If you have ever started your own business or with a handful of other partners, you already know first hand that one of the most important aspects of a successful business is communication. An absolute pillar. It leads to a more productive and successful environment for all of those involved.
Put simply, communication is how you share ideas and meaning to others. However, in a business, this becomes a bit tricky when you add in a few different variables. A handful of employees, employees that work remotely, clients that live in different timezones, and so on. All of these are factors that affect how Designli communicates and ultimately, how productive our team is! In this post, we will be sharing some love for some of our favorite productivity tools.
8 of the Best Productivity Tools for Teams
First up, everybody’s favorite, chat! Ever since the early nineties, when we were engrossed by AIM and the ability to chat with school friends immediately after getting off of the bus with them. There’s something inherently exciting about using chat rooms and having ongoing conversations with friends or employees, but within a company, it’s incredibly important to open a convenient stream of communication between employees. Equally as important is making sure that conversations are efficient and work-related, when necessary. We use a software called Slack because of a handful of incredibly simple, yet seemingly difficult features that are only mastered by the crew at Slack.
- It’s gorgeous. The UI of slack is fun and easy to navigate. For both the web and mobile version. As app folks, we like that a whole lot.
- Seamless. The notification system for Slack updates automatically so that when you get a new message as you sit at your desk with three devices, they don’t all three buzz at the same time. Whatever device you are actively using will ping first, followed by notifications on your other devices. Plus – there are never any recurring notifications. (Are you listening Skype?)
- Cost. We are on the free version. Of course, we love Slack, but with our size, we can’t justify paying for a chat client yet.
- Mobile app. We love it on both the tablet and iOS/Android. Works perfectly.
- Document sharing. It’s flawless. It’s exactly how you imagine sharing .jpg and .gifs should be in a chat.
- Separate Chat rooms. Remember the word I used earlier, efficient? Well, Slack lets you create different chat rooms for different purposes. For instance, we have one for business, chitchat, project managers, BitBucket updates, and of course, gifs. You can even make them private to certain users!
- Slackbots. You can integrate all of your productivity tools into “slackbots” that will act as computerized messengers giving updates about certain features. Our favorite? BitBucket Slackbot tells us anytime we have new code uploaded to our BitBucket account! Neat.
- You can make your own emojis, com’ on. How cool is that?
Yes, this is another chat tool, but we have put it behind Slack for a very good reason. It’s no-good. However, it’s hard to get around the fact that nearly everyone in the tech world has a Skype account and can make a face-to-face phone call quickly. We use it primarily to share information with our development team, design team and clients on a daily basis. Of course, it is miles behind Slack in terms of usability, but in an effort to remain positive I will let our friends at TechCrunch share their opinion on Skype.
When you are building 15+ mobile apps at a time, task management gets a little out of control. Luckily for us, we were saved by the team at Asana. A phenomenal task management software that allows us to work with clients, development and design teams, and within our own company. Each app has its own project, which we use a predesigned template to ensure that no steps are skipped. We create a new project for our clients to report bugs, ask questions and upload photos. We then take these directions and introduce them to our own team to work on and complete. It’s a phenomenal way to monitor what everyone is working on and keep people accountable but in a very helpful manner. Here are the big reasons we love it:
- Feature Packed. There are a ton of ways that you can use Asana. It integrates with Google Drive and you can upload files directly to Asana from Drive.
- Design. Like I mentioned, it’s full of features. So many that the Asana team made videos to understand all of the features that exists, but the product is designed so well that you don’t even need to view them. Bravo team!
- Mobility. There is a mobile app for tablets and phones. It’s not incredibly simple to use and we would suggest a few updated features for it, but it gets the job done with notifications and speed.
- Price. Again, we have managed to stay on the lower-budget tier, but certainly love the product enough that we will be happy to pay for the next tier when we get there.
- Navigation. From one tab on your browser, I am able to bounce around every single task that Designli is working on. All of our apps are maintained on Asana and anyone within Designli can take a peek at someone’s progress and even leave feedback. With the click of a button, we can shift over to our client version and update clients with great news about their app.
All Designli employees have a @designli.co email address, but instead of overwhelming our lives with another email client to check every day, we simply alias our emails through Gmail. When sending emails from gmail.com, everyone can select which email account they want to send from (personal gmail or Designli). All emails come through the Gmail webapp and mobile app, so it’s very easy to stay up to date on both work and personal emails. Plus – it’s free!
5. Google Drive
Where would we be without Google Drive. Google has absolutely crushed the cloud computing service. All Designli employees are granted access to certain folders on our company Drive account and can view files as they are edited by anyone on the team. Here is why we love it:
- Space. Google starts you off with 15 GB of space without charging a penny. Incredible.
- File Sync. Similar to other cloud storage services, Google Drive gives you ability to sync with your personal computer. This means that you can create a folder on your laptop hard drive that will automatically download/upload any file you put into it or another employee puts into it. It’s centralized data that everyone has access to at all times.
- Price. We do pay for upgraded storage because of the volume of projects we have ongoing, but Google offers 100 GB for $1.99/month and 1 TB for $9.99. Right on par with their competitors here.
- Premium files types. Google has a few proprietary file types (.gdoc, etc.) that allow you to edit files using your browser or phone. It’s the easiest way to collaborate with other employees or clients. You can literally watch others type right in front of your eyes, without being in the same room as them.
A chromecast is a little HDMI stick that plugs directly into your TV that allows almost any device to stream media onto the TV. Of course, there is plenty of competition for this type of accessory, but Chromecast is only $35 and seems to work perfectly. We use this to stream documents and presentations to our monitors and TVs in our office to share with the rest of the Designli crew what we are working on and ask for feedback.
When it comes to CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Streak has served us quite well. When we have new leads come in or after we seek out a potential new client, we are able to categorize our relationship with them. We categorize our sales emails into leads, quote needed, quote sent, declined, accepted, etc. Streak makes it incredibly easy to take a quick peer into the upcoming pipeline so that we can prepare project managers for new apps, or to begin searching for new projects. The best part – it syncs directly with our Gmail so that it is viewable directly on gmail.com.
The app development business does not always mean face-to-face conversations with clients, which means that scheduling phone calls needs to be quick and painless. We have been experimenting with a software called Calendly, which gives us all the complete control over when we want phone calls or meetings schedules, but gives the recipient the power to choose a time. Here are some other great things that we have discovered about it thus far:
- Syncs with Gcal. Seeing a trend yet? We love Google products and anything that syncs with them. Calendly will sync with your Gcal and make sure that meetings or phone calls are not scheduled during other commitments. Once a recipient picks a time, it will automatically add it to your personal calendar.
- Email notifications. Every time a new meeting or phone call is scheduled, Calendly will send a custom notice to both parties with all details necessary.
- Customization. Calendly gives us a ton of power to set limitations on when we schedule meetings, how much buffer time we need between meetings, custom questions we can ask recipients, and much more. It’s powerful.
- Personal URLs. If you want to schedule a call with me, simply visit calendly.com/larkin. It’s that easy. Super easy to type over a text message or email without needing to copy and paste links.
As far as productivity goes, that’s about the extent of our tools! Of course, each of us has our own way of managing our computers and browsers for a more productive workflow, but those tools are more suited to specific personalities. For any suggestions on better tools we should demo, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.