Like a lot of companies, the way our Brick Factory team works has changed dramatically the last few years. We have moved away from buying traditional software to using web-tools hosted in the cloud. In some cases we have moved from traditional software (such as Microsoft Office) to web-based tools (such as Google Apps). In other cases we have started using online tools we weren’t even really aware we needed (Browserstack, Mockvault).
In the spirit of sharing what we’ve learned, below are ten tools we use every day to do our work.
Every since we started Brick Factory our company-wide email and calendar system has been powered by Google Apps. Over the last year Google Docs and Sheets have become our word processing and spreadsheet programs of choice due to the ease of collaboration and integration with our Google accounts. As a company with a distributed workforce, we use Google Hangouts every day for our team meetings.
Google Apps is an essential part of everything we do.
Basecamp is our primary project management tool at the Brick Factory. We use it to manage projects internally and to share resources and collaborate with our clients.
We sort have a love/hate relationship with Basecamp. It’s greatest strength (it’s simplicity) is also its greatest drawback (it’s too simple). Our team at the Brick Factory consists of 20 designers, developers and strategists. Given our diverse skill sets and personalities, it is pretty much impossible to find a project management tool that is going to thrill everyone. Basecamp comes the closest.
As a way of filling in some of the functionality holes in Basecamp, we recently started using Workstack. Workstack is workflow management tool that allows you to view the Basecamp To Dos for each of your co-workers on a single calendar. It makes resource management and internal scheduling much easier, saving us time.
Planbox is an agile project management tool we’ve started using on some of our larger development projects in lieu of Basecamp. It is a bit cumbersome for managing our smaller projects, but is great for our larger builds where we follow a more formal project management process. If you are using agile, we would recommend giving Planbox a try.
The rise of mobile and tablets and the proliferation of browsers has made testing websites a huge pain. Browserstack makes it easier for web developers to test the sites they are building in different browsers running on different operating systems.
Mockvault is a nifty tool that allows you to present your design comps in browser, track revisions and collect feedback. We started using it around a year ago and love it.
UXPin is an easy-to-use tool that allows anyway to create good, professional wireframes. Our UX and design team doesn’t use UXPin for wires, but our Strategists use it to put together quick prototypes for internal and/or client review.
For a long time we used a custom system to track our time. At the beginning of 2012 we started using Harvest for timesheets and haven’t looked back. It is user friendly and includes powerful reporting tools. We looked at every time tracking solution under the sun and Harvest is by far the best for our needs.
We recently started using Pipedrive as our company CRM. We use it to track our new business efforts and to manage our contacts. We used Highrise for years and never loved it – it didn’t fit into our workflow and was inflexible. We then tracked everything in Google Docs for a time as well. We started using Pipedrive a few months ago and I love it. It is perfect for us – it has the features we need while also being extremely easy-to-use.
When you work at web development firm, managing your online passwords is a huge pain. You literally have hundreds of passwords to track and keep updated. Passpack is a secure way to organize and share passwords among teams. I would guess using Passpack saves our IT team a few hours a week that would be spent helping people track passwords down.
Do you have a favorite tool we should check out?