Trello is a solid project management tool that is used by companies big and small the world over, including Cloudwards. We like it a lot, but, as you can read in this full Trello review, there are some serious limits to its usefulness.
Free plan available
Trello is probably one of the most well-known project management apps out there. It’s both free and easy to use, which explains much of its popularity. In this full Trello review, we’re going to go over its pros and cons to see whether or not it deserves its spot among the best project management software.
The short answer is that, yes, it is very good at getting the job done. In fact, at Cloudwards.net, we use Trello ourselves for keeping track of our editorial calendar, with little to no trouble. How it works is easy to grasp, and training others on it is a piece of cake. Also, it’s great for giving you an overview of what’s going on within your team or business.
That said, its not without its flaws, and project managers who need to keep track not just of the what and when, but also any necessary requirements to get the job done, will find Trello lacking. If you’re in that category, we recommend you check out our monday.com review for a much more fleshed-out alternative.
If you’re not as high powered as all that, though, and just want to keep track of tasks, Trello may very well be the ticket for you. It’s free as long as you don’t need more than one power-up — more on that in the “pricing” section below — so there’s nothing stopping you from trying it out yourself. If you’re not too sure yet, stick around as we sort out Trello’s nuts and bolts.
- Free plan is great
- Easy to use
- Paid plan is expensive
- Weak on features
Overall, Trello is a mixed bag when it comes to features. Basically, all it offers is a kanban board — check out our article about kanban boards if that was Greek (well, Japanese) to you — and not much else. Its power and flexibility comes from the automation features it presents as well as its power-ups, which are feature-packed add-ons.
Thing is, though, that the free plan gets you only one power-up. You need to upgrade to a paid plan to get access to all power-ups and the features that come with them. However, even then, Trello lacks the power of more advanced competitors like monday.com or Freedcamp.
Before we get to power-ups, though, let’s first look at the basics of the service, as we suspect that’s what most readers are interested in. Trello scored second place in our article on the best free project management tools — second only to Wrike — thanks to its excellent functionality right out of the box.
A kanban board is, in essence, no more than a sequence of lists (or columns) you can move cards (tasks) around in, and Trello does a fine job of that. However, there’s plenty lurking beneath the surface, and you can, if you want, do a lot more than shift cards around. At the same time, though, it does nothing to revolutionize kanban boards, either. For that, check out LeanKit.
For one, you can customize the background as you see fit as well as add as many boards, lists and cards as you like — there’s no limit set by Trello.
That said, from experience we can tell you that some common sense is required here: if you have too many lists in a board or too many cards in a list, you may want to subdivide things a bit, unless you want to defeat the purpose of using the app altogether.
You Rang, M’Lud?
Beyond the superficial, though, Trello gets a lot of its power from the Butler tool and from power-ups. The Butler is a helpful feature that will let you automate processes and tasks, and will do so based on your behavior on the board so far.
Basically, not only will it help you with what you think you may need, it’ll also help show you the holes in your processes that you’ve overlooked.
Or, at least it’s supposed to. On both the new board we created and the Cloudwards editorial board, we received the same message: “looks like there’s not a lot of activity from you on this board.”
On the new board, that’s understandable, but the editorial one has been in constant use for more than three years, so we’re not sure what Taco, Trello’s Siberian husky mascot, has been smoking.
Not all is lost, though, as you can also take a more hands-on approach by clicking through the Butler’s menu. On the free plan, you only have access to the “rules” as well as automation of tasks that have to do with cards and boards. Paid users also get access to more high-level functions for the calendar and due dates.
Setting up tasks with Butler isn’t that different from using, say, IFTTT or Zapier, though its use is contained to Trello, so it definitely lacks some versatility when compared to these tools. It’s a nice addition, especially if you pay for the added functionality, but it won’t wow you out of your mind, either.
A bit more impressive are the power-ups, which are plug-ins, scripts and integrations you can add to your boards. There are more available than we can easily count, including everything from a calendar view, to allowing you to directly attach files from Dropbox, to some pretty advanced dev tools we have no idea how to use — we’re just simple hacks, after all.
This abundance of choice is all very well and good, but only if you are paying for Trello. Going for either Trello Business Class or the Enterprise plan gives you access to all power-ups, no exception, so you can mess about as much as you want.
Among the most popular ones are Burndown for Trello, Planyway (a calendar app), as well as plug-ins for all our favorite cloud storage providers. It also has one for Slack, which we feel is pretty much mandatory in this day and age.
However, the free plan only gives you one power-up per board, and considering that pretty much everything that isn’t directly kanban-related can only be added as a power-up, all this advanced functionality is out of reach.
Even the calendar or the ability to add extra fields to cards count as power-ups. This means that if you don’t want to pay for it, all you get is the kanban board.
