It’s a blank canvas. A starting point. An incredibly useful tool for organizing and production. Project managers have figured out how to use Trello for a whole range of purposes. Trello is a hugely flexible tool that is designed for successful project management. It works for either you as an individual or for your whole team.
Are you just getting started with Trello, or still looking for an ideal way to manage your team and your various projects? We’ve interviewed the CEO of NativeAds, Jon Malach, and the content editor, Shannon Lynch, for a deeper dive into how they use Trello, and tips and tricks they’ve discovered along the way. Read on to see how Trello can be particularly useful for native advising in particular and project management in general.
What is Trello Used For?
Trello is an app or website that is designed as a visual overview of a project. It can be used by all members of your team, including freelancers, to outline, complete and mark progress on various tasks in a larger project.
Based on the Kanban system of productivity, Trello is essentially a digital whiteboard filled with post-it notes. Each of the notes includes tasks, labels, and essential information about aspects of the project.
As you start using Trello, you begin with a blank board. This is the overview for the entire project. Then you add the Lists, which are relevant topics you need to cover in your project – things like “To Do”, or “Completed”. Finally there are cards. Cards are the real meat of Trello, building blocks that populate the lists with needed information. Think of them as post-it notes on a board, with relevant notes scrawled on them.
The cards on Trello are moved among the lists on the boards as progress is made. With Trello, the cards are versatile and can contain labels, checklists, comments, deadlines and images. They can be assigned to team members and used as detailed instructions or simple reminders – it’s up to your team.
Jon Malach, CEO of NativeAds, suggests that you use cards as “link houses” for other products you already know well, like Google Docs. He explains that for productivity reasons, “The content of the work can be elsewhere, but the prioritization of the work and assignment can be in Trello.” This is an excellent way to fully utilize the versatility of the cards and the many other good content resources available online.
How To Use Trello for Project Management and Campaigns
When it comes to project management and organizing campaigns, the simplicity and versatility of Trello is what makes it essential. Shannon Lynch, content editor at Native Ads, explains, “Trello is a great tool for project management in that it’s incredibly simple to use. All it takes is an email to sign up and your entire team can be added to access the Trello board you have created.”
Once you’ve set up a board and added team members, you have open discretion on using Trello for project management. You decide what you include as steps for your project and who you assign to those various steps. “The dragging and dropping of cards onto lists as well as colour labelling and the ability to write comments and add links into a card make it that much easier and efficient to use,” Lynch explains, “It’s a very clear and concise way to see where your projects are at each stage of progress.”
While Lynch uses Trello at the content level, Malach is looking at many types of projects from the conception stage. At Native Ads, Trello boards are used in many ways. These can range from organizing blog content and assigning writers to developing full native ad campaigns.
According to Malach, “Our managers use a separate board to communicate to upper management on a project milestone level.” At this higher level, “Each card here on a management board represents a milestone instead of each card representing a task like on our development board.”
The upper management at NativeAds enjoys the way the Trello boards can communicate what is on hold, what is in an idea stage and what has been strategically abandoned. In a volatile field like native advertising and marketing, this can be critical for managing time and resources efficiently.
Using Trello for Content
When asked what is Trello used for, you’ll get different responses from different team members. Trello is enormously versatile. The app is being used across companies in a multitude of ways, but all with the goal of boosting function and production.
At NativeAds, Shannon Lynch and the content marketing team use Trello to manage and organize the workflow for various projects. She explains, “Because our projects mainly involve curating content for various sites, the organization for each Trello board is very similar across each.”
The team organization includes umbrella lists such as “Article Ideas” where cards containing titles for specific articles are added. Then Lynch and her team add additional lists to determine workflow. These lists include “Articles to be Edited”, “Review” and “Publish”. Ultimately the lists move the content toward publication.
This type of usage is illustrated by the Trello team in one of its idea boards about creating and publishing blog content below. Kevan Lee, Content Crafter at Buffer, explained: “We’ve found it really helpful to have a place to store blog post ideas – whenever inspiration strikes! – and also to move fast on these ideas and stay organized with our content publishing. We place ideas on the far left columns, then drag-and-drop into our weekly lists any topics that catch our eye the week before. Anyone’s welcome to add links and research or to assign or label at any time!”
Using Trello in Other Ways
The progression of ideas for blog posts is one excellent way to use Trello, but certainly not the only option. At the higher levels in NativeAds, CEO Jon Malach uses it for major milestones with the other executives, but also for more creative projects you might expect for native advertisers.
Malach uses Trello extensively for deck preparation. When he and his team are preparing a deck, he works with his designers in Trello. “They can see the slides I want made, and I love the image preview that loads in each card. With this, I can tell what slides are still in concept stage and which ones have been done by the designer who’s worked off my block diagram.” In this way, each list created in Trello is a separate deck, as illustrated in the Trello example below.
Milestones, content and deck design are all possibilities for how to use Trello, but one of Malach’s favorite things about Trello is its ability to manage another program’s links. This is especially true for the NativeAds development team.
According to Malach, the NativeAds development team uses Trello to collaborate with the QA team. The company uses Assembla for ticket assignments and notes, but uses Trello for the prioritization of the same things. Malach claims that, “Trello is more visual and it is easier to see who is doing what.” According to Malach, each member has their own list and the team uses what he terms “divider” cards to show what is on deck.
A Few Trello Limitations
No software is perfect, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into with something like Trello. There are countless ways to use the software and plenty of tips to be even more productive as you do develop confidence and strategies with cards and boards. But there are also a few areas you should approach with care or perhaps creativity.
Shannon Lynch has a significant amount of experience with Trello over the past year in terms of content development and organization. She would like to see the archive and delete feature improved. She warns, “If you accidentally delete a card on Trello, it’s difficult to retrieve that card and it might be one that was very important.”
Lynch also feels there is room for improvement in the time-stamped activity feature in Trello. Currently, there is no way to see exactly what happened on a specific day without scrolling through all of the activity on the various cards.
Jon Malach’s greatest frustration was overcome with a bit of creativity. He feels Trello should add a feature to make dividers, like bumper cards or lists. This would allow for greater visible separation between lists on the boards. Fortunately, he was able to make his own by filling in cards with Xs as seen below.
Malach also wouldn’t mind if Trello enhanced the color labels so that the labels are bigger and more visual. Fortunately, he found a solution for this as well by adding images of color blocks to the cards he wanted labeled. The images of bright red, yellow and blue lines are more prominent and larger than the stock color label options.
A Few More Tips for Trello
Ready to get started using Trello boards? Here are a few more tips on how to use Trello from our NativeAds experts:
- Create your lists in the order of the workflow. Start on the left side of the screen with “Ideas,” for example, and then the last item on the right should be “Completed” or “Published”. This creates a clear beginning and end, and cards can be moved across the lists as they progress from start to finish accordingly.
- If you find a Trello board is getting too cluttered, don’t be afraid to delete lists that are no longer necessary. Or consider starting a secondary Trello board to organize smaller mini projects within the main one more easily.
- Utilize the ability to leave links and images in the Trello cards. You can collect all important resources for a particular item that way.
- Are you using Slack to communicate? Be sure to hook the Trello boards up using the built-in integration features. This makes it so that team members are alerted when cards are moved, added or archived.
- Try the Date and Time deadline. It works better than you’d think.
As you begin using Trello, you’ll find that it is perfect for arranging your campaigns. You need a way to coordinate multiple people through multiple steps for a campaign. And that’s what Trello is brilliant at.
Best of all, as Jon Malach explains after four years of using the tool, “As you get familiar with Trello, you’ll probably find that you can store all you need in the card itself and will rely on other tools less.”