Free Online Kanban Board
Kanban board is one of the popular tools used by both teams and individuals to help them visualize the work process, while transparency being one of the key takeaways.
Workflow stages are represented by columns and cards represent work items. The most usual columns in simple Kanban boards are “to do” or “backlog”, “doing” or “in progress”, and “done” or “completed”.
The cards are usually created in the first column on the left and moved to the right as the work progresses and is eventually completed.
Free Kanban Board Features
Here are the free Kanban board features ProdGoal has:
Waiting and active category states
Work items (cards)
Cycle time and Lead time
Item type Categories
One or multiple Assignees
Columns are the cornerstone of every Kanban board. Be it 3 or 33, columns help divide the workflow into separate stages that you can then define and arrange further.
ProdGoal columns are very intuitively laid out, so you can add more of, rename, move or delete them without having to go to other menus and make complicated actions to get what you need. The customization happens on the same view.
Its drag-and-drop feature allows easier organizing of the columns and helps move a large number of tasks very easily.
Each column has a pop-up menu in the upper right corner. Clicking on an option opens up a modal where you can edit names, categories, statuses, policies, and WIP limits for each column on the board.
You can choose from 5 built-in categories to assign to a column. These are “Backlog”, “To do”, “In progress”, “Done”, and “Archive”.
“Backlog” category can be used to place all of the tasks that are going to be worked on. Then those tasks are filtered out and when selected, they get assigned to a member and transferred to the “To do” category column.
Columns with the “To do” category can be a good place to set the WIP limits to be clear on how many tasks can be in the column at once.
When a team member begins working on a task, that card is placed in a column with the “In progress” category. This column can also have WIP limits set, depending on the size of a team working on a project.
After the task is finished it can go to the “Done” category column and thus the task cycle ends. The difference between the “Done” and “Archive” categories in ProdGoal is that tasks from the “Done” category are used for tracking days in progress.
Waiting and active category states
Waiting (or Queue) and Active status is another useful feature in the Kanban board. By comparing the two you can see the flow efficiency. The waiting column status can be used to mark the items which aren’t worked on at the moment but are instead waiting in “queue”. This way you can see how much time was spent while actively working on a task, and how much it has spent inactive.
In ProdGoal, the default status of the category “In progress” is Active. When you change it to Waiting, it also changes the background color of the column so that you can know right away that it is a column in waiting. The option to change the category status is in the column menu accessed by clicking on the Change category option.
WIP limits (work-in-progress limits or work-in-process limits) are a crucial Kanban element that keeps the flow steady and productive and the team’s workload optimal. Otherwise, you would get columns clogged with unfinished tasks and overwhelmed team members.
You set WIP limits based on the team’s size and its working capacity. These limits, however, are not set in stone. It doesn’t mean you can’t add more tasks to a column if you go over the limit, however, it will warn you when you do.
In ProdGoal, the cool thing is that you can set both minimum and maximum WIP limits per column. WIP limits are shown in the column’s header. If tasks are near the limit, but they haven’t reached it yet, the WIP limits’ background changes to a yellow warning color. When the limit is reached, the background color changes to red, but you can still create or move other tasks to the column.
Setting the high limit is good if you want to focus on a specific number of tasks a column can have at any given time. It prevents you and your team members from being overwhelmed and helps keep the stress level very low.
But the minimum limit also has its advantages if the online tool gives you the ability to set it. Low WIP limits keep the flow going, never letting the column be empty and unpopulated for a long time, for example, the “To do” column. If you notice that the low WIP color changed, it means you have to put some items in the column.
WIP limits values can be modified in the same menu as column categories.
Column policies are a great way to explain the process stage in detail. If you have a lot of tasks for re-working an old feature, or a new team joined yours and don’t quite manage to keep up or similar situations where you need an easily accessible process description, a policy will be there to give that information.
This feature offers flexibility to improve overall transparency and helps increase task completion rate because of the additional information on what needs to be done to keep things going.
Set up the policy in the already well-known column menu. When you define it, an icon will appear at the top of the column in the left corner, which you will be able to click to see the policy text.
Work Items (Kanban Board Cards)
As the column is the corner-stone of Kanban board, so is the work item (card) a corner-stone of every column. Also known as cards or tasks, items have to be balanced with the information they display to not get too cluttered and messy, yet not too simple and crude to not give any information at all.
ProdGoal’s clean and unobtrusive design makes items a breeze to handle and use. Drag and drop them in any column easily. Hovering over them reveals additional options such as a button to assign members and a quick menu.
You can rename the item by just clicking on the name. Select types, flag the item as blocked, or delete an item by clicking on the pencil icon located in the top right corner. That’s the quick menu.
There is an advanced options menu as well, and a rich-text editor for more detailed management, but more on that later.
