We’ve done a few posts in the past, talking about the tools we use to create all the pretty pictures, and make all the code sing, but those are really just the tip of the iceberg during a typical day in the DT pixel mines. We use a plethora of tools to keep the trains running on time, so we felt we should give some of these unsung heroes their time in the spotlight. Put it this way: if Photoshop, Axure, etc. are the Lady Gaga’s of the software world, this post is about the roadies – the rock-solid, dependable folks without whom, the show couldn’t go on, (much less the after-parties)…
The longtime beating heart of our project management process, Basecamp has recently undergone a complete transformation with Basecamp Next. We just haven’t quite brought ourselves to switching just yet, though – crossing off an item on our to-do lists is just too damn satisfying!
Flow is one of the best task management apps we’ve ever encountered. It’s beautiful, simple to grasp, robust when you need it to be, and gets out of your way when you don’t. Particular highlights include: the ability to hide/expand your tasks by day and week to give yourself a focused view, intuitive delegation options, excellent accountability when assigning tasks to individuals, and oh yeah – did we mention it’s beautiful? Give it a whirl!
Central to our “anyone can work from home, anytime” policy is box, and its magical ability to share and sync files both in the office and off-site quickly and without hassle. Plus: version control – it’s our savior for whenever we accidentally overwrite some critical files. And boy, do we generate a lot of files…
After much raving by Jason, Jamie and Dave, we recently converted wholesale over to LastPass for our password management. Now, we can grant and revoke access to all our various accounts and logins, without ever needing to know the actual password. It’s tools like this that make Post-It Notes’ stock price take a tumble.
A picture paints a thousand words, and saves about 10 billion emails between the design department, the project managers, and our developers. With Skitch, you can take a screenshot, annotate it, and share it on the web in under 30 seconds. Notation Nirvana.
This nice little app is great for shuttling feedback to and fro on web page comps. Just upload the page design, then highlight and comment on little areas, to get your ideas across.
We heart our whiteboards around dt – so much so, that oftentimes, we even write on the glass tables! All that furious note-taking is for naught, however, if we don’t preserve it. Enter a temporarily-donated iPhone, and our internal Flickr account to preserve our notes in all their hi-res digital glory.
Despite the fact that we’re drooling over their new redesign, Chartbeat is any real-time stats geek’s wildest fantasy come true (stats geeks don’t tend to have fantasies that are all that wild, so this works). We’ve made a sport of sending out a large campaign or announcement, then huddling around someone’s screen to watch the numbers take off!
Nothing beats the feeling of mastery that a good reporting dashboard gives you (well, to us, anyway). Geckoboard ties in with lots of sources of your business’ data, and formats it into a beautiful & customizable virtual command center, letting you keep tabs on all your key metrics.
Google Analytics (http://google.com/analytics)
GA is the bedrock of our ongoing optimization efforts, we use it to track revenue, conversion and user engagement across all of our domains, all in one place.
We use KISS in conjunction with Google Analytics to pinpoint where we should focus our optimization efforts for converting visitors into customers, but also as a useful sounding board, to make sure that it’s tracking activity accurately.
Crazy Egg (http://crazyegg.com)
Heatmapping analysis plays a critical role in our ability to optimize our page layouts and conversion, by pinpointing where our users’ attention is being led – and where it’s being pulled away from.
We use NewRelic every day to monitor our web app Hello Bar, and ensure that everyone’s bars are being served quickly, and that the admin interface is snappy and responsive for our customers. We’d be blind without it.
It’s very telling that at the first sign something’s not quite right, our immediate response is to post a KISSinsights poll on our pricing & checkout pages to hear directly from our customers what’s going on. We base a significant number of our strategic decisions on insights gleaned from customer responses collected via KISSinsights – so yeah, consider us big fans.
Another webapp from a little-known group known as Automattic – the Internet-dominating creators of WordPress. PollDaddy has an incredibly robust set of features that not only lets you customize your polls and collect a wide range of information, but also allows for quick and easy mining of data for insights.
This superbly useful Gmail addon gives you tons of useful information about the person you’re emailing. It’s testament to seamlessness integration is me almost forgetting to include it in this list since it’s become a default part of my Gmail experience!
Sprout Social (http://sproutsocial.com)
We love SproutSocial’s vastly-improved single-column “Smart Inbox” – all other social media management apps seem to insist on making users watch over multiple streams and feeds situated side-by-side With SproutSocial, it’s more like taking a leisurely walk through your email inbox.
It’s often tough to search for inspiration on the spot – Timely takes the pressure off by letting us build a buffer of tweets at our own pace. Anytime we find interesting articles, or stumble across something share-worthy, into the queue it goes. Timely then kindly releases the tweets at a steady pace when our followers are most likely to be paying attention, and spaces them out, to prevent our followers becoming unfollowers. Thanks, Timely!
Indispensible for important product launches, nothing beats having realtime contact with site visitors to quickly diagnose problems and potential improvements. Olark helps us get that instantaneous access to our customers.
One of the best web-based form builder apps out there, we use Wufoo for quickie polls, and whenever we need to collect user info for things like beta tester applications, etc. Infinitely configurable, easily deployed – the very definition of webby, formy goodness.
On the other hand, Gravity Forms is our go-to for building custom forms on our sites – storing our submission data locally is key, as is the high level of control this superb plugin gives us over our forms’ appearance.
Despite its reputation for being a den of geekery and hilarious animated GIFs, Google’s recently redesigned social offering has proven itself a worthy office collaboration tool. We use it to privately share company-wide announcements as well as interesting tidbits that help elevate our awareness of design trends on the web today. We also use it to share hilarious animated GIFs, of course.
A simple to use code repository, Github offers an easy way to share and collaborate on a code base across teams. For the more technically savvy, command line (terminal on mac) can be used, for those who require or like more of a point and click GUI, Github offers a nice desktop client.
Accounting & Human Resources
We partner with clients all over the world, and speed counts in our line of work, so the last thing we want to be dealing with is the inconvenience of Fedexing documents around the globe – that’s our precious snack money! Echosign earns our gratitude by enabling us to get documents signed, sealed and delivered instantly via our myriad of internet-connected devices, so we can get back to fighting over who gets the last piece of beef jerky in the kitchen.
As our payment gateway of choice, and a widely-accepted industry standard, Paypal handles all our customer transactions. A robust API that gives us a lot of functionality, as well as decent (albeit slightly convoluted) reporting capabilities keep us informed as to how we’re doing.
Marketing & Advertising
This email service provider powers the vast majority of our many email campaigns, ranging from newsletters, to confirmation messages, and basically everything in-between. It gives us everything we need for effectively segmenting our various customer mailing lists, as well as providing us with a robust API for automatically tagging and grouping new subscribers.
With an ad network boasting a large portion of the best-known design blogs out there, BSA (as we affectionately call them), provides a great platform for long-reaching access to the web design community, as well as nifty tools for tracking and optimizing banner ad campaigns.
So there you have it – all the tools we keep in our bat-utility belts every single day. After all, it takes way more than just Photoshop and a browser to create good design!
Your turn folks: what non-design tools do you use in your day-to-day?