Tools Tools Tools

Seven of my favorite softwares and resources that make small teams more effective.

January 17, 2020

It's rare that I would ever post something along these lines, but I've gotten asked about the tools I'm using as a one-man show to make my life easier. Without further adieu, here are my favorite seven.

G Suite by Google

A client of mine recently indicated that he had purchased G Suite but was not using it to its fullest potential. Since it's the base layer for all of my administrative and business responsibilities, it seemed like a great place to start. The core features that every startup should take advantage of are Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. By getting your whole team on these, the organizational integrity of your startup will get better. No more housing files on individual hard drives or trying to keep up with each other's schedules. It's all put right into a shared system. Apart from admin uses, services like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides are suitable replacements for Microsoft Office. Think about all the burritos you could buy with an additional $7 per employee a month. That's a lot of frijoles.

Notion

As for tracking projects, posting work for clients, and documenting approval, Notion has been a gem. For starters, it's free software that combines the best elements of Trello, Evernote, and Google Docs into one, malleable software. Granted, the drawback is that there is a learning curve to really making this software work its magic for your team. Anyone working on product design, or long-term internal projects would get a kick out of Notion's visual layout for tracking progress.

Loom

Sometimes typing out a message just ain't enough and your collaborators need to hear your voice. What Loom allows me to do is send videos to clients to explain my thinking and giving in-depth walkthroughs of a particular project element. It's especially helpful when going over designs, website projects, and giving feedback on other items. The kicker is that it's free and since all of the videos are distributed via URL, it makes for an easy send on any communication or project management platform.

Zapier

You've got a lot of important shit to do and not a lot of time to do it. Any chance you get to automate a routine process is a chance to get back something invaluable: time. Because of Zapier's no-code principles, it allows users to connect independent web-apps based on a series of "if this, then that" operations. Whether you are looking to do simple things like automatically respond to a website form submission, or doing more complex stuff like webhooks, Zapier is the jam.

Unsplash

Good stock images are hard to come by, and it's even harder to find free images. Unspalsh has been a gem for finding high-resolution images to use on websites, within marketing collateral, or any other task where a good quality image is needed. There is a fault, in that since the images are free, it's easy for others to use the same ones. However, I've found that the workaround with this is to get creative and not be so literal with the images you're using. For example, if you're talking about a business crisis, don't use an image of a business person cringing at their desk. Find a picture of something on fire, or an earthquake to connote the idea of frantic chaos.

Calendly

Going back and forth trying to figure out a time to meet up with someone is a pain in the ass. Use Calendly instead.

Webflow

The no-code era is upon us. It's no longer necessary to bring in developers to build out custom websites or online applications. I have little to no code writing expertise, but I can build websites that include upvote features, sell tickets to events, and make it possible for marketing teams to work efficiently within a well-designed website. All without writing code. From a business perspective, this cuts out major bottlenecks like passing designs back and forth between a designer and a developer. Give developers the freedom they need to do heavy lifting on your startup team, let designers make the damn thing beautiful, and allow your marketing team to fire off content without worrying about how it will affect the site.

Links to each of the tools below:

GSuite

Notion

Loom

Zapier

Unsplash

Calendly

Webflow

More you say?

Tell the Truth

Why I don't get political on social platforms.

6.3.2020

It's been a couple days since the riots in Minnesota erupted over the wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of police. It's all that's been talked about on the one social platform I use, LinkedIn.

Something that has been said repeatedly is this: if you don't say anything, you're siding with the racist status quo. But it seems to mean "if you don't say anything on social media then you are siding with the racist status quo."

I disagree.

I have said things. I have spoken to people. I do have strong feelings about the wrongful death of George Floyd. I do have strong feelings about protesting. I do have strong feelings about seeing other people get hurt from rioting/looting. I do have ideas on how to move forward.

But sharing them on social media is not going to help me make a change. Limiting the extent of my involvement to posting a picture of a black square, sharing a hashtag, or espousing my non-expert opinions about sociology, law enforcement, and politics as an irrefutable truth would be haphazard, noisy, and unhelpful. In fact, I can't think of a more blatant abuse of privilege.

What am I going to do? Be someone who listens. Have meaningful, real discussions with real people. And, of course, do my job educating people, ALL PEOPLE, on how to better brand their business. That's what I'm good at. That's the truth I can tell.

What's yours?

If you want to join me in having a real discussion use this link. It'd be great to talk with you.

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"Do You Like it?" is a Stupid Question

And you should use this method instead.

5.7.2020

When doing design work, it's important to get feedback. However, the kind of feedback you get will make all the difference. Without beating around the bush, getting feedback that is entirely subjective is gonna end poorly, especially if you're trying to be different. The key is to be objective.

For example, when designing logos for clients, a client will often ask someone close to them: "which one do you like?"

Chances are, the respondent won't like any of them (for irrelevant reasons) or they mask the truth out of fear for hurting someone else's feelings. Either way, the feedback to this question is shit. Always.

Instead you have to think about the goals you are looking to achieve, such as aligning something like a logo to your brand. The best way to do this is what I like to call the binary method. If you know what you want someone to feel when they look at your company, then you can also define the opposite. If you want someone to feel edgy, modern, and sleek (you should define these in your own words, mind you) then the opposite of your goal would be to have them feel safe, nostalgic, and rough.

At this point you can ask, "does this feel more modern or nostalgic?"

Following up with "what makes you feel that way?" since the reasons might be extremely personal. Granted, a logo needs to be contextualized with other branded elements to get feedback on something like its alignment to the brand.

This goes far with getting valuable feedback that you can actual improve from and makes subjectivity less prevalent. Regardless of what design project you're working on, knowing what your goal is and the ability to articulate the opposite gives you framework for getting concrete answers.

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