As part of our branding and our identities as digital makers, we liken ourselves to blacksmiths and other crafter types. In the same way a blacksmith uses his hammer to shape and mold his metal creation, we use our tools to shape and mold pixels into beautiful, functional websites. Our tools are important to us, so we’d like to share with everyone some of our favorite tools that we use daily.
Headquarters of our project management and daily tasks is the aptly named Basecamp. The first place I go in the morning and one of the last places I check before heading home, it works as an essential timeline for every project our team touches. My weekly task list, crucial project decisions and communication about what’s going on, goes on in Basecamp.
Our project manager, Shannon, loves the organization the system provides for different types of communication. Quick chats, longer discussions, documents, tasks and the color-coded schedule are all neatly separated into their respective sections, making her job of finding things, relaying information between the rest of us and our awesome clients, and keeping projects on track a whole lot easier.
Invision is a tool our designers and clients use to collaborate during the prototype, design and user testing phases of our process. It allows our designers to layer and link their designs to help clients understand how the entire website will flow and fit together in the end. It also works really well for prototyping mobile apps, and even presenting projects to our clients live. Our clients can then leave comments to let us know what they love or hate about their prototype/design right on the prototype/design. This allows for quick, incremental collaboration between our team and our clients so we can give them a quality design they love without wasting time.
Also known as our digital watering hole, slack is a happy communication tool. We all work in the same classy oval room, and while we love working in the same room, it can sometimes be distracting when everyone is having conversations out loud. Slack lets us move those conversations to the virtual world so it doesn’t bother everyone when two of us need to have a chat. It also provides some privacy to have more personal conversations (because not everyone cares about the dumb little things my kittens do) or to have those fun conversations about performance and expectations.
Probably one of my favorite aspects of having our entire team on slack is our ability to keep in touch remotely. Working from home is less of a hinderance to the rest of the team and we can keep in touch with others who aren’t in the office every day. That flexibility without loss of productivity goes a long way towards the work/life balance and helps us not get incredibly annoyed by whoever is being chatty that day.
Confession time, I am the only one on the team who uses CodeAnywhere. But since I am the one writing this list and CodeAnywhere is by far one of my favorite tools I decided it needed a mention. Developers work with tools called IDE’s (Integrated Development Environment) which is basically notepad on steroids. If notepad were a blank piece of paper, CodeAnywhere would be a library.
The biggest problem I have with most IDE’s is that they only work on certain computers. What works on a Mac doesn’t always work on Windows and vice versa. CodeAnywhere is in the browser. So as the name suggests, that means I can work from a Mac, Windows, Linux or any other computer, tablet or even my phone without much trouble. Since I regularly work from three to four different computers within a week, not having to jump from one IDE to another saves me a lot of time and headache.
In our office, Google is much more than just a search engine. Google provides us with references, services and tools, taking a lot of technical pressure off our team and allowing us to focus completely on our clients needs. From the Chrome browser and debugging tools, to Gmail, Google Docs, analytics and webmaster tools, every step of our process is helped in some way by the tools we get from Google.
Tools of the trade, in some trades, define the crafter. The web industry is no different, so we are always finding and trying the cutting edge tools that are developed every year in our changing field. While these are only a handful of the hammers, tongs, chisels and anvils we use as digital craftsmen, they have been some of the most consistent, useful tools for preventing us from graying early, and that’s a win.