That said, it’s still a pretty good tool, so we don’t blame the Trello team for trying to steer people away from the free plans by limiting power-ups in this way.
Also, the staggering amount of available power-ups could very well mean you find the single one that does all you need. Alternatively, you can always add functionality using Zapier or simply spreading operations across several boards.
Unleashing Trello: Paid Features
However, if you decide to pull your wallet, Trello becomes downright impressive. Besides offering all the plug-ins you could ever imagine and then some, you also get access to some very nice built-in features.
These include, but aren’t limited to: custom fields, voting on cards, a built-in calendar, email notifications, plus an array for app integrations. Trello’s pricing page gives a full list, but you probably get the idea.
In short, the free version of Trello is a good kanban board that can stand its own, but paying for it gives you a fully fledged project management tool.
However, even with all the bells and whistles, Trello can’t quite go toe-to-toe with its competitors when it comes to the range of features. Even another freemium provider beats it, as you can read in our Asana vs Trello review.
There’s also another problem when opting for Trello Business, which we’ll get into in the next section.
Features Trello Overview
Trello is a great free tool, but paying for it has another problem besides a paucity of features: it’s expensive as all hell. Trello Business Class will cost you $10 per month per user, meaning that every person you invite to your boards will cost you $120 per year.
Depending on how many team members you have, using Trello could cost you a bundle, and we’re not exactly sure what you’d be paying for.
Breaking Down Trello Pricing
Trello offers three tiers: free, Business Class — which offers almost everything you could want from the service — and Enterprise, which expands on the functionality offered by the regular business plan. The pricing for Enterprise works on a sliding scale, so if you have 1,000 users, it actually ends up being a lot cheaper than Business Class. Then again, you’d need 1,000 users.
Although the extra features and unlimited power-ups would be great to have, paying $120 per year per user is just too much. Even smaller businesses could have five or 10 people using a board — not inconceivable, considering how many companies make use of freelancers — meaning you’d be shelling out some serious moolah just to keep operations on track.
This is normally the bit where we’d give examples of cheaper services you could take a look at, but in the case of project management software, we’re afraid that paying 10 bucks per user per month is standard. However, considering how much more you get with other providers, we feel a bit uncomfortable recommending Trello for its price.
All That Glitters…
However, there is a loophole to all the above, which is Trello Gold. This applies only to single-person use, and it is a great way to get more than a single power-up without shelling out huge money.
Trello Gold costs $5 per month or $45 for an entire year, which gets you larger file attachments and three power-ups. Also, you can get a month of Gold for every person you invite to Trello, which can rack up quickly.
Now, back to the good news: Trello is an absolute pleasure to use. From moving cards around to setting up new boards, you’ll need to use little beyond common sense. The experience is much the same whether you’re using the Trello desktop app, the web app or the mobile one. All in all, when it comes to ease of use, Trello is one of the best out there.
Signing up is as easy as going to the Trello website, then either signing up using the bar in the center of the screen or hitting the “sign up” button in the top right. You need to enter your email and you’re all set.
Next, you’ll be presented with an intro screen with some very basic tips, and you can continue to another screen to make a new board. Choose your background — and template, if you need one — and you’re now officially running your latest project using a kanban board.
We have a Trello tutorial if you need any tips on getting started and if you’re not satisfied with what the service itself is offering. Our tutorial offers some easy-to-follow Trello board examples and will get you started with task management.
Using the Web Client
The web client and desktop client are likely the place where you’ll be doing the most organizing, as it offers you a larger screen, perfect for putting up lists and cards for overview purposes. We’ll be using the web client for the purposes of this review, though note that there is no functional difference between it and the Windows or Mac app.
Overall, we really like this view, with the board taking up roughly 80 percent of the main screen.
Moving cards and lists around is all done through drag and drop, and you can scroll through lists with your mousewheel. Left to right navigation can only be done using the slider bar at the bottom, which can get a bit annoying. We recommend you don’t make your board go too far in width to avoid this problem.
Lists are fairly simple: click on “add another list” in the top part of the screen and one will pop out. Name it and it’s ready to use. Cards are equally simple: Click “add a card,” name it and you’re ready to roll.
However, the fun really starts when you click on the card to reveal the back of it. A pop-up will fill your screen with all kinds of options. You can add a label — handy when sorting through cards later — add a description and a due date. You can also assign team members so both you and they can keep track of what they’re doing.
There are some basic task-management options built in, like a checklist and a due date, which will come in handy when dealing with larger projects. On the whole, though, we’d recommend dealing with subtasks by making separate lists and cards because Trello won’t let you easily track what’s on the back of cards.
