5 Paid and Free Online Kanban Board Tools You Didn’t Know About
Kanban methodology has a remarkable impact on modern work management. It improves the agility and communication of teams and team members, as well as team managers and stakeholders. We now have better predictability, higher quality product lifecycles and better risk management.
Considering there are many virtual Kanban boards out there, not all may be suitable for your particular need. Some may be overpriced, while others may lack the features you are looking for. This text aims to make an overview of not-as-popular, but still powerful kanban tools that can help you and your company achieve the best results.
The tools in this text will be compared based on several criteria: do they have a free plan or just a limited free trial; what features do you get for the money; is it worth it?; is it easy to use? Etc. Let’s see it in detail.
Free or paid: Does the tool have a free plan, and if it does, what are the limitations? Not all tools offer the same scope of features for free. The next thing is if there is a paid plan. Is the price acceptable to most of the users?
Limited/unlimited features: Does the user get the core features in the free plan or the first tier of the paid one? Some tools allow the core features from the start, while others unlock those features in the higher tiers.
User interface: The tool should be intuitive with a clear and straightforward interface that doesn’t confuse the user with an overwhelming set of options or unclear messages. Some tools manage to do that, while others do not so much.
Usability: An easy-to-use tool should help you get the focus you need on a task at hand, and not waste time on figuring out how the feature should be working.
Core features: An overview of core Kanban features an online Kanban tool has, for example, the WIP limits, flagging blockers, and column types. They are a crucial part of Kanban and keep the workflow going smoothly, and easily communicate if there is an unpredicted situation in a task lifecycle.
Multiple assignees: Some tools enable you to assign a task to multiple members, and some do not, which can prove problematic if working with a larger team.
Integrations: If you want to migrate from another tool, or receive a message to a different inbox, most of the tools have features that connect you to multiple popular services.
Learning curve: All things considered, it shouldn’t be very steep. The tool shouldn’t be your enemy, but an ally, and help you learn and get comfortable using it.
ProdGoal - Free Online Kanban Board
ProdGoal is a free online Kanban tool. It is flexible and customizable so you can make the most of your organization skills. It will help you increase the throughput and help you predict when the work will be done.
It is free and doesn’t have pricing plans. No credit card is needed. You can cancel any time.
ProdGoal’s Kanban board features include apart from WIP limits, flagging blockers, item types and categories, multiple assignees, a rich-text editor for detailed item description, an image upload feature, items relation feature, and more. All of the features are free and there are no limitations on the number of projects, groups, items, or columns that can be created.
The interface is clean and simple which makes creating and organizing projects, groups, and items very easy. Columns can be moved around by drag-and-drop action. The item types are color-coded for easier workflow visualization.
WIP limits can be set for each column. You can set a minimum and a maximum WIP limit. This adds to the flexibility of the Kanban board. In some tools, you can only set the maximum WIP limit.
Kanban board items can be assigned to multiple team members. This helps when working with a large team, or if you are practicing pair programming. As soon as you invite the person to your workspace, you can assign a task to that person.
Centralized dashboard helps keep things organized and readily available. A customizable sidebar allows you to hide the features you don’t want to be shown in the view. Popups and on-screen notifications are kept at a minimum so they don’t break your focus, but they are there to give you important information.
ProdGoal offers integrations with Jira and Trello if you wish to migrate your projects to the ProdGoal workspace. It is also easy to use, and you can set it up with just a few clicks. There is also a Google Drive integration, which allows you to connect to your drive for unlimited storage space.
When you log in to your workspace, there is a default project already made for you to explore, and tailor to your needs. The project, item, and the rest of the features are pretty straight-forward, with little to no complicated flows and questions.