Cycle Time And Lead Time
It is very important to keep track of items and how long it takes to finish them. That way you can measure the performance of your team and see if and why some problem occurred and how much time you spent debugging it. ProdGoal’s days in progress feature tracks how long an item spent time in each column (Cycle time) and how long it spent in the whole process (Lead time).
One icon that is on the card is a days-in-progress icon represented by an hourglass. It is shown when the item exits the Doing category column and is moved to any other column. Then, a number is displayed next to the hourglass icon - the number of days the item has been in the Doing category.
It doesn’t do only that, but also when you click the number, a dropdown list appears, showing the number of days an item has spent in each of the columns. This helps you keep track of the cycle time and enables you to easily analyze the flow of the whole process.
This is also a free built-in function so it’s really easy then for you to analyze each item and the status it has been in without having to buy additional plug-ins or applications.
Generally, item types are a must-have feature in every online Kanban tool. They make prioritization easier - meaning, does the item need immediate attention, or is it just an everyday task that no one pays attention to (kidding).
But what are they also useful for is that you can see how many items of each type you or your team members moved to the “Done” column, or how many items of what type are there in the “Backlog” column for example. This is great for easily analyzing the distribution of your backlog or your delivery.
This feature offers great flexibility and brings high customization to the workflow. Each item can be assigned a type. The 5 default types in ProdGoal Kanban Board are Default, Bug, Value, Maintenance, and Business as usual, or BAU for short. They are also color-coded so you can precisely determine what item represents which feature and into which category it falls into.
The high customization is that you can create new types, rename the existing ones, and delete them. It is all done in an expanded type menu, which is accessible by clicking on the Edit option in the quick menu when you hover over the Choose type option.
Item Type Categories
To some it may seem redundant, and for many, this is a necessity, but the item type categories raise customization to another level. Each type can have its category to bring out the difference between the items and improve organizing them.
ProdGoal’s categories are predefined and there are 5 from which you can choose. Each category has its color and they have defaulted to the most common categories found in Kanban.
The category names can be changed to suit your organization’s workflow. It is managed in the same menu as the item types - by clicking on the Edit option.
Sometimes you need to draw attention to a task that prevents you from finishing your work. A member of your team either overlooked the task or he needs to finish it still, but you can’t move any further without him finishing it. Either way, it’s a notorious impediment that needs to be solved.
That’s where the blocker flagging feature comes in that tells your team members if work is being delayed or blocked. The item will change the color to red once the option has been selected. It is easy to flag an item as blocked. Simply select the option in the quick menu pop-up.
In most cases you have to add a description to an item. And often you are writing the description with the team member who is going to work on that item. It’s important to have a flexible and feature-rich text editor for that purpose.
ProdGoal has a rich-text editor for making neatly formatted item descriptions. It has all the text-formatting options plus item attachments embedded in the editor, but attachments will be covered in the next segment.
By clicking the item, a modal pops up with a text input and the text editor. There, you can change the name of the item or you can add a description. The text editor is versatile and you can change the color, font size, background color, make checklists, and much more.
Nowadays, the image upload feature is a must in all of the online tools, not just the ones focused on Kanban. The saying that picture is worth a thousand words keeps proving itself true over and over again.
It has become crucial to post an image with the text, because not only do you closely explain what you were talking about but you also make people understand the context very fast, not wasting a lot of time.
ProdGoal integrates with Google Drive to give you the ability to connect to your disk and so have unlimited storage space and save all your project files on your drive. You don’t have to worry if you don’t have a Google account, because all images you upload to ProdGoal are resized and compressed so you don’t run out of the storage space too soon. The default size of storage space per account is 5MB.
One Or Multiple Assignees
When working in small teams or on small projects, it may not be so important to be able to assign multiple members to a task, but it could become necessary if the team grows larger, or you get transferred to another project with a large number of tasks.
It can be quite limiting not having an option to add more users to a task you’re working on. For example, you have trouble with a task and a senior colleague jumps in and helps you finish the task. He is spending his time trying to work out the problem, but that time is not reported anywhere, so it is at least handy to have the possibility to assign multiple users. Jira, we’re looking at you!
In ProdGoal, you can assign multiple users to a task. You can invite as many as you need. Maybe you won’t need this feature, but it can be useful down the line. And it is very easy to assign a task to the user - with a click on the user icon located in the bottom right corner and selecting the member in the list.
If there are multiple features in your application that focus on items, it only makes sense to interconnect those features. This is the case with Roadmap cards and Kanban board items. Define the strategy with roadmap cards and attach board items to them so you can track the progress as items are being finished.
Extremely useful features can be found in the Roadmap to help you improve your planning and estimation, but the Roadmap feature will be covered in detail in the next blog.
ProdGoal has all this to help you make your workflow easier and increase your and your team’s productivity, while making it simple and intuitive.
All features covered here are free and with no limits. Give ProdGoal’s free online Kanban board a try. You can cancel anytime.