Using Trello for Collaborative Task Management

On Twitter this morning Doug Belshaw asked for recommendations for tools to get people out of their email for internal communications.

A few people mentioned Trello and this elicited the further question of how it can be used collaboratively:

In the web team at Newcastle University we’re using Trello in three ways:

  • as an editorial calendar
  • for workload planning
  • for project task management

We have multiple boards, with four in regular use. Typically each task gets a card. As work on the task progresses it moves through a series of lists, which map to a process.

Work on the tasks and activity on the boards happens daily. Although each board is reviewed by all team members in person, usually at a monthly meeting.

The editorial calendar

Our blog writers and editors (a team of five) use this board to plan posts for our team blog. We took the inspiration from Trello’s own editorial calendar.

The lists that map to the stages in the production of a blog post are:

  • post ideas
  • planning
  • writing
  • ready for editing
  • scheduled

Each card has two people assigned to it; one writer and one editor. We use the comments to identify who is in which role.

Cards are archived once the post is published.

The calendar power-up allows us to get a visual overview of what’s coming up on the blog. We use the voting power-up to identify which topics on the post ideas list should be produced next.

Workload planning

Our whole team – that’s 11 people – use this board. We use it for planning tasks that we identify as business as usual. As project requests come in they’re added to a list of tasks to assign.

In our weekly team meeting we review the board, and assign tasks to people. We have one list per month. Once a task has been assigned it’s moved into the list for the month when it will be worked on.

At the end of each month the list is reviewed and archived. Any tasks that are still in progress are moved.

I find using Trello in this way helps us to maintain awareness of what all other team members are working on. We use checklists, comments and attachments to collaborate on tasks when input is needed from both the technical and editorial teams.

Project task management

This is our newest set-up and we’re still refining it.

We’ve got a board for the technical working group where all tasks relating to the development of components in our new CMS are recorded. Each component gets a card and moves its way through lists for:

  • scoping
  • design
  • build
  • testing
  • sign off

After sign off tasks are generated for the editorial team around content standards and training. We’ve got a separate board to manage these. This has a simpler process with lists for:

  • discussion items
  • tasks to assign
  • in progress
  • done

What we’re missing in these boards is a solution for prioritising tasks. We’re currently noting this in the card title – as high, medium or low – but there must be a better way.

We’re testing the card ageing power-up on these boards which changes the look of a card when it’s been idle for a set period. It also adds a date for when the card was last updated.


I think Trello helps us in many ways. Most notably to keep an overview of everything the team is working on and to increase transparency within the team.

It also feels much easier to pass tasks back and forth between team members, particularly when both technical and editorial input is needed.

Is your team using Trello for task management? If you’ve got any tips please share them in the comments.

If you’re interested in other options for collaborative task management then Doug has collated all the comments and recommendations he received in a wiki page on team collaboration.

A new approach to training web editors

In Content Strategy for Mobile, Karen McGrane says we should “use going mobile as a lens to make all our content better regardless of platform.”

This is what we’re doing at Newcastle through our Go Mobile programme. The project has two main aims:

  1. to make our external website mobile friendly
  2. to improve our web content

As part of the editorial team it’s the second aim I’m principally engaged in. Although they’re clearly intrinsically linked. Our greatest step forward with this is a brand new training programme for web editors.

In the past we’ve focused on writing for the web. With this revamped package we’re looking at all aspects of managing a website, including:

  • creating a site purpose
  • prioritising content to support the site purpose
  • the content lifecycle
  • evaluating site performance
The content lifecycle: analyse, plan, create, publish, maintain

The content lifecycle

For the first two of these we utilised a couple of exercises we heard about at Confab Europe:

For the latter we covered how to:

  • analyse existing content using audits and readability checkers, like Clarity Grader
  • plan content using calendars
  • write better web content
  • use quality assurance tools, like SiteImprove, to keep content consistent and accurate
  • use Google Analytics to evaluate site performance

It’s taken our team a significant amount of time to develop this practical workshop. Delivering it for the first time at the beginning of May was nerve-wracking and exhilarating.

We’re asking a lot of our editors. Essentially we’re asking them to think in a whole new way about how they mange their sites. We’ve got a good mix of theory and exercises to support it. This worked well for the participants – it was clear to see that the exercises helped them to translate the theory into practice and relate it to their own site.

Delivering training is one aspect of my life as a librarian that I really miss. So I’m excited to be back in the training game with an offering like this. And I can’t wait to run the next session.

Mobile usability testing – a simple tech solution

The main activity for my team at the moment is making our website mobile friendly, one section at a time. First up was the postgraduate prospectus.

Changes like this need testing. We’ve been running usability sessions on desktop for years. We use Silverback to record what’s happening on the screen. It also records video and audio of our users as they complete a series of tasks on the website.

Our aim with the redesign is to make the user experience consistent across all devices so we now need to run mobile usability testing too.

How do you do that?

Finding a solution

There’s nothing I like more than problem solving. Even more so when I can find a solution with kit we already own.

I’m a slave to Apple and often use an Apple TV to mirror my iPad screen onto my TV. So I wondered if I could do something similar with an iPhone and the Mac we use for desktop testing.

My first thought was to use an Apple TV for this. We have one, but haven’t got it working on the University’s enterprise network. If you can help me out with that, please let me know in the comments.

And then OS X Yosemite and Quicktime came to my rescue. Here’s what Apple has to say about it in their list of new features:

Using QuickTime Player in OS X Yosemite, you can record the screen of an iOS device running iOS 8 via the Lightning connector.


Our mobile usability testing setup

With Quicktime open and your device connected via Lightning cable the setup is simple. All you need to do is select which camera you want to record from. Here’s a screenshot of how to do that:

Quicktime iOS recording

Selecting the device that’s attached to your computer will display its screen on your desktop.

You can then record what’s happening on the screen either in Quicktime or, as we preferred, using Silverback. Your recording will look something like this (our participants’ image has been replaced by ‘generic person icon’ to protect their privacy):

Recording your mobile usability testing session

This setup worked perfectly for us. It required no extra kit and so there were no additional costs.

More DIY solutions

For some other mobile usability testing solutions check out Barry Briggs‘ slide deck from Forefront Leeds – How to test your mobile site without spending a fortune.