Why We Moved From Basecamp to Trello


trello-vs-basecamp project managementI don’t know about you, but I want a project management tool that makes my work easier, and I want it to be natural! I’m sure you’ve heard about Trello before–Will Critchlow at Distilled has been singing its praises for the better part of 2012. Internally, Amanda championed the tool and it didn’t take long for us to try it out.

When I first started at Outspoken Media, everyone in the office was using Basecamp, but it wasn’t doing exactly what we needed it to do (details below). With the goal of making our processes more streamlined, and our work more efficient, we began transitioning to Trello, and I helped to spearhead that transition. Had I already been a Trello enthusiast, I could have created a Trello board dedicated to setting up the Outspoken Media Trello account, but sadly hindsight is 20/20.

Why Trello Works: Lists!

On a large scale, what I like about Trello is the surprising versatility of a platform based on the simple idea of a list. I’m a list person. I make lists for groceries I need to buy, books I want to read, chores I need to do, things I would have done with my Powerball winnings, etc. Since I already use a system of real and digital sticky notes to keep on top of my tasks, I appreciate Trello’s nod to the humble to-do list. Lists work for me, especially when I get the satisfaction of scratching a to do off of them.

Here are a few other reasons why, if you have not yet tried it, Trello makes it easy to manage your online marketing campaigns:

Satisfying User Experience

This is one of Trello’s major advantages. I think part of what has left me so cold to Basecamp, is all of the navigating required within a single project. In Trello, each of our clients and company projects have a board, and each of those boards has a series of customizable lists, with individual to-do cards on each. When I’m looking at a client in Trello, I can see everything we are currently working on, things that we are planning on working on, and things we’ve just completed.

While that’s all great, the individual cards are what make this tool so functional. Each card can be dedicated to a task, and on that card you can:

  • set due dates
  • create checklists
  • classify and label the task
  • assign team members

You can even create a list on a card that is placed on a larger to do list. So many lists! That might seem like a bit much, but rarely are tasks made of simple steps, and the ability to break things down to that level is a great way to make a really daunting project a little less daunting.

In case you hadn’t heard, Outspoken Media recently moved our offices, and with that move came a lot of tasks. We had to buy furniture, coordinate renovations, update addresses, and worry about the moving van in the middle of the night. So we made a Trello Board to manage the move.

Outspoken Media's New Office Trello Board

Having your face tied to a card is a major motivator; there’s no confusion about which tasks are yours. It can be a little intimidating to see your face plastered all over a board, but the satisfaction you’ll gather from moving a card from the “to-do,” to “doing,” to “done” list really can’t be beat. Combine that with a checklist on one of those cards, and as you work through a project step by step, your cards will reflect your progress.

Versatile Team & Project Management

How do you want to think about your work load? At any given point of time, I have more on my plate than just one project, or one client to manage. It can be nice to have each project or client separated, but sometimes I need to see all of my tasks at once. SEE ALL THE THINGS!

By navigating to the cards page, I can see all of the cards, across all of my projects. I can filter those cards by due date or project, and get a better sense of what I need to be working on now, and what I have coming up for each of my clients.

Trello Card View

You can do that for your coworkers as well, which is a fantastic team management tool. As we are planning our projects and workloads for the month, by taking a look at the card page for each team member, we can figure out how to delegate tasks for a client. The ability to view workload on either a project level or a personal level makes managing larger projects much easier.

Cross-Platform Integration

Trello is not an island. It should be part of an arsenal of other tools you use to keep track of your documents, your calendar, and your time. Trello’s efforts to integrate with some of the most common tools out there keep processes smooth.

You can set up notifications that will alert you when someone has added you to or modified a card, and have those notifications emailed to you periodically, or as soon as a change has been made. That combined with the ability to @ another user within the comments of a card, means that dialogue about a project can be maintained within Trello, while utilizing email to keep everyone current.

On a card level, the ability to attach files, not just from your computer, but also from Google Drive and Dropbox means you won’t have the added step of downloading a file, only to upload it again.

