In this article, I am pitting Trello vs. Asana to see which cloud-based project management app is more powerful, useful and worth your time.
I’ve been using Asana for personal project management for almost a year now, while Trello was introduced to me by an editor, around six months ago.
So, I’ve been using both almost simultaneously.
Testing them together, and comparing their features, Asana seems to be a better fit for project managers looking to easily assign a task and track its progress in real-time.
While Trello is more suitable as a team collaboration tool, where an entire team can work together.
If I chose a winner out of these two, it would be Asana, mainly because it’s packed with features. Whereas Trello is a visual board, meant for small projects, and it might not be suitable for business users.
In this post, I’ll be covering the importance of cloud project management apps, and also rigorously compare Trello vs Asana — to see where they each stand.
Why Use a Cloud Project Management App?
Thanks to Wi-Fi and changing office culture, working from home has become easier than ever.
According to Forbes, over 30 million people in the US work from home at least once a week. 90% of employees are happier because they can maintain a work-life balance, which in turn leads to better productivity from their end.
Source – Flickr
Forbes’ statement was proven correct when Best Buy found out their average productivity rate increased by 36%, after implementing a flexible work program.
But managing and working in remote teams can be tricky, especially because co-workers cannot interact with each other, in a way they would have otherwise done if left to a typical office environment.
Keeping everyone in the loop is another challenge faced by remote teams.
Emails might help when sending rare notifications and updates in an office, but when teammates are on opposite ends of the world, and they need to communicate consistently, there needs to be a better tool which can streamline the process.
With the right tool, working in remote teams gets quite comfortable.
In fact now, remote dedicated teams are not the only ones using cloud-based project management apps, other teams are jumping in too, just because apps like Trello and Asana give employees freedom to work from home whenever they want.
That said, many major companies have already switched to cloud-based project management tools to give their employees more flexibility.
Companies that use Asana and Trello include:
Choosing The Right Project Management App
Because every team has different requirements, there is no right answer here. Selecting a project management app depends on a variety of factors, including:
- – Number of members in a team
- – Type of workload
- – Access permissions required for each task/project
- – Communication within each task
- – Cross platform functionality
- – Security
While some project management apps are more suitable and affordable for smaller teams, other apps are meant for enterprise level businesses.
That is why, when choosing a project management app, the first step should be to list out the requirements. For instance, Slack could be used for a central team communication hub, or Google Docs should be the way to go if document collaboration is needed.
But if you are looking for a tool where you can collaborate, gather ideas, assign tasks, and discuss projects in a single place, then pick either Trello or Asana.
Trello vs Asana – The Battle of Project Management Giants
Before moving forward, let’s briefly discuss both project management apps:
Imagine Trello as a whiteboard with sticky notes on it, that you can move around. There are three primary entities in Trello
- Boards – Depicts an ongoing process
- Lists – Creates lists inside a board and is used to show stages of a project.
- Cards – Creates cards inside a List and depict individual tasks which can be moved to a different list (after completion).
Trello is based on the Kanban system, which was developed by Toyota back in the 90s, to increase productivity in the company.
Developed by Fog Creek Software, Trello was intended for the company’s internal management, but in less than a year, Trello became independent of its parent company and was launched at TechCrunch.
Today, Trello has over 5 million users worldwide.
Asana’s clean interface takes a very basic approach to complex project management.
In total, there are four components in Asana:
- Workspaces – This is the main space inside which several projects can be created
- Projects – Projects are inside work spaces, assigned to team members and color coded
- Tasks – Tasks can be created inside a project. These are equivalent to cards in Trello
- Sub-tasks – Sub-tasks are created inside a single task, and then assigned to members
This app was created by two Facebook executives, Justin Rosenstein and Dustin Moskovitz, for internal management. As Asana got more popular, it was released publicly.
Trello has a more visual interface; it’s easy to move around cards and see progress. Due dates can be attached to each card, and they’re labeled by color.
Though, there are ten colored labels present on Trello, which can be restricting and confusing for big projects. The board’s color can be changed too, but there are only a fixed number of colors available.
To get a custom background, and more labels, users will have to upgrade to Trello Gold.
Cards from one board can be moved to another board, to maintain workflow, and they can be archived when no longer needed.
The menu is on the left-hand side, where all the board’s activities are visible. There is an option to filter cards according to a due date, label and assignee.
Alternatively, cards can also be directly searched by using the search tab on top.
Power-ups are a useful option provided by Trello to make boards even more versatile. For now, only three power-ups are provided for basic users – Calendar, Card Aging, and Voting.
