Task manager and collaboration tool Trello turns a year old today

Having tried nearly every to-list, task manager over the years, I think I’ve finally found one that works for me with Trello.  I have stuck to it as my go-to application for managing a wide array of both personal activities and collaboration across groups.  Many of the current generation of team collaboration/task management tools provide great flexibility, but the user experience curve is still too high to quickly bring a disparate group of tasks and people together.  This is where Trello shines; it is a deceivingly simple application that provides significant horsepower behind the scenes.  Trello uses a skeumorphic approach to managing activities, relying on a time-tested approach of ‘boards’ that contain columns of movable ‘cards’.  I’ve seen people online refer to this approach as being similar to the Japanese Kanban process used in manufacturing, which I suppose is the inspiration for the application.  I can’t really do justice to how the application works here, so I suggest you visit their home page and take a tour.  

The main browser-based application (there are iPhone and Android companion apps) displays some of the best web coding I’ve seen.  Fog Creek Software, the developer of Trello, is providing enterprise-class horsepower with a consumer level user experience, which is not an easy feat. 

Earlier this year, Joel Spolsky, CEO of Fog Creek Software, wrote that Trello was designed to be used by a wide variety of people:

The biggest difference you’ll notice … is that Trello is a totally horizontal product.

Horizontal means that it can be used by people from all walks of life. Word processors and web browsers are horizontal. The software your dentist uses to torture you with drills is vertical.

Vertical software is much easier to pull off and make money with, and it’s a good choice for your first startup. Here are two key reasons:

  • It’s easier to find customers. If you make dentist software, you know which conventions to go to and which magazines to advertise in. All you have to do is find dentists.
  • The margins are better. Your users are professionals at work and it makes sense for them to give you money if you can solve their problems.

Making a major horizontal product that’s useful in any walk of life is almost impossible to pull off. You can’t charge very much, because you’re competing with other horizontal products that can amortize their development costs across a huge number of users. It’s high risk, high reward: not suitable for a young bootstrapped startup, but not a bad idea for a second or third product from a mature and stable company like Fog Creek.

via Joel on Software

Fog Creek is aggressively developing the application, and has recently updated the Trello iPhone companion app (I can’t wait to see a native iPad app!).  So, a year in with a horizontal product, Trello marks the milestone with a great statistic: 

You’ve made 717,337 accounts. We hit 500,000 in July, so it’s going even faster these days.

via It’s Trello’s Cake Day!

Congratulations to the Trello team for a successful year!

One of these days I may post about my own workflows using Trello, but in the meantime I encourage you check out the application for yourself.  

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