How I use Trello as a User Interface designer

I have a designer super power: I manage all of my projects with Trello.

You see, like most designers, I can get ahead of myself when receiving projects. I get all excited about the layouts, bubbly about what the color palette could be, and just plain giddy about how the typography will integrate with the layout. But, getting that far ahead can leave the tedium of project management undone. And that is very costly.

Costly on all fronts: timelines get extended, due dates are passed, payments are missed. That’s all bad. All bad for you, and especially for your client.

Designers aren’t at the whim of our clients, because we’re on the same team

The most difficult part of every design and development project is the project management. Getting everyone on the same page, getting all the content together; it can lead to things falling through the cracks if we don’t make it a priority.

Whose fault is all this mess? Theirs? Ours? All of us? Nobody!?

Bad teams point fingers. Bad teams blame other teammates. The thing is: bad teams are synonymous with losing teams. Losing teams will, in the long run, no longer play the game anymore. And, as the leader of the designer/client team, we designers need to take control of any, and all issues so that we win. So that we get paid by our clients and maintain great relationships

What’s a good team?

Okay, so we’ve established that we have teamed up with our client, and we’ve established what bad teams do, but what do good teams do?

Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We. — Phil Jackson

The above quote is from my favorite basketball coach, Phil Jackson. And if you do not know about Phil, you should know that he is one of the most winningest coach in the NBA.

Jackson was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 until 1998, during which Chicago won six NBA championships. His next team, the Los Angeles Lakers, won five championships from 2000 until 2010. In total, Jackson has won 11 NBA titles as a coach, surpassing the previous record of nine set by Red Auerbach. He also won two championships as a player with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973,[2] and holds the NBA record for the most combined championships (13) as a player and a head coach.

He knows how to make large organizations of high performing individuals become one organism. One entity. For us to win we must coach everyone to the last game as Phil Jackson did.

Organizing for the win

Organizing keeps you prepared.

Staying ready means, you don’t need to get ready

This is extremely important. When I organize the project with the client in Trello we can see where there may be holes in our product logic, and prepare for those issues. Taking it one step at a time in the preparation stage insures success in the end. It always does.

The Trello layout that is established includes 4 buckets of information: NotesTo DoDoing, and Done.

Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We. — Phil Jackson


The Notes bucket includes some of the following items:

Example sites that are used as benchmarks and inspirations. Having the Example sites card lets the client know the general direction that we’ve agreed, and it helps me as the designer when a design decision is made and I can point to the provided examples.

Also, the Notes section would contain the necessary URLs for the site mockup, the site itself, and backend. No more digging through emails searching for that email that was sent three months ago. Login credentials could also be placed in these cards. And if there is an issue with any of the URLs or credentials, everything can be worked out within the comments, which are timestamped.

To Do, Doing, Done

The To DoDoing, and Done buckets would include all the processes. The first bucket to be filled would be the To Do bucket. Filled with all the necessary tasks to complete the project. What’s great is that I can add cards in the bucket, as well as the client. These buckets greatly help with “feature creep” because all tasks will be accounted for in the beginning. And if anything is needing to be added, we can set a future feature completion time with a due date and the additional costs.

As tasks are being worked on, they are moved to the Doing bucket. What I suggest to the client is that they become subscribed to our specific Trello board so that they are notified of any changes. Doing so allows them to see the progress of the project. What’s better than see things getting knocked off the list.

Lastly, as tasks are completed, they are moved to the Done bucket. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be reverted if the task is completed as expected.

One of the greatest features of Trello is that the activity of the board is shown so that any user can view when tasks are moved, or comments made.

Trello for the Win!

As you can see, my Trello superpower is pretty nifty and it keeps me out of jams. Projects are completed with everyone on the same page, and in a timely manner.

That’s the loveliest feeling in the world — finished projects and receiving payment from your services.

Then, after my client walks away with a smile on their face, I ask them to feel out my testimonial form at Typeform which they are happy to complete.

Everyone is happy.

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