Project management tools: Trello vs Asana

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April 26, 2021
5 minute read

Are you thinking about getting project management software to help you organize your work projects? Do you need help keeping track of all you need to do, meeting important deadlines, working effectively with a team, and using your time more efficiently? Trello and Asana are both popular and well-regarded project management tools. Both are cloud-based and have good third-party integration, but each has a different approach. Read on to find which is the best fit for you.

Trello–Your virtual whiteboard

Trello is really easy to use and was one of the first project management tools to use a visual method to organize tasks. It is based on Kanban, a workflow management system from Japan that works by visualizing your work to find ways to be more efficient and better at what you do.

Trello describes itself as a virtual whiteboard. You write down the tasks you need do on cards and stick them to your board. Each of these cards contain information that you (and your team, if applicable) need to accomplish the task, such as photos, checklists, due dates, and attachments. You can also add comments and start a discussion with the team or join in on one when you need to be involved.

You can set up cards on your board however you like, and then move your cards from one section to the next to show your progress. A common setup is to make three lists: To Do, In Progress, and Completed. You then simply drag and drop the task cards from one list to another as they get done. It’s a great way to see at a glance what still needs to be done, who is working on what, and the status of each part of the project.

Asana–If you love making lists

Asana uses the more traditional project management method of organizing teams around projects. It also offers a lot of extra features, so it’s good for projects that require a more complex process.

In Asana the project is broken down into lists of tasks. Each individual task contains a list of the actions that must be accomplished to complete it. Each task can also have a list of subtasks, with corresponding due dates. In addition, you can edit lists to show what you need at that immediate moment, including tasks with upcoming due dates, or ones that are already done.

You can also create a calendar or timeline to map out all your tasks. This helps you see where your priorities need to be right now, and where tasks overlap. In addition, you can get a snapshot of where your project is at any time by creating a board, similar to Trello, which visually displays the tasks you still need to do, and which are in progress.

As well as allowing you to comment on tasks and communicate with your team, Asana can also automate some manual tasks, such as assigning work to the right person, and setting due dates once tasks are aligned.

Key features

Trello

On top of the magic of creating visual boards with cards for each task, and allowing you to move the cards as you make progress, Trello has some other handy features.

The comments feature on the cards is great when you are working on a team project. If you need to discuss something related to a particular task, you can do it right inside the card. It also allows you to have all your project communications in one place instead of using a bunch of other methods such as email and texting. At the same time you have complete control over who sees your board, so privacy is not an issue.

There is also a notification system that updates team members if their task gets updated or changed, and the search function helps you quickly find what you need.

Power-Up your boards

There are also many Power-Ups available so you can add more features onto your boards, such as the Calendar Power-Up. This helps you keep track of when tasks need to be completed. All cards that have due dates appear in the calendar, giving you a quick view of when different parts of your project need to be done.

You can also use Power-Ups to integrate Trello with other programs and apps that you may use, like Dropbox, Google Drive, SurveyMonkey, and Salesforce. You can even synch Trello to Asana!

Unlike Asana, there is no dependency system, however. This is important when particular tasks need to completed before you can start another one. There is no system in Trello to ensure tasks are done in the right order when one task depends upon another, but you can use the information you put in your cards to help you manage this, such as checklists of all tasks that need to be completed before you tackle another one.

Asana

The first thing to note about Asana is that it has a built-in task dependency management system. This means you can designate particular tasks that need to wait for another task to be done first. After that task is done, a notification is sent to you or the team member waiting to proceed with their task.

There is also the Timeline feature that maps out all your tasks according to due date so you can plan your work and meet all those crucial deadlines. If you have to make changes to the project, you can add in your task dependencies to see how it will affect your projected timeline. Combined with time tracking tools, this can help you manage your time and communicate to clients how much effort is required for each task in a project.

The Calendar feature lets you see how your tasks line up each day, which can help you identify potential conflicts. And if you are managing a large team, the Workload feature helps make sure you are not overloading someone, or leaving other team members with nothing to do.

Automation to the rescue

To cut down on time wasted completing repetitive work, you can customize rules, and automate individual tasks like assigning projects and managing timelines. There are also more than 50 templates that can help you save time and streamline processes across your team.

Like Trello, Asana allows you to easily integrate with cloud services, apps, and programs that you, your team, and your clients use. You can also control who has access to your information through privacy settings.

How do their prices compare?

Although the cost of the project management software you choose is important, it should not be the deciding factor. By choosing the right software for your needs you will hopefully improve your efficiency and productivity, and bring down your overall operating costs.

