Blond woman in light gray talking to a brunette woman in a dark blazer while holding a tablet.
Image: Adobe Stock

Project management can quickly become complicated waters to navigate, especially as your projects and company grow. Not only will you have more projects to tackle, but you’ll also have more stakeholders at work to make them happen. As those numbers increase, you need the right project management tools to keep the work flowing and deadlines on target.

SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (TechRepublic Premium)

To complicate matters, the number of available tools and services to help you manage those projects and documents is staggering. Where do you turn? Which service do you use? Do you go kanban, Gantt, Wiki, tasks, calendars or a combination?

When you start your search for the right project management software, you are bound to come across both Notion and Trello. These two project management platforms share quite a bit of overlap, but Trello and Notion are also quite different. Which one of these services is right for your company. Let’s dig in and find out.

Jump to:

What is Notion?

Notion is a project management and document management platform designed to help your teams to collaborate with tools to coordinate deadlines, objectives and assignments. Within a single workspace, your teams can think, write, plan, capture thoughts, manage projects and run departments. With tools like kanban boards (Figure A), workspaces, meeting notes, docs, tasks, assignments and calendars, Notion might well be the perfect platform for any team looking to merge document management and project management.

Figure A

The Notion kanban boards are pared down to make them very simple for anyone to use.
The Notion kanban boards are pared down to make them very simple for anyone to use.

What is Trello?

Trello might not be one of the most popular workflow management tools on the market, but it certainly can compete with the competition by offering all the features you need in a simple-to-use, modern interface (Figure B). Trello offers workspaces, kanban, timelines, tables, calendars, dashboards, maps, templates, filters, automation and Powerups to add new features.

Figure B

Trello kanban boards are one of the best I've used.
Trello kanban boards are some of the best I’ve used.

Common features of Notion and Trello

Workflow

If there’s one buzzword that deserves its time in the limelight, it’s workflow. When you have an efficient and smooth workflow, project management becomes a thing of ease. Between these two, Trello has a leg up on workflow, simply by sticking with a layout that makes it easy to move between the different (yet tightly interconnected) tools. With an interface that makes it very easy to not only switch between those tools but to see how integrated they are gives Trello a slight advantage.

However – and this is a big “however” – Notion offers a more complete package for teams to collaborate. For example, Notion includes added features that combine to make for a more complete workflow. Start with meetings, work those into documents, create tasks based on the documents, build boards to manage the tasks, assign tasks and then keep track of it all in a calendar view. That’s a complete workflow that would benefit nearly any team.

Project management

Although Notion does split its time between project and document management, the project management aspect of the service is as strong as many others in the field. However, for straight-up project management, Trello pulls ahead by adding just the right collection of features most teams are accustomed to using.

Another advantage Trello has is the interface. Although Notion does make it easy to switch between features, the layout is rather old-school and can sometimes feel more like a Wiki on steroids than a true project management suite.

Collaboration

I’m going to have to give Notion the advantage in the collaboration arena. Although Trello does offer plenty of powerful collaboration tools, the second you start working with Notion you immediately understand this platform is all about collaboration. From meeting notes, to documents, to assignments, and the ability to connect a workspace to a Slack channel, Notion offers plenty of collaboration options. Once you’ve added team members, you can then add them as stakeholders to various items. Those stakeholders will automatically send emails on additions and updates.

That doesn’t mean Trello misses out on collaboration options. For instance, you can share an entire board or a single card with team members and even invite non-members to join in on the collaboration.

Templates

Notion and Trello offer plenty of templates to make creating project management spaces easy. Trello offers templates for things like one-on-one meeting agendas, agile boards, company overviews, design huddles, go-to-market strategy, kanban, mise-en-place productivity, project management, remote team meetings and more. Notion categorizes its templates by purpose, such as design, student, engineering, human resources, marketing, personal, product management, sales and support.

Although both services approach templates very differently, they simplify the process of creating new assets from scratch.

Feature comparison: Notion vs. Trello

Notion Trello
Project and document management Project management
Multiple workspaces Multiple workspaces
Wiki-like layout Modern layout
Kanban, tasks, docs, calendars, meeting notes Kanban, timelines, tables, calendars, dashboards and maps
Limited templates Unlimited templates designed by the Trello community
Slack, Jira, GitHub and Asana integration Numerous third-party integrations
Plans ranging from free to $8/user/month Plans ranging from free to 17.50/user/month

If I had to make a choice, the win would go to Trello because the modern interface will be much easier for new team members to get up to speed with. That doesn’t discount Notion, but the Wiki-like UI might put off some project members who are more accustomed to mobile interfaces with easy drag-and-drop assets.

Subscribe to TechRepublic’s How To Make Tech Work on YouTube for all the latest tech advice for business pros from Jack Wallen.