At the far right of the screen is the option to open the menu. It’s fairly easy to navigate, though it does involve you going back often to the main screen rather than quickly linking you to every other submenu through another navigation bar or something.
We suspect this was a conscious choice on the part of the developer to always keep a maximum view of the kanban board, so it’s understandable but can still get a teense annoying.
The part of the menu you’ll likely be spending most of your time is the “search” function, which allows you to filter using labels, assigned members as well as a more general, word-based search.
Overall, Trello users will find the software easy to navigate and operate, meaning it scores high here.
Trello Mobile App
This experience is much the same with the mobile Trello app. It’s available for Android and iOS, and available via their respective stores. Once it’s downloaded and you’re past the Trello login screen, you’re presented with much the same view as the web app, though scaled down and a bit more basic.
There’s not much difference here, with even the menu on the right under three dots, but we’ll admit that we felt the whole process of using Trello on mobile was a bit more finicky than we’d like. This is likely due to kanban boards being overviews that don’t translate well to a small smartphone screen.
Trello doesn’t disappoint when it comes to security, offering good, all-round protection of your business’ data. However, it does store your data using Amazon Web Services, which doesn’t have a flawless record. On the privacy end, however, there are some issues, as you can read in the relevant subsection.
Trello is owned by Atlassian, which is a massive corporation (Jira, for example, is from the same stable), so Trello uses a host of security measures, including 128-bit AES TLS protocol while in transit and 256-bit AES encryption while at rest. It also undergoes regular audits by both Atlassian on the client side and Amazon on the server side.
Overall, we see very little that gives us pause when it comes to security, except the leaky Amazon buckets. However, that is often caused by people mismanaging them, and Trello seems to have admins that know their stuff working, so it’s all good there.
However, the biggest security risk when using Trello is, well, it’s you. Apparently, many people foolishly make their boards public when creating them, meaning that anybody can access them, on top of them also being available to Google’s crawlers (so they pop up in searches). If you manage to avoid this pitfall, Trello is safe to use.
At Cloudwards, we’ve been using Trello for more than three years and have yet to be inundated by a flood of Trello-related spam, so Atlassian seems to be pretty respectful about it, but clearly your data isn’t private with Trello.
It’s a small price to pay for a free service, but if you prefer to avoid this kind of thing, check out our Airtable review for a more discreet alternative.
Much like its ease of use, Trello excels when it comes to helping you along. It has plenty of guides for both beginners and more experienced users, plus offers webinars for specific issues. It falls a little short in interactive support, but you likely won’t even need it.
If your main concern is learning how to use Trello, it has you covered. Through the support portal, you can access a massive number of tutorials that will get you kanbaning like you’ve been doing it all your life within a few hours.
If you have a specific issue you need help with, it seems Atlassian would prefer you go to the Trello Community (a forum) rather than use support. It seems pretty active, with both users and employees pitching in, and its search function works well, so you’ll probably get whatever answer you need pretty quickly.
If all the above fails, you can also contact support directly through a contact form on the support page, though it seems more geared toward people wanting to report bugs or subscribe to a specialist plan. Asking help questions will mainly see you redirected toward the relevant guide or forum page, though the answers come pretty quickly considering we’re using a free plan.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about Trello. If you’re looking for a basic kanban board that you don’t have to pay for, we actually recommend it above all other options. However, getting the most out of Trello comes with a hefty price tag, and we see better options offering more for the same amount, or even less.
For example, Cloudwards’ favorite, monday.com, is pricier, but it gives you all kinds of goodies and layered views, while a program like TeamGantt lets you make Gantt charts that allow for tracking of dependencies (though you could use the BigPicture power-up to do it for you).
Still, though, give Trello a whirl if a card-based solution sounds right for you and if you like the flexibility of the power-ups.
Have you used Trello? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.
What Is Trello?
Trello is a task management tool that uses a kanban board to keep track of tasks. It’s a great way to have an overview of a project’s progress, though keeping track of subtasks and dependencies is tricky.
Is Trello Any Good?
Yes, Trello is pretty good at what it does. Do keep in mind, though, that its scope is a bit limited, so it may not be the perfect fit for what you’re trying to do. If you’re running a simple startup or something, however, you can’t beat Trello.
Is Trello Really Free?
Yes, Trello is free. We’ve been using it for years with just the one power-up and have never been asked to pay for it. However, the free trial plan is rather restrictive if you want all the bells and whistles.
What Is Trello Used For?
For keeping track of the progress of a larger project. You can’t really see how different tasks are interconnected, but it’s perfect for giving an overview.
Which Is Better, Trello or Asana?
Depends on what you need it for. If you just need an overview, we like Trello more, while Asana is better if you need to dip into the details. Trello’s project management boils down to moving cards around, while Asana lets you keep a close eye on who is doing what.