Teamwork - Project Management Service
Teamwork is a robust online platform that provides a broad spectrum of features to implement in your organization. Whether you are working with a team or a team of teams, this tool will help achieve better communication, stable project workflow, and deeper insight into your work process,
Teamwork has 4 pricing plans. Starting with the Free Forever plan and with a 30-day free trial, it offers five users to use the tool for free. The next plan gives limited access to advanced features such as the team’s workload capacity, or projects. This plan costs $10 per user per month. The third plan, Grow, unlocks all features and solutions to the user for $18 per month per user. You have to contact them to get the price for the last pricing plan.
As features are considered, Teamwork is giving its users the bare minimum to set up their projects for free. One of the downsides is that the Kanban board view is limited in the free version. As mentioned, projects are limited to 2 per account. The storage is limited to 100 MB.
The rest of the features such as creating teams, project subtasks, dependencies, and task-level tags are available for free. You should upgrade to a paid plan if you want all of the features to be at your disposal.
The user interface is fairly intuitive. Although the onboarding process takes a little longer to complete because it can’t be skipped, unfortunately, it still provides all the necessary information on how to create and set up your first project.
There are multiple views you can choose from, and getting around the tool is intuitive enough to not waste your time searching for a particular feature. Aiming for all-around functionality, it is not that hard to find your way using this tool.
One of the limited features in the Kanban board is the WIP limits. Unfortunately, there is no column option to set them. Aside from WIP limits, there are flagging blockers, column types, and task types. They give you the needed flexibility to customize the Kanban environment and fine-tune the work process.
You can assign a task to multiple people on your team, or even assign it to a whole team, unlike some better-known online tools which don’t give you this option.
In the free plan, integration with Zapier is the only service you can connect to. As you progress in pricing plans, so does the number of apps and tools. Google Drive, DropBox, Slack, and Microsoft Teams are just a few of the integrations you get in the next pricing plan.
You will quickly get the hang of Teamwork’s tool, despite its size and complexity. Its clean and color-coded style will give you the information at a glance, and give you the freedom to organize the workspace according to your needs.
Nulab Backlog - Project Tracking Software
Backlog is a project tracking software developed by Nulab. It features task management, collaboration across teams, and secure file sharing among other things in its repertoire. It also has a mobile app to keep you in the loop while on the go.
Similarly to Teamwork, this tool has 4 pricing plans, which begin with a free plan and a free 30-day trial. The difference is that Backlog allows its free plan for 10 users instead of 5. The next three tiers are paid: Starter for $35 per month, Standard for $100, and Premium for $175. There is also an enterprise plan, and for that, you need to contact the sales.
Free plan allows you to create 1 project only. Boards and issues in the project are unlimited. Code review and collaboration features are available in every pricing plan. Security features in the free plan give you 2-factor authentication and a Backlog hosting service.
As for the user interface, it is a bit old-fashioned. The dashboard feels cluttered with panels which makes you feel disoriented. It takes some time to load the board view though you haven’t added any issues yet.
Switching between the views for every action you want to take adds to the overall confusion. It takes a lot of time to edit a task. New columns cannot be added to the board. There are 4 predefined columns for each board, and there are no column customization options, which is quite a downside.
There are no work-in-progress limits in Backlog, at least in the free version, and unfortunately, only a single user can be assigned a task. You can make task types. They are color-coded for better visualization. Tasks also have a time tracking feature so you can calculate the throughput.
Backlog has integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and iCal, so it is easier to communicate with and update the team members on important changes on the project.
Learning curve isn’t steep for this tool, but If you want to work with a Kanban tool that has all the features Kanban methodology implements, maybe this tool isn’t made for you. It is listed here to inform the users that not all tools aren’t what they present to the outside world.
GoodDay - Free Agile Development Tool
GoodDay is a very flexible and highly customizable work management platform. With its modular approach, you can create projects and environments by making the tool adjust to your business needs, and not vice-versa.
GoodDay has a Free Forever plan with all the essential features available for up to 15 users. The paid plan goes for $4 per month per user with annual billing or $6 if you are on a monthly subscription. The standard practice of contacting the sales for the enterprise plan applies here too.
