By Brian StudwellMay 22, 2014

Trello: An open source tool for the Kanban system of process organization

As development accelerator students dive into group projects, they each develop their own system for staying organized. Brian, a current Front-End UX Design & Development student, shared his team's favorite tool for keeping track of everything.


Wait, what was Mark supposed to do again?

It’s week 3 here at Code Fellows. The pace is quickening. Projects are getting more complex and we’re working in larger teams. Time to get out in front of potential snafus.

We’ve all participated in planning conversations where an impassioned and intelligent project leader fires up the troops and delegates tasks like a boss. Everybody walks away from the table pumped up and ready to rock. Then Li Li shows you a new press photo from that crazy awesome game coming out next year. Ten minutes of scouring the internet for leaked plot points and concept art later, you try to get back to work but can’t quite remember how everything was divvied up.

What to do?

Look at the board. There are a number of similar services available, but our team just used Trello for the first time and found it to be an excellent tool, so I’ll take a look at it here. Trello is completely free and 100% hosted. You never have to install anything to use it. Bonus points in my book. It’s an evolution of the Kanban board system of process organization from Japanese industry, wherein tasks are analyzed, broken down into appropriate scopes, and then placed in a sequence of varying steps, the simplest being to-do, doing, and done.

Now, let’s make a new board.

Trello new board

Trello’s interface is feature-rich, straightforward, and compassionate. Once you have an account you create a new board for whatever it is you would like to organize, and immediately you’re given three columns, called “Lists," to which you can add cards that represent individual jobs.

Trello Lists

By adding the members of your team you can assign responsibility for a particular card to individuals and maintain issue-specific chats within each card.

Trello Team Members

Not only does this offer convenient, compartmentalized communication, but the platform also has a mobile app that works beautifully, and a great notification system with mobile alerts, email alerts, and an icon state change in the bookmark icon. Beware, though, the icon can blend in if your bookmark bar has a lot of blue!

Trello Icon

You can upload files to Trello for sharing and viewing. While our team shared master project files via GitHub, Trello offered a venue in which to show iterations and discuss changes for subsequent versions of each deliverable.

Trello File Sharing

So if, like me, you’re tired of keeping track of group emails and don’t have the surplus psychic energy to shepherd your teammates from version to version, Trello makes for a useful part of your organizational toolbox.


Check out more resources on Brian’s blog.