We were with a client yesterday and were comparing our internal IT. We were reflecting on the days when our hardware costs were so much higher. Gone are the days of expensive Exchange servers as people move onto the cloud. Our internal server is still quite hefty due to the work we do however for most businesses a handful of ‘business apps’ that link to the cloud have reduced costs substantially. This prompted me to write an article about our favourite apps. These are productivity apps that have made a really difference to our agency. It’s easy to end up with too many different apps performing the same function and we’ve been through a process of refining these down into the core apps listed below.
Google Business Apps
Moving everything across from Outlook / Exchange Server was a huge step for us. We’d got so used to this way of working that it seemed very strange. However the transition was surprisingly easy and it’s lowed costs, improved collaboration and increased the ease of accessing information wherever you are.
The key parts of Google Business Apps that we use…
Google Docs is the one that’s made a real difference. It’s fantastic for being able to create, organise, share and collaborate on all kinds of documents including text, spreadsheets and presentations.
We love Slack. Want to cut down on internal email? Want instant answers to things? Want to chat, share and collaborate in real time with a full history of what’s been said? Then you got to check out Slack. You can create multiple channels and invite different people to connect into the channels to discuss things instantly. You can even invite in clients into chats to specific channels only.
Slack is a great app and has helped keep my inbox clear of unnecessary internal email and has reduced the amount of time I send dealing with email – which can take over your life if you’re not careful!
They people at 37 signals have stopped developing any other apps to focus purely on Basecamp – and who can blame them. It’s hugely popular in agencies to help manage projects and facilitate teams in their communication and management of timings and project assets.
We started using Invision App early in 2015 and it’s a great solution to help achieve design sign off. It could be used by a traditional print agency as well as a web design business. You can easily upload your designs, show them for desktop and mobile and add comments to support your designs. You can also invite the client to add comments on top of the screen. Through the app you can also start to build prototype by linking designs and creating hotspots.
I’m still quite an Evernote fan. It’s great for managing your notes and lists. Personally I have notes and lists for everything and I’m constantly on the move and so Evernote is installed on my phone, tablets and desktop and they all sync so my notes are always at hand. You can create Notebooks and search all your notes by keywords. You can also scan things and upload those quickly and easily as well as take a quick photo and upload that too. If you’ve got a busy life and a head full of stuff then do yourself a favour and look at Evernote!
Strictly speaking I’m not sure if this is an app but it’s going to get a mention anyway. usertesting.com is an amazing tool that allows us to test our prototypes to ensure we get things right. You can choose your user demographics and ask them to use your prototype. You will get a video in return that shows the user actually using your website and even has a voiceover from the user so if they are struggling they will tell you (likewise if you’ve got it right then there’s nothing more reassuring and rewarding)!
Bugherd is a great tool we’ve recently adopted to help identify bugs and issues in working applications. It’s a browser extension that allows you to mark any area of the site and supply comments about the issue that’s been identified, and it’s similar to Invision in this respect. Comments and items get created as an issue in the project management section for the developers to pick up and address. The person who raised the issue can then track progress through to resolution. What raises this above other bug tracking tools is that it takes a screenshot of your browser at that time and attaches it to the created issue, allowing the developers to see exactly what the user was seeing. In applications with a large amount of dynamic content and processes (where the screen changes frequently depending on user actions) this has proven invaluable as sometimes these issues have only occurred through a specific set of events that aren’t necessarily apparent from just a text description of the issue.