Getting Started With Trello: Master Project Organization

Welcome to the world of Trello! This post is a no-frills quick guide to setting up and using the handy tool to maximize project organization In this particular guide, we’ll be focusing on managing a work project involving a small team. Trello’s features and functionalities let you do a lot more than just that, but for now let’s focus on going from zero to hero as quickly as possible.

Cards, Lists, and Boards:

Trello starts with cards. Each card tends to hold a single task, event, or meeting. Cards are organized into Lists. They are usually not marked done or not done; instead lists are used to show the status of a card. You can then move a card from, for example, the In Progress list to the Completed lists.

(6 Cards in a In Progress List.)

A Trello Board consists of lists of cards. By convention, cards start on the left side and move towards completion on the right.


Boards have Members – usually other people on your team – and one or more members can be assigned to specific cards. You can invite or remove members in the menu on the right side of the board.


Basic Trello is free – you can have as many boards, lists, cards and members as you need to define and manage your project. The basic level of Trello comes with one “power-up” (Trello’s cute name for integrations with other online services and special Trello features).

(Trello Power-Ups.)

There are a lot of power ups that can improve project organization. Examples include powers for Dropbox, GitHub, Slack and mini programs like Elegantt (that adds a gantt chart to your project) and much more. These power ups have enterprisey-kinds of features, and are the main reason people pay for Trello Gold, Trello Business Class and Trello Enterprise. They also let you customize board backgrounds and attach more files to cards.

(Trello’s Pricing.)

Scoping your Project

Now that you’ve gotten through your intro to Trello, let’s talk about how best to approach project organization.

First off, think about the scope of the project. You want to define what you want to deliver/ accomplish. Then, think about what steps your team will have to take to get there, and put those steps as lists on your board.

For example:

  • If you are managing a series of events for a product rollout, you can make each event a card, and move each card through lists like Initial Planning, Venue Set, Equipment, Rehearsal, Ready, and Event Held.(Managing a product rollout using Trello.)
  • If you’re managing your company’s content marketing, you can put each post title on a separate card. You can make lists of post statuses, such as Ideas, Assigned Posts, First Edit, Ready, and Published. You could then add your writers as members of the board, assign posts (cards) to specific writers, and set deadlines that will show on the face of each card.
  • Another common use for Trello is managing software projects. Trello works well for small (around 8 people) teams of developers, and integrates well with the various tools developers use to manage their code. You can also sync Trello boards with projects in tools like Jira, GitHub, and GitLab using Unito.

Project Organization Best Practices

  • Start small: Especially if your team is not used to Trello. You’ll get better results and team buy-in through a small project that everyone understands rather than a large complicated one.
  • Use Card Checklists: Use them as subtasks, or to define steps within a card. You can transfer checklists between cards, effectively making them templates.(A Trello Checklist on a card with a good Title and Description.)
  • Doing a traditional kanban style board? Note that such boards only have 3 lists: waiting, in-progress, and completed.(A Trello Kanban-style Board.)
  • Doing an Agile or Scrum Board? There are numerous power ups, chrome extensions and tools out there to help.

Trello Mistakes to Avoid

Trello is a very adaptable and flexible application – sometimes too flexible. For this reason it can be easy to make mistakes: here’s two to avoid:

  • Having too many lists: This can get confusing, and requires a lot of left/right scrolling. Try to stick to six lists and keep their names short to ensure proper project organization. You can also use Trello Labels to define sub-categories. For example, you can make an Ideas list of blog topics, but use a set of labels to differentiate ideas into categories like product posts, email magnet, etc.
    (Trello Labels grouped type [Purple] and stage [Blue].)
  • Set up your board fully before inviting team members: Project management is a dish best served fully-cooked. Plan out your lists, your labels, and perhaps example cards (showing your team how much detail you want to see in each card).

More Features

After you’ve set up your Trello board, created your lists, drafted your cards, and invited your team members, it’s time to introduce your team to other Trello features. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Trello search is a powerful way to pinpoint specific cards across the board.
  • Filtering is an easy way to find cards with specific labels, members assigned to cards, due dates, and keywords. Another trick: hit “q” to see only the cards you’re a member of.

    (Trello’s Card Filter – Filtering by Label.)
  • You can even email new cards to a specific list! The information in the email will automatically be added asa  card to that list. See below.
    (Trello’s Email to Board Settings.)

What are your favourite ways to use Trello to maximize project organization? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @unitoio!