The free plan features include unlimited tasks, projects, and events, calendar and events management, custom workflows, task and project types, time tracking, analytics, basic integrations, and more. The good thing is that you can use all features, but some of them have limitations, such as analytics and reporting.
The design is clean and uncomplicated. The onboarding process is straightforward. There are info popups to help you find your way as you click through the app and set up your first project.
While the design may be easy on the eyes, numerous options and customizations lessen that pleasant feeling. Menu upon a menu of input fields, dropdowns, and buttons can feel a little intimidating.
The board view columns don’t have the option to set the WIP limits (or at least I didn’t find it anywhere in the settings). They do have the option to flag a task as a blocker or give it another prioritization status. The columns are collapsible and you can create as many as you need. There are also task and column types and they are also unlimited.
It is mentioned that being able to assign a task to multiple members is important for the workflow. Luckily, in GoodDay that is an option. You can control who and what role will be assigned.
In the free plan, the user gets basic integrations: G-Suite, Google calendar, G-Mail, Google Drive, and Email). Slack and Dropbox integrations are available in the Professional pricing plan.
This is a great tool for customizing every part to suit your specific business needs. But it can also be overwhelming to beginners. Especially if you just want to change a small thing such as a task type. You must go through the whole popup windows and inputs process to do a simple update. Because of that, if you are unsure what you want from an online Kanban tool, or just beginning to work with it, your time may not be worth it.
Smartsheet - Flexible Work Management Platform
SmartSheet is a serious player in the field of workflow management. It is a platform that brings every aspect of project management and product management under one roof. From project planning to budget management, project delivery, and workflow automation, it has it covered.
Smartsheet offers all of these features starting with the Pro plan at $6 per user per month. It has no free plan, but there is a free trial so you can explore it and see if it fits you and your team. The next pricing plan is the Business plan which costs $22 per user per month. And then there is Enterprise.
Features you get with the first plan are unlimited sheets and unlimited viewers so you can start building your project. Up to 10 editors are there so you can populate the workspace, although a paid license is required to edit. There are also Gantt, Grid, Kanban board, and Calendar view to add to the flexibility of work visualization. Of course, this plus more is available as you go up the tiers.
Smartsheet focuses on its 4 views in which the same task information is displayed, so you may shift through the views to get a different perspective to have greater flexibility in the workflow visualization. Kanban board or the Card view is somewhat lacking in features that are often seen and implemented in the other electronic Kanban boards, but it makes it up with a lot of customization options.
Creating, editing, and deleting an item is straightforward and intuitive. Still, if you want to use some additional options, you will quickly find out that there may be better solutions in other online tools which offer the features for free. A simple action on a task or a column can very fast become very complex if you don’t know what you are doing. That is a downside of a robust, feature-rich application.
Smartsheet’s Kanban or Card view has the basic features (in the free plan, at least) to make use of the Kanban methodology. Columns, called Lanes in SmartSheet, are unlimited, and so are the tasks. The types can be set for both tasks and columns. Columns are collapsible so you can achieve better focus. Tasks have many options to choose from.
Although rich with features and customizations, the tasks cannot be assigned to more than one member. This process alone is cumbersome and it takes a while to learn how you can assign a task to a team member. This is a downside for a paid tool such as this.
The storage space you get with the first tier is 20 GB, which is really cool. It becomes unlimited in the Business plan. You can attach everything from .txt and .csv to image and video files.
If 20 GB is not enough, Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive integrations are there to expand your storage space. Other integrations include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Workspace.
At first glance, Smartsheet seems overwhelming with all the options and menus. But that is the price of being able to fine-tune each part the way you want. After all, you and the team depend on the communication and data that needs to be clear as possible, so you don’t waste too much time and brainpower explaining the details.
This was a brief overview of noteworthy or emerging online Kanban board tools that you have not heard about yet. If you agree with the list or have another tool that is under the radar, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will gladly take a look and include it in the list.