Calendar lets you see all the cards on a calendar, according to their due dates. By the way, this feature does not require a separate power-up in Asana.
The card Aging feature makes older cards look more transparent or cracked up. But here is what I don’t like about it – Trello decides which card is old, according to its creation date.
What if there was a task which took longer than anticipated? If there were a lot of old cards mixed with standard cards, it could get confusing.
If I could change anything in Trello, I would want something synonymous to Asana’s green tick, which could let Trello know the task was done, and a card could indeed be ‘aged.’
There is a voting option too which lets members of the board vote on a card. Again, that is way too simple of a feature.
Instead, there could have been a system where members could vote against two or more different options whether it be just plain text, images, or files.
And now a feature that I like about Trello – Stickers. Because let’s be honest, saying ‘Great work’ isn’t the same as giving someone a gold star.
Coming to Asana, it has a three pane view for each Workspace. On the left-hand side are projects, in the middle are tasks inside a selected project, and the right side displays information about a selected task.
For someone familiar with Trello, Asana can look more complicated, but that’s because it is packed with way more features.
Projects can be color coded, and there are default images which are usable as a background, but since the Task window takes up maximum space, default images don’t matter in Asana.
Project colors are limited as well, but Trello has five more if we are counting.
The well-organized task window has five tabs on top: Lists, Conversations, Calendar, Progress, and Files.
- Lists is the main task list
- Conversations is where a team can discuss everything related to projects (thus removing the need for emailing)
- Calendar is exactly like Trello’s, where it displays all due dates on a calendar.
- Progress is where members can check the progress of assigned tasks and write an overall project update.
- Files is where a file attached to any task of that project will be visible.
There is one thing that Asana has which I love – green checkmarks. Every time a task is finished, it can be check marked, which makes it disappear from the task list.
While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, having used it for over a year, I find it rather motivating.
All the completed or archived tasks can be viewed by going to the View option on top and filtering out the tasks according to their time of completion.
In fact, the entire task view can be changed to show both completed and uncompleted tasks according to priorities other than due date like – Assignee, date, and alphabetical order.
While Asana does not have a separate Activity feed for every project, it has one for an entire Workspace, which can be seen by going to the ‘My Inbox’ option on top.
Honestly, I don’t know why it’s called the ‘inbox,’ because it cannot be used to send messages and it is just a feed.
Comparing the interfaces of Trello and Asana, the former apparently looks more visually appealing. But again, that’s because Trello has limited features compared to Asana, and with the features Asana has, it’s managed to pull together a cleaner interface.
Winner – Asana
Creating and assigning tasks
In Trello, tasks can be assigned by creating a new card and adding members to it, and these cards can have a due date, labels, and descriptions.
Though for descriptions, Trello uses Markdown, so consider checking the formatting help for that, it’s pretty direct.
One feature that Trello has, which Asana doesn’t, is Checklists, which I think are a great addition to tasks that don’t need sub-tasks.
There’s also an option to discuss tasks in the comment section, where members are tagged via the ‘@’ symbol.
A card can also be added to another one for reference, and this card can be from any board that the user has access to, but members also need access to the card to view it.
Multiple cards can be created by copy/pasting all their titles, separated by new lines, and clicking on Add. Rows from Spreadsheets can also be copy pasted to create multiple cards
Multiple cards aren’t selectable at once, an exhausting process if you’re trying to assign a long list of cards.
If I have to assign 30 different cards to the same person, or tag them with the same label, I’d have to select a card for each one — and assign them separately.
There are keyboard shortcuts available on Trello, but they are not as helpful as Asana because Asana uses universal shortcuts like Esc for going back, and Shift for selecting multiple cards.
Whereas, Trello’s keyboard shortcuts are unique and will need reference guides.
At the same time, having a large number of cards on a single list and checking each one can get confusing, especially with no numbering on the cards.
Numbering is available on Trello as a Power-up for Gold users.
I used Trello for a big project once where I was supposed to write 30-35 articles, and with the unnumbered list, I got thoroughly confused and ended up just transferring the work to Asana.
Another issue with Trello is permissions and visibility.
If there are ten members of a team, and you want certain cards not to be visible to individual members, there is no way to do so. The only way out of this conundrum is to create a separate board.
Coming to Asana, tasks are created inside projects, which in turn, are created inside Workspaces.
Unlike Trello, tasks in Asana can only be assigned to one person, but several other members can be added to the ‘Follow’ list, so they can keep getting notifications.