Trello Dropbox Integration

A Note on Time Tracking
Harvest has also recently introduced a chrome extension that allows you to track time for a given task within the card assigned to it. The concept behind this is great, but at the moment it doesn’t allow an easy way to navigate in Harvest between projects for a single client. Depending on the scope of your project, the ability to track within cards without navigating away from Trello would be a huge time saver, I hope they work on this.

Trello’s Developmental Transparency

Trello is a work in progress, it was only recently that they added the ability to duplicate checklists across cards, or use Dropbox to attach files to a card, but that’s ok. They are constantly working on ways to improve the platform, and you can follow the developmental progress on a board they’ve dedicated to it. Better yet, you can vote on what ideas you’d like to see prioritized on their to-do list.

Trello Development

Having the ability to assign people and due dates to specific checklist items? Yeah, I want that!

The organizational nerd in me is really excited that Trello is a versatile and user friendly project management system. That said, project management is only as good as its users. The whole team has to use it daily, and make it part of their process, otherwise it loses its effectiveness real fast. Got that Outspoken Media?

What project management software do you use? Are you happy with it?

Your Comments

  • Sarah

    We love Trello! It makes things so simple. :)

  • Chris Savage

    Very nice write up of Trello! The first link to them in the article is a bad link… =]

  • Max Minzer

    I prefer https://www.symphonical.com and we heavily use it with a team of 18 people (and they are not even close as tech savvy as your team). I’m personally in love with Symphonical.

    It’s much more personal than any other organization and collaboration tools we tried.
    Much more visual and interactive. Symphonical team is amazing! Consistently listens to feedback, very transparent and improving this new tool consistently. Very creative too :)
    Google+ hangouts are practically embedded into the tool – super convenient for video chat with your team.

    Check it out.
    I understand that each team is different and has its own culture, habits and preferences but that’s just an option for you ;)

    • Pearl Higgins


      I appreciate the tip! There are so many tools out there, but I don’t take personal recommendations with a grain of salt. I’ll be sure to check it out.


  • Abhiraj

    With so many tools available now to suit all kind of economies, leaveraging the SaaS model, it has become so easy for companies to change their business tools and shift from one to another just by going with personal preferences of people who make decisions in some way or the other for the company.

    Though this is good because with small business tools delivering great value, it becomes easy for people to try them, convince other people in their team so that even they can try it and finally go with the one that they feel is the easiest and just solves their problem. For me, that’s how business tools should be…

  • Ross walker

    We just moved all our projects at Circlefive.com from sprint.ly to Trello. Love it, never looking back. I will be very happy if they make an ipad app.

  • Gabe Sumner

    It might seem like a small thing, but I found Trello’s lack of a calendar to be frustrating. Particularly for marketing initiatives, where dates are very important (conferences, email newsletters, webinars). Old school as it might be, calendars offer a nice bird’s eye view of the road ahead.

    There is a lot to love about Trello though. I’m glad it’s working for your team and greatly appreciate the write-up.

  • Aly Mahan

    Sweet, perfect timing for this post! I was just trying to remember the name of this company after seeing them a while back. Thank you!

  • Mathew Riexinger

    I used to use Pivotal Tracker previously at another company until I jumped on board here at Taz. I have used Basecamp before when I wad developing my own game for Facebook, I didn’t really enjoy the flow of work. It has dramatically increased on functionality since the new version launched.

    I use the Task Force Google Chrome extension that allows me to take all of my Basecamp notifications from my G-gmail, and click one button to move it to my task list. I can also share, and assign to-do’s to my team as well through it. Not implementing the private chat on the new Basecamp launch was shocking. That function had previously proven to be a wonderful way to stay in one piece of software and switch communication channels to simply discuss the project with your team, and only your team.

