A few years ago I became obsessed with finding the absolute best project management app. After a ton of testing and research I am here to tell you that it doesn’t exist: There is no one-size-fits-all, universally accepted, best project management tool. There are, however, fantastic tools for specific use cases. These are some of my favorite apps for my projects.
Trello is based on the kanban framework. The basic idea involves putting tasks on cards and moving them through different phases of the production process. You can have different kanban boards for different categories of tasks. If you’re unfamiliar with kanban then this may sound more complicated than it really is. It is actually quite simple and universally understandable. In fact, the simplicity of the kanban system is one of its greatest strengths. This simplicity is implemented marvelously in Trello.
Anyone can use Trello! I’ve been able to quickly turn teams who were unfamiliar with the software into everyday users. It is super simple, intuitive and easy to use. It is visually easy to understand, everyone can quickly see how different tasks are progressing. You can drill down the details of a task by clicking on it’s task card. These individual task cards have a ton of functionality as well: text boxes, task lists, attachments, categories, and the ability to assign responsibility to an individual. It is a super flexible platform with a ton of functionality baked in, as well as the option to use third party plugins for even more options.
I should also mention that you can use boards and cards for organizing non-linear tasks and information as well. Nothing forces you to stick to a rigid kanban workflow. In fact, I’ve used it to manage all kinds of things, from bands to blogs. It makes a great editorial calendar! The sky is the limit with extensions…
I would probably recommend Trello for small to medium teams who need to be on the same page, but don’t want to be bogged down by a heavy project management solution. It’s especially practical if all of your work is simple and linear, with the same repeatable phases.
Casual is a workflow-focused project management app: It focuses on the linear dependencies of tasks and milestones within a project. This isn’t necessarily unique to Casual since other project management software does this too, but I feel like it does the best job at clearly illustrating the cause and effect relationships in projects. It feels like interacting with a fancy project flowchart, where you have access to prioritized task lists and progress reports at the click of a button. This is particularly useful for showing tasks that need to happen concurrently in order to reach a goal. This sounds easy, but many project management apps fail to demonstrate this effectively.
Casual has a lot of the features found in more robust software without the cumbersome interface and learning curve. I can easily invite team members and clients to a project without having to explain the app in detail. New users typically find that project layouts are easy to understand, like a familiar flowchart. If a client or a stakeholder isn’t interested in creating an account, it’s easy to export reports or interactive snapshots. It even has google calendar integration, which is useful for internal and external use.
My favorite feature may be that you can copy your project templates for use in future projects. For example, when I make a website a lot of the steps are the same. I can just use my basic project template for web design and tailor it to individual projects. This saves me a lot of time entering and organizing the same information everytime I make a new website.
I would recommend Casual for small to medium teams who need something a little more structured than Trello, but less intimidating than heavy project management apps. For me it strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and functionality on somewhat complex projects.