Are you like me, always interested to hear about the behind-the-scenes of things? Then you have come to the right place! In the name of transparency and sharing our knowledge, we wanted to briefly tell you what tools we use here at Host My Pet. As you know, we are a small start-up still gaining our footing (but growing fast!) so our budget is tight. All of these tools offer quite robust free versions so trying them out is risk-free! Of course, if you like a product and can afford it, I always encourage you to throw a few bucks to their way as a way of subscription or donation. All of these tools work for both big teams and individuals like freelancers, for both business and personal use.
Full disclaimer: Host My Pet or the writer of this article got zero money or other goods in exchange of this post from any of the mentioned companies — or from anyone else to that matter. We just wanted to share our favorite tools with you 🙂
Our tools for project management
Trello & Wunderlist
For quite a while, we used Wunderlist as our task manager. We had differently themed Wunderlist channels (for example, marketing and development channels) integrated to our Slack (more about Slack in a minute). In its simplest form, Wunderlist is just that: a list. The free version lets you choose from a few different background photos or colors but there is not a lot of personalization going on. Under the hood, Wunderlist offers integrations, reminders, recurring tasks, notifications and, of course, mobile apps. While Wunderlist worked for us, I sometimes found it perhaps too simple for my tastes.
Microsoft acquired Wunderlist in 2015 and on April 2017 announced they will shut down and replace it with another task app called To-Do. This led our team to wonder if we should switch our task app. Quite quickly we landed on Trello. Our development team liked the ability to better label the tasks and gather all information to one card and board. Soon after, the marketing and operations projects were moved to Trello as well. Trello’s user interface proved to be intuitive as everyone found their place quickly on the boards, cards and lists. Our co-founder stated he “wished we’d been using Trello from the start. You can easily follow all tasks, prioritize, assign and comment things and attach files”.
Google Apps Suite & Google Drive
In addition to Wunderlist, and before Trello, we used Google App Suite‘s Google Sheets. While it got the work done, it was not really meant to be used as a project management tool. Still, we use Drive to store our documents and we use Google Docs and Slides pretty much every week. The fact that Google’s Drive and Apps are free is an important factor but even more important is their ease-of-use and reliability. Storing things on the cloud allows us to open, work on, comment and edit the documents wherever we are. For such a remote team as us, this is the most important feature.
Our tools for meetings & communication
Before you can meet someone, you have to figure out a time that works for both of you. While this might be easy, it gets trickier when you have a whole team distributed all over the world. This is where Doodle comes in. Doodle is super-simple and easy to use, free and requires registration only from the person setting up the meeting and timetable. Simply put, the person setting up the meeting will list dates that might work for the participants. Then they share the link to that list and people can check out the times that work for them. The date and time working for most participants is chosen. Voilá! Simple, easy and intuitive to use.
Skype, Google Hangouts, Join.me & Appear.in
As we are a remote team, meeting face-to-face is possible mostly by using tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, Join.me and Appear.in. With small differences between them, they all have the same purpose to allow video chat for groups. Skype is the only tool to require downloading and installation, the other tools work online in your browser. Skype, as well as Google Hangouts, require registration and account from all chat participants while Join.me and Appear.in only require the chat moderator (the person creating the chat and inviting others) to register an account. While we rarely use Hangouts anymore, we do use and like to try out all these tools in rotation and therefore have no one clear favorite.
Perhaps surprisingly, our company emails work on Zoho Mail instead of GMail. The webmail is designed for professional and business users and packed with features, including multiple accounts, shortcuts, attach viewer and calendar, to name a few. Originally, we used more products from Zoho as well as their suite of products also connect nicely with each others. (Currently we use Zoho Books to keep track of our accounting. It is designed for small and growing businesses in mind, so it was a natural choice for us.)
I once heard Slack is the app that pretty much killed internal email at companies. I might have to agree with that, at least to a certain point. We very rarely need to use email for any internal communication as Slack is easier, lighter and simpler to use. You can create themed Slack channels for pretty much anything under the sun, dragging and dropping pretty much all kinds of stuff there: attachments, videos, links, you name it! Direct messages fly between two or more users. Slack is talked-about and very loved around the globe and it’s easy to see why. The search functions well (Slack shows you up to 10,000 messages on the free version but keeps them safely archived. Getting a paid subscription lets you see those messages and unlock unlimited messages), you can star the messages you want to come back to and spice up your messages with emojis. Integrations with many, many apps (including Trello!) are also available.
WordPress is the site you are on right now. This blog, as well as our main website, is powered by WordPress and we are not the only ones using WP. In fact, 27% of the web uses WordPress to host their content from hobby bloggers to big news corporations. Why? Because it’s so easy! WordPress has both free and paid options, lots of user interface themes you can choose from and tons of plug-ins to tailor your site to look, feel and work exactly as you want it to! If you want to have a more hands-free approach, WordPress is easy enough to allow that. On the other hand, you can gain control over every pixel by hosting WordPress’ open source code on your own domain. Create a landing page to your product, start an online store, create a portfolio or host a forum! And please, let us know about your creation! We would love to hear from you.
Other, miscellaneous tools for sharing information
Wetransfer rebranded themselves and are now known only as We. The name Wetransfer is however more descriptive when it comes to their main purpose: sharing files that would be too big and resource-hungry to send via email. Wetransfer delivers .psd files, raw video, high-resolution photos and so on, quickly, securely and for free. Wetransfer requires no registration or installation, you simply drag and drop the files you want to share. Plenty of media and communication agencies use Wetransfer on weekly basis but this can prove useful for pretty much anyone wanting to share their artwork, photos or video to others.
Nuclino is mostly used by our development team for technical documentation. It offers teams a place to collaborate on real time, essentially building a wiki-like collection of information including all kinds of content from images, files and videos to embeds, code snippets and tasks. Everything syncs, saves and is shared real-time. Nuclino’s slogan “Your Team’s Collective Brain” means they are clearly built for teams to use and there might be better-suited tools for individual use. That being said, Nuclino can help you out when collecting information for a large project like a book or a thesis. The ability to easily share your information can prove useful later.
Coggle is our mindmap tool of choice. It works online, right inside your browser. You can also grab it from Chrome’s App Store to use it as a part of Google Apps Suite. As you know, mindmapping is used to various things and they range from colorful and visual to simple, text-based maps. We use Coggle mostly to create schedules, timeframes, journeys and plans for product and company development. For example, our company roadmap lives inside Coggle as a mindmap. Coggle mindmaps are easily shared, changes show and save instantly and collaborating on mindmaps is very easy.
Old-school cool tool that still works wonders: Pen & paper
In the world of digital, sometimes analogue still rules. Often the most basic combination of pen and paper is the fastest, easiest and most comfortable way of taking notes, keeping a diary, drafting and doodling. Needing nothing more than muscle power, a notebook and a pen is a combination you can use anywhere and everywhere. Taking a picture of your notes and sending it to the cloud combines the best of both analogue and digital worlds. If you are anything like me, you find the notebooks sections in bookstores a must-visit. Your local bookstore, as well as the internet is full of beautiful, inspiring examples of notebooks and notebooking. Start exploring — and start creating!
P.S. If you are willing to share them, we would love to hear your stories, recommendations and reviews of the tools you are using!
This article originally appeared on the author’s Medium blog.