wrong story. Actually it brought me to Trello, a visual project management tool with a feature-rich free version. And it’s turning out to be just right.

As a reader of ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine, you may be familiar with Trello. It’s a web-based system for organizing projects and information. Don covered Trello in a video tutorial that was published in the February 2016 issue. To understand how the Trello system works, I’ll just mention the three key elements; they are, in order of hierarchy, Boards, Lists and Cards. A board (1) is Trello talk for a project. Any board can contain multiple lists (2), and each list can then be populated with cards (3), which contain information about a topic, step or task.

Trello is designed for many uses, but three things make it a great candidate for an editorial calendar. First, it’s easy to set up a workflow simply by creating lists in order from left to right with titles such as “To Do”, “In Progress” and “Done”. Second, you can attach documents and images. And third, it’s easy to share boards with other people and assign them to specific lists and cards.

Members, as Trello calls collaborators, can access boards on their computer or mobile device, including the Apple Watch, to get an update on a project, leave a comment or question, or even to contribute information. They can also review the progress of a given task by observing where it is in the workflow.

For even more detailed progress reports, users can refer to the checklists and progress bars on individual cards. Checklists are easy to set up and copy and paste to other cards. For example, since every e-newsletter article I prepare follows the same route from idea to publication, I simply copy and paste the same checklist into each new e-newsletter card as it’s created.

In essence then, Trello let’s you keep all of the critical data about a project in one place. This is great,
whether you’re working alone on a Trello board, or sharing it with a dozen people. Trello also keeps a running history of who made what decision, on a card by card basis. So, say goodbye to mailing out copies of drafts, and possibly missing a team member or two. Likewise, say goodbye to email queries from people wanting to know what stage a project is at, as well as to the task of preparing and sending out project status reports.

Need to get agreement from task members on a certain course of action? That’s easy too. Trello lets you add a voting function to a card. People can leave a thumbs up, or not, and you can react accordingly.

Users will also appreciate Trello’s strong visual focus. For example, you can choose from a variety of background colours for cards. Bright labels also make it easy to set up a priority system for tasks. And it’s easy to add and display images on individual cards as well.

Trello’s many features and flexibility have spurred me on to use the web app for far more than an editorial calendar. For example, I now use it to develop and plan workshops. In my personal life, it’s where I keep track of travel plans and travel dreams. And I’m sure to come up with even more uses, because it’s fun to use.

The Trello team goes out of its way to make it easy for people to explore the service’s many functions. A
detailed help guide, on-demand video tutorials and examples of Trello workflows, pipelines and roadmaps are all available online and within the iOS app. It’s also tempting to subscribe to Trello’s first level of paid “Gold” membership ($5 a month or $45 a year). Trello certainly makes the transition from the free version to Gold enticing by offering a free month (up to a maximum of 12 months) every time someone accepts an invitation to join one of your boards. For the time being I’ll stick to the versatile and satisfying free version. But maybe I’ll leave a trail of breadcrumbs to the Gold level sign-up page, just in case.

You can create a free Trello account on the web app at https://trello.com. The companion Trello app for iOS is available for free on the iTunes Store.

 

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