Trello logo app on the screen smartphone and notebook closeup. Trello is a cloud-based project management software for small teams. Moscow, Russia - July 28, 2020
Image: prima91/Adobe Stock

What is a swimlane?

When working with Kanban boards, a swimlane is a horizontal lane in your board to help separate and define your workflow. By employing swimlanes you make it possible for teams to better control and highlight work items or tasks that follow a similar process. Swimlanes help you distinguish categories, such as workstreams, users, application areas and more.

SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (TechRepublic Premium)

Swimlanes make it exponentially easier to organize your boards, with the help of horizontal rows to further divide tasks. These lanes run in parallel to your board and are very helpful for large teams and complicated projects. Swimlanes avoid too much clutter when a project is filled with a large number of tasks. Swimlanes make it possible to stack boards on top of each other, but separate cards to create completely new boards.

In other words, using swimlanes is like having multiple boards for the same project in one workspace. So if you’re serious about upping your Kanban game, you’ll want to employ swimlanes.

Some Kanban boards have the swimlane feature built-in. Other boards such as Trello require the enabling of the feature before it can be used. I’m going to show you how to enable swimlanes on Trello with the help of Blue Cat.

What you’ll need

To enable swimlanes, you’ll need a Trello account and access to a user with admin privileges. You don’t have to be using a paid account, as this can also be done with the Free plan. That’s it: Let’s get those swimlanes added.

How to add Swimlanes by Blue Cat

Log into your Trello account and click Power-Ups near the top right corner (Figure A).

Figure A

Accessing the Power-Ups feature from the Trello main page.

From the pop-up menu, click Add Power-Ups. In the resulting window (Figure B), search for Swimlanes by Blue Cat.

Figure B

The Trello Power-Ups marketplace is where you can find plenty of extensions to add to your account.

Click Add associated with Swimlanes by Blue Cat (Figure C).

Figure C

Adding the Swimlanes by Blue Cat power-up in Trello.

You will then be shown the permissions given to the power-up and will be prompted to click Add again (Figure D).

Figure D

The permissions that are required for Swimlanes by Blue Cat.

You’ll be asked to accept the terms and conditions for Swimlanes by Blue Cat (Figure E).

Figure E

Accepting the terms and conditions for Swimlanes by Blue Cat.

Click the checkbox for I Accept The Terms & Conditions and click Authorize With Trello.

Finally, you must click Allow in the resulting pop-up window to give Swimlanes by Blue Cat access to your account (Figure F).

Figure F

Give Swimlanes by Blue Cat access to your Trello account.

At this point, your Kanban boards are empowered with Swimlanes.

How to use Swimlanes

Back at your Kanban board, click Swimlanes by Blue Cat (Figure G) to reveal the swimlanes feature.

Figure G

Swimlanes by Blue Cat has been added to Trello.

One thing that’s crucial to getting the most out of swimlanes is using labels. When you add labels to your cards, you can easily organize them within the swimlane. If you’ve added labels to cards and you open Swimlanes by Blue Cat, you will see how well the board is broken down into a much easier-to-follow layout (Figure H).

Figure H

Trello swimlanes make it easier to organize large, complicated boards.

You can view swimlanes either by label, member or custom fields. The only caveat to custom fields is that they aren’t available in the free plan.

And that’s all there is to adding swimlanes to Trello. Give this Power-Up a try and see if it doesn’t help make organizing complicated boards exponentially easier.

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