Asana can detect duplicate tasks inside a project, and merge both tasks together.
Members can be assigned tasks and sub-tasks, but I wish there could’ve been a fourth pane for the sub-tasks, because right now, it can be difficult to differentiate between tasks and sub-tasks.
All task-related activities can be viewed just below the description box, and the comment section can be used to discuss details. Just like Trello, members can be tagged in the comments with an ‘@’.
But unlike Trello, permissions for each task in Asana are separately defined.
In fact, there are three permission levels in Asana:
- Workspace permission – Members here can view all projects and tasks
- Project permission – Members can view all tasks inside a project, but can’t view other work space projects
- Task permission – Members can only see the task they’re assigned and the Project’s name
There is no option to add tags on personal projects, which is a little disappointing
Overall, Asana clearly wins this round because of multi-card selection, sub-tasks, and great control over permissions.
Winner – Asana
Creating Tasks Through Email
Trello and Asana allow users to create new tasks by sending emails to a specified address. Both services work similarly, with a little variation in syntax.
Though Asana has the same email address for its users, Trello uses separate email addresses for different users, different tables, and different lists, keeping track of which can be difficult.
But at the same time, at least Trello lets users add tasks to any location they want, tasks emailed to Asana only come under ‘My Tasks’ list.
Winner – Tie
Trello provides third-party integration with:
- Google Drive
A Trello bot on Slack chat can update users about any changes to the board, though all third-party integrations are only available for Trello Business users.
For the entire list of third-party apps supported by Trello, check here.
Slack is also well integrated with Asana.
After authenticating an account, users can create and assign tasks, and comment using the command ‘/asana’.
Which means users will have to pay separately for Asana and Zapier, because Asana has the same problem as Trello – no support for free users.
Winner – Tie ( Because they are more less the same)
Both Trello and Asana have a freemium business model.
Trello allows unlimited members, boards, lists, and checklists in the Free plan. Attachments can only be up to 10MB, but that does not matter too much since Google Drive and Dropbox integration is provided.
Then there are the Business and Enterprise Class plans, which support more third-party app integrations, premium power-ups, better security, and priority support.
Enterprise Class is usually opted for by big business since it provides two-factor authentication, SLA support, and file encryption.
Asana, on the other hand, only allows a maximum of 15 members in their Free plan.
There is only one paid plan in Asana – Premium, which allows unlimited members (the fee is per member), priority support, and admin control, though I couldn’t find anything about security.
For large organizations, Asana provides customized solutions, which amps up their security.
Winner -Trello, since it provides free unlimited members
Both Trello and Asana have iPhone and Android apps, but only Trello supports Windows phones.
Since I’ve been using both of these project management tools for a long time, I got a chance to use them thoroughly on phones and tablets.
Starting with Trello, I love the mobile app due to its exact mirroring of the web interface. Cards can be dragged and dropped to different lists by touch, and the Menu field is also present on the right corner.
Overall, Trello’s mobile app leaves nothing to be desired.
Now onto Asana’s app, as someone who has used Asana’s Android and iPhone apps for over a year, I just wanted to say this upfront – I don’t like it, I just tolerate it.
The default window on Asana’s web app is the ‘My Inbox’ section, which is a bit confusing.
Also, Asana’s iPhone app has a bug that’s been around for at least three months – In the comment section, I can only view comments from other members and not myself.
So if there are twelve comments, out of which five are mine, I can only see seven comments on a particular task.
And if I can’t remember replying, I’ll have to check the web app for clarification. Also, Asana’s mobile app is way too compact, and it’s only worth using when you don’t have access to the web app.
Winner – Trello
I created support tickets for both Trello and Asana around the same time (maybe a 2-minute difference).
Trello took four hours to respond to my ticket; Asana took eight hours. Nonetheless, both of the tickets were well answered, with the right explanation.
Winner – Trello
Asana is more suited for project management requirements, where a large number of projects need to be handled, and project managers require an efficient way to subdivide their teams in the same workspace — while managing access permissions.
Trello is suitable for smaller groups, who are looking for an easy way to collaborate. Bigger projects in Trello would mean multiple tables, which could end up confusing members.
I also believe Trello is meant more for creative people, like writers and graphic designers, but for management and IT guys, Asana would be a better option.
While this battle has been a close call, with Trello leading in interface and visuals, and Asana leading in features, I think the winner here is Asana.
Because, at the day’s end, we are all just looking for a project management app which is jam packed with features.
Which project management tool do you use? Share with us in the comments section below!