Goodbye, Wunderlist! Hello, Trello!

Goodbye, Wunderlist! Hello, Trello!

While working on the museum exhibit refresh a few weeks ago, my cousin introduced me to Trello. I’d been pointed to it by a number of people before (thanks, twitter peeps!), but this was the first time I’d used it in a production setting. I liked it a lot. Kept us focused, without being a pain in the butt to maintain. Trello implements a kanban board on a webpage, which is a way of visually representing objects moving through a process. I’m not personally experienced with kanban system—according to Wikipedia it’s used in “just-in-time” manufacturing and Agile software development—but I was immediately attracted to the use of physical cards as markers, representing tangible goods moving through a system. I didn’t realize how useful that would be for my own task management until today.

I’d been using Trello as a kind of simulator for the task juggler cards I’ve been working on. That’s when I discovered the checklist feature in Trello, which instantly transformed Trello from reflection space to must-use tool. With checklists, I now can manage three dimensions of each project on one screen with very minimal context switching.

Let’s compare how I was using it before with how I’m using it now. Here’s what I had before:

Trello w/ Tasks, Pass 1 This is laid out as multiple lists as projects, each with a number of cards that represent the steps of what I have to do. It’s kind of neat, and I was pretty pleased with it at first. Then I discovered the checklists and realized I was not using the tool to its full potential. Here’s the reorganized board:

Trello w/ Tasks, Pass 2 In this view, the columns now reflect stage of activity (this was how we used it on the museum project, actually). The cards, which are stacked vertically in each column, can be dragged between lists to update its status. The lists on the left are the most dormant, and the lists on the right are closer to completion. Also, the order of the cards from top to bottom represent priority; they are easily reordered with drag-and-drop as well.

Looking at this screen allows me to see at-a-glance what the big picture is as far as what’s on my mind and what needs to get done. I can move the cards themselves up-and-down and also left-and-right without losing any of the critical project context. I am also assured that everything that is on my mind (at least as far as my personal projects are going) is captured in one place.

When I’m ready to work on a task, I can drill-down into the details and see what I wrote. Here’s where the checklist feature comes in handy:

Trello Checklist I haven’t even looked into the team features yet, but I see how this could work really well. I like the concept a lot. I’m a little less keen on using the Task Juggler cards as I intended…this is so much better. I think they still may be useful as reminder cards, or for a portable Kanban-style system. I’ll keep thinking about it.

To now, I’d been using Wunderlist as a place to keep my project list, with associated to-dos, in one central place. I wasn’t really using it in day-to-day operations, though, because I didn’t find the list management too compelling. I gave its big brother Wunderkit a try, but I found it too compartmentalized in its UI design for my tastes. It’s too bad that there isn’t an iPad app available for Trello as there is for Wunderlist and Wunderkit. Trello just doesn’t work on the iPad very well even in a browser. There is an iPhone App, but it looks silly on the iPad.


  1. Eduardo 12 years ago

    Wow! You’ve opened my universe to new expectations! This website is exactly what I’ve been looking for a long time. Specially remarkable the checklist with visual progress bar (I’ve never found one like this), and the board is really comfortable.

    Extremely recommendable. Greetings.

  2. Dan Ostlund 12 years ago

    For doing this stuff on the go, there is an iPhone app (which updates nearly real time), and, if all goes well, the Android app comes out tomorrow!

    Thanks for the nice write up.

    Dan Fog Creek

  3. Cameron Plommer 12 years ago

    Very intriguing…

    Right now I use Asana for work projects/tasks, and Evernote for personal projects/tasks.

    I like the visual layout of Trello though.

  4. Federico Figueredo 12 years ago

    Many thanks for the heads up, I had been using Wunderkit myself but the explosion of lists to handle the different projects at work was getting unmanageable.

    Trello seems particularly intriguin because you can use it to layer information and to move in the three dimensions you mentioned in your post. This alone separates it from the other solutions I’ve tried before.

    I’m going to take Trello for a spin, hopefully it can fit my workflow.

  5. Nic 12 years ago

    In the new view you could also use labelling (e.g. Green is Marketing Collateral) to give you a perspective by category like you had in the original view. That way you get the best of both worlds!

  6. Lilian Soon 12 years ago

    Really nice write-up and thanks for sharing a different way of using Trello. Like you, I started out creating columns by project but doing it your way makes it more similar to leankitkanban. And yes, colour coding still allows a way of tracking the project. Will have to try this! I seem to move from one to-do software to another in search of the ultimate tool. Currently trying out workflowy as well. Regards Lilian

  7. Raul Ramirez 12 years ago

    Hey Dave! I have a BIG dilema choosing between “trello” and “asana” as part of new changes in the agency, have your heard or used asana? I already tried both, and still cant decide. My priorities with the proyect management software are:

    The thing with Trello is that if I am going to use the suggested kannban list method “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done” its going to be hard to visually identify and separte task from different proyects from the same client. For thar I would have to create a new board for eah proyect for the same client.


  8. Alice M 12 years ago

    Hello Dave, I’d like to add another thanks to the list. I started using Trello for the first time after reading your post and now I absolutely love it. It makes my work life much more enjoyable.

  9. Cath MacAdam 12 years ago

    Hi Dave, I have just discovered your site and loving the content, thank you for sharing. I converted from wunderlist to, then to asana a few days ago and like the simplicity of asana as well as the look. Another bonus with asana, for me anyway, is the ability to select several tasks and make bulk changes. However I can see myself using trello as a mindmapping tool for new projects & brainstorm workshop planning with other solopreneurs, I love the ability to drag and drop ideas/tasks, brilliant!

  10. michelle gower 11 years ago

    David, Wunderkit is being phased out o you discovered this just in time. Thank you so much for sharing these experiences with us!

  11. Aaron 11 years ago

    Amazing stuff! I am so excited about Trello now — and I had never heard about it beforehand! The devil is in the details — and you really have a great workflow here.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  12. Kirsty Wilson 11 years ago

    Trello is new to me & I might have to explore it further. I’ve not heard of it but am a huge fan of Wunderlist. I was very excited when Wunderkit was launched but I haven’t really warmed to it at all. I found your blog post by Googling an issue Wunderlist is having right now by not displaying the tasks set for ‘Tomorrow’. This is one niggling glitch of Wunderlist, together with some tasks jumping into other lists randomly.

  13. Evert Albers 11 years ago

    I made the same move from Wunderlist to Trello, partly because of your post. Thanks! Improvement!

    Two notes though: 1. You can not edit your Trello list in the app (at least in Android) without an internet connection. Not a big problem for me, but I can not speak for other users.

    1. Their servers are located in Lower Manhattan. If New York would still have been called Nieuw Amsterdam, us Dutchies would have built some proper dykes there, but… ;-)
  14. Aaron 11 years ago
  15. SA_NYC 9 years ago

    Good article, thanks. I actually had independently come to the same end-point–placing project stages horizontally and tasks/details vertically–but it’s nice to see it confirmed.