    I think if they can integrate G-mail with Basecamp as an extension, you could utilize the browsers mobility and freedom to be on other tabs while at the same time having a clear list of completed and current to-do’s to reference. (link sends you to an image of a visual example) http://imm.io/NHGT. Our Operations Manager and I have a list of Basecamp updates we would like to see, not sure if they ever will or not but that’s what an API call is for :)

    I appreciate your blog and I will go try Trello out and see how it stands up against Basecamp. Sometimes I feel you have to invest in your own visions and can’t rely on anyone else to do it. Take care!

    Mat Riexinger
    VP of Online Marketing
    Taz Solutions

    • Pearl Higgins


      It sounds like you’ve really been making the most out of Basecamp for your company. I agree that so much of the success of a project management system has to do with the team, and their preferences. I’d love to hear what you think of Trello though. Thanks for the comment.

  • Mathew Riexinger

    I think that if an adaptive system gets created it can be the one place everyone would like to go and customize their experience. With the use of plugin’s, extensions, widgets, and all of the other happy helping handware (as I like to call it.) out there, you could ala carte a system to suit everyone’s needs. I’m sure with enough collaboration and industry help it would be the Mecca of the industry.

  • Rene

    You can also try Breeze (letsbreeze.com), it’s a hybrid between Basecamp and Trello (heavily influenced by both) but also adds some extra functionality like time tracking, budgeting and reports.

  • kevin


    It sounds great but what about reaccuring tasks? Do you have to manually put all client work in every week/month. Doers it track costs etc.? Clarizen is a good fit for this. But may give trello a go.

    • Pearl Higgins

      Trello has a copy feature that allows you duplicate cards, checklists, etc. It seems like that would be good for reoccurring tasks. I’ll have to take a look at Clarizen too. Thanks!

  • Caelan Huntress

    I’m a big fan of Trello, as well. Still working on bringing the rest of my team over – I’m sharing this blog post with them!

  • Alex Fusman

    I completely agree with you. Basecamp sucks. The navigation is non-intuitive and it’s frustrating when trying to see the workflow. I am genuinely surprised that so many people and businesses are so fanatical about it. I use Trello as well and it’s so much more sane. It’s easy. I’ve had staff say, “I don’t know how to use this” and I tell them to just try it out and see if they have any questions. They never do – because it’s so intuitive you just get it right away!

    My only real issue with Trello is that you can’t have 2 rows of cards. If you have more than like 4 stacks, you have to scroll horizontally, which I don’t like because it means some of the stacks are hidden until you scroll to them.

  • Mat Riexinger

    I’m still very surprised that there aren’t more project management tools out there that are similar in the structure of WordPress. When I say that, I mean in terms of plugins, widgets, etc..

    I think if you had a stable framework with the basics to start, there could be a very lucrative opportunity to monetize on single and package sales. I just keep seeing these Basecamp updates coming out and wondering what their development teams goals are in terms of staying competitive and innovative.

    Granted the guys and gals over at 37 signals created Ruby on Rails, and have lot of great accomplishments under their belt, but it’s no time to get lazy, hehe.

  • Edmund Pelgen

    Hi Pearl,

    We’ve been testing a number of different apps but where Trello has come into its own for me is in mapping out top level month by month SEO campaigns where I can color code (and filter by color) different aspects of the campaign.

    Love the fact that I can create boards that are placeholders for completed documents, templates etc and boards for each months planned activities.

    My team can then take those various pieces and implement but I still have a single master plan that lets me keep track of everything.

    Thanks to @irekon for putting me onto Trello in the first place.

  • Charles Bartlett

    Hi Pearl – checking back to see after 8+ months if you were still using Trello and any insights? Thanks.

  • Brendan Malloy

    Hi. I created a time tracking tool just for Trello called reportsfortrello.com. All you need is a Trello account to login and see time tracking data from your Trello actions. I hope you can review it and add it to you blog post.



  • Michael Wheatley

    We have been using Trello for a few months now and have never looked back. So easy to use from day one, but the more you use it the more useful features you find. In fact until I read this article I didn’t even know about the @user ability – I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for a really good write up.