How I Used Trello For Group Projects

I first heard of Trello about 4 years ago when a friend who is in the industry was trying to explain his morning scrum meetings and how they track work. At the time I was just about to start the access to higher education course to allow me to go to university. He suggested I use it to plan my work for college, That it was just like a digital whiteboard for post it notes but you could add so much more. My first Trello lists we really simple, I had a list for each subject which I added tasks with deadlines and checklists as more of just a visual cue. That way I could see where all my work was at all times. It was not until my first group project at University and having multiple people having access to one Trello board that I saw the true benefit.

Using Trello in Group Work

My first attempt at using a Trello board, I spent hours taking the teams ideas and turning them into individual cards with all the information they needed in the description. I set up labels for the 3 deadlines we had, Alpha was 6 weeks, Beta was 12 and Gold Disk was 24 weeks. This meant people knew what needed to be focused on. I would assign people’s names to tasks and they would add the pink label when they started work and blue when finished.

Screenshot of my first attempt at a group Trello board (2015)

This looks very organised but this is where i found the golden rule for Trello, It is only as good as the people who use it. Meaning if only 2 out of 6 people are using it regularly then its pointless. If someone does not update it regularly it’s not helping the team, and on the other side if the team do not update things then its a waste of the producer who spends time keeping on top of tasks and cards.

In the second year at university in the group project i was just a junior so did not get to lead the production side of the team, We were also made to use Shotgun which at the time was not great for what we wanted to use it for, it seemed mainly for VFX rather than Games Projects. I preferred to use Trello and continued to use it form my own work, even learning how to add images, g drive files and documents to the cards to keep everything someone would need for a task in one simple place.

Your Trello Should Be Always Changing

In the 3rd year at University I got to run 2 groups as a producer and for both of them I set up Trello boards for the teams to use. What I found were these were ever-changing, I started with just a list for each department and would just add cards for what we were currently working on for the next few weeks or had discussed in the last meeting.

Screenshot of Initial Trello Board for Collaborative Group (2017)  

I set up check lists for each departments. These were designed to make sure they covered everything they needed to, not only to get the best work from them but so also they would have lots to blog about for their own work. For example bellow is of an art asset card with its checklist. It shows a clear pipe line for them to follow, the idea was once this checklist was all checked off we should have a finished asset.

Example of an Asset Card on Trello, Showing the Artists Pipeline

Just 3 weeks later I had almost double the amount of lists. Art had one for completed assets to go, so the art team could see the assets that remained. It was the same for Design needing one for level building and one for game balancing and ideas.

Screenshot of how much a Trello changed in just 3 weeks (2017)

Again Trello is only as good as how much everyone uses it. If a designer forgets to attach the sizes and reference image to the card, either two things happen, one the producer notices when moving the card over to the art asset list and sends it back. Or the artist makes something that is the wrong size or not quiet what the designer had in mind. Same thing can happen if the cards are not being read, You could fill out a card perfectly for a new mechanic, stating what should happen, how you want it to work and link the right assets they might need and also maybe the correct part of a design document for starts or values but if a Tech does not read it and starts doing their own thing you could end with issues down the line.

Using Trello For Sprints & A Backlog

In my other group this year I set up Trello slightly differently, We had a lot less lists to look at and used the colored labels to say what department the task was for at that time. We were using an sped up version of agile methodology similar to Kanban, but our sprints were much shorter with instead of being a few weeks they were only a few hours between each sprint and test.

The way this works was everything you plan goes into the backlog, this contains cards of everything you want to put in the game. Mechanics, Art Assets, Characters, Enemies and UI all have their own cards. During a planning session you talk about everything you want to get done in the next sprint and update those cards and move them to the next list along. During that sprint the card gets allocated to a team member who works on it, they either finish what was required, update the card and move it along to the needs testing list. Or if the sprint comes to an end and the work is not finished they update the card and leave it where it is. After you play test you clear those cards back to the back log and as a group plan the next sprint

Screenshot of a Kanban style Trello board (2017)

The idea is to move cards across the board from the backlog all the way to the Done list. Some cards will keep going back into the back log and then being allocated out to a different department, For example a card for a Character might start with a designer who will attach a document for his starts, a list of animations needed and also a few images for concept, then next sprint it goes to a concept artist who adds a more detailed mood board and so concepts. Then a 3D modeller will get the card and bring those images to life before sending it back to the back log. Next sprint it goes to an animator to work on but because it’s the same card he will be able to scroll back and find the attachment for that animation list without having to ask other people.

Screenshot showing how you try to push tasks from backlog across to the done list

Bug Testing Using Trello

I also used Trello for tracking bugs from the play tests in both groups. I had my own labels for different types of bugs, Red, Orange and Green for the different levels of bugs (Click Here – for more info on those bugs and play testing). With each bug having its own card it can be moved to the needs testing by the techs once they think its fixed, where once tested the card can be updated if the issue is fixed and moved to the completed list. Or if the bug still exists the testers can add more information for the techs to try to help them find the issue.

Far right you can see the cards being updated from a play test, Also shows the bug coding (2018)

Final Thoughts on Trello

I have found it a great tool and would recommend it for anyone running a small team or project, it has everything you need as a production tool and will give people a great starting base if you end up going on to use a more industry established tool like Jira, who is like a grown up version of Trello and that allows you to combine source control and a wiki to your message board.

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