Fortunately, it turns out the pricing for Trello and Asana are quite similar. You won't need to drastically alter your freelance rates to afford the subscription fees of one solution compared to the other. Check out the pricing details below.

Trello pricing

It's free to start using Trello, and you can invite as many people as you want to work on a project. But if you have multiple projects and want to use more than 10 boards, or if you want to use features like dashboard, timeline, calendar views, and priority email support, you will need to upgrade to Business Class.

That costs $10.00 per user per month if you sign up for a year, or $12.50 per user per month if you want to pay monthly. You can also contact Trello directly for Enterprise pricing for large teams.

Asana pricing

It's also free to start using Asana, but you can only collaborate with up to 15 team members. You’ll have to upgrade to Premium if you have a bigger team and want to access its automation capabilities and other advanced features.

Premium is $10.99 per user per month if you sign up for a year, or $13.49 if you pay monthly. There is also a Business level for $24.99 per user per month for companies that manage work across different projects, and an Enterprise option that is similar to Trello's.

Pros and cons of Trello

Team size

There is no limit to how big your team can be with the free version of Trello, whereas the free version of Asana limits you to 15 team members.

Simplicity and flexibility

Trello is incredibly flexible. Since it is basically a completely open system you can design a system that works well for your specific needs.

It is not limited to project management, so you can use Trello for anything you would use a whiteboard for, from reminding you what you need to write for an annual marketing campaign, to managing the website development for a new client. You could even use it for planning your vacation or organizing your wedding!

But since Trello offers a very flexible service, it’s really up to you to figure out a process that will work for you. That means it works best for freelancers or small businesses that have very clear, linear processes in mind.

No training required

Its visual presentation also makes Trello easy to use. You simply drag tasks from one stage to another so you can see your progress at a glance. Trello doesn’t require any training, whereas Asana is more complex, and may require training to use properly.

Not ideal for projects with lots of tasks

While Trello’s interface is very simple and easy to use, it can become a bit unwieldy if you have to search through a lot of cards to update progress on your project. That means lots of scrolling around once a project grows. If you create a lot of columns on your virtual whiteboard, you’ll have to scroll from side-to-side, especially when you’re moving things from one column to another.

You also have to recreate tasks over again for each new project, which is a pain if your work uses a repeatable process–such as developing a social media campaign, or editing a trade magazine.

Pros and cons of Asana

Task dependency

If many of your projects depend on tasks to be done in a certain order, Asana works best because you can specify which tasks need to be completed before others can begin.

It’s timeline view also helps show possible bottlenecks where people can’t go ahead with their work because they are waiting for others to get theirs done. This helps you organize your project better.

Better user experience

Both Trello and Asana have easy-to-use interfaces, but Asana’s is more geared to your specific needs. For example, various options and menus only appear if they are relevant to what you are doing, which helps to keep things simple. Everything you need always seems to be just a few clicks away.

Easy to customize

You define the tasks you need to do, which means never having to fit your project process into a cookie-cutter approach. You have a variety of features at your disposal to manage a complex project, a large team, or several projects at the same time.

Paying for the Business level can also save you time and effort thanks to easy-to-use templates and automation.

Help navigating the software

Both Trello and Asana provide good documentation. A quick search on either platform can usually help you out if you get stuck. Asana does go the extra distance by providing tours to help you navigate new features, but both have active community forums where other users can help answer your questions.

Process-oriented projects can suffer

Like Trello, you can’t set up a repeatable process on Asana, which is too bad, as many freelancers and small businesses use a specific process when working on a project, and then customize it as they go along. It takes up valuable time recreating a project process each time, especially if it requires lots of tasks.

Which is right for you?

While both Trello and Asana share the goal of helping you manage projects better, they both have advantages and disadvantages.

Because Trello is highly visual and intuitive, it’s easy to use, really requires no training, and works well moving tasks to different stages. It's also extremely flexible. You can use it for your personal planning, as well as your freelance or small business projects.

But it does get difficult to use when a project expands and there are many tasks to consider. This is where the added features of Asana could prove better for your needs.

Although Asana is more complicated to use, and may require training, it works better for bigger teams, more complex work processes, and for managing several projects. Asana also has a task dependency management system that could be important to you if many of your tasks depend on others to be completed first.

So, in summary, if you are a freelancer or run a small business, and have pretty straightforward processes, Trello might be the best option for you.

If you run a larger business, and need extra features for more complex or multiple projects, Asana is a better choice.

But since both offer free basic plans, why not give each a test spin and see which you like best?

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