überdosis a team of lovely creatives

Tools

Most of us work from home now. That showed even more how essential the tools we use daily are for a smooth collaboration. Let’s have a look at what we’re using!

Choosing tools

As a team, you don’t want to miss out on new tools. Something that makes collaboration smoother or more fun is precious for staying productive and happy at work. On the other side, following every trend can distract us from the actual creative work we’d love to do.

We have a few Slack channels to share links to articles and new tools. Testing them is a passion for us anyway, so I feel like I’m on hundreds of waiting lists for upcoming products already. When something new comes up, we’re testing it right away.

If something looks cool, we are quick to try it out in a low impact way, for example, in one of our self-initiated projects. If it proves valuable, we share the experiences with the team, take a while to think about it and probably try it with more team members in smaller client projects then.

If it still feels right, we’re preparing the switch. We check what needs to be migrated, educate the team, make it the default for new projects, test it for a while, and then migrate existing data.

What we use

We value tools with outstanding user experience, want our software to run on renewables, and we prefer to own our data if possible. It’s rare to get all of that, though.

#1 Slack

Our Slack feels like home. It’s the place where everybody says hi in the morning, no matter where they are. It’s the place for announcements and a lot of discussions too.

We know that it can be a big distraction, but we use it very respectful here. We don’t expect immediate answers and disable the account when someone takes a few days off.

#2 Toggl

We have a love-hate relationship with time tracking. That said, it’s still the foundation for our company and how we bill our projects. It’s not tangible to get rid of it.

We don’t like the new design, miss some comfort features now and then, and they are reliable in not announcing planned downtimes in advance, but that’s okay. It still feels like a good compromise between simple and powerful, and has everything we need.

#3 Google Workspace

The Google Workspace offer is too good to be true, but as we all know, it’s the data they want. We’d like to move away from Google, but for now, it is like it is.

Gmail

I don’t think we use emails that much. We try to tunnel external communication through a few people (one for new inquiries, one for applications, a project manager for clients). A designer or developer shouldn’t receive more than a few emails a week.

Gmail’s spam filtering is just amazingly good 99 % of the time, the integration with email clients is superb, and notifications work very well. But you might already know that.

Calendar

We don’t understand how that can be the best thing Google came up with, but hey, we don’t have that many meetings anyway.

We have one calendar for holidays and one for meetings. We tried to use individual calendars and invites, but that doesn’t work as we’d expect it to work. It shows the same entry multiple times if multiple people attend, thanks Google.

Oh man, we should look for an alternative.

Drive

We used to store everything on Drive, but we don’t work with that many files anymore. Most things are in Figma or Git anyway. At least we have a place for our old photoshop files.

Docs

We don’t write that many documents, but it’s good to have a place to work on copy collaboratively. And we store offers and contracts there.

Spreadsheets

Unfortunately, the operating system of our company is Google Spreadsheets. Everything money-related is there. We have massive spreadsheets with tiny automation scripts filling in data. I don’t see any way to change that.

We wanted to develop a set of tools to do all the calculations, but the ability to go in a file and change formula is just way more flexible.

#4 Scrumpy

We evaluated a few hundred project management tools and decided to build our own then. It’s called Scrumpy, and we’re using it for all our projects. We paused the development a year ago, though a handful of teams worldwide still use it. I don’t see us switching either. It’s working just fine.

#5 Figma

That one took collaboration to a whole new level. Goodbye design_draft_final_02.sketch, hello future! It’s great to work on wireframes, designs, copy, prototypes, and presentations in the same tool and collaborate with clients in real-time.

#6 GitLab, self-hosted

We store our code in a self-hosted GitLab instance. We also use GitLab CI to deploy all our stuff. It’s great to own our data. I mean, the source code is probably the most valuable thing we own.

We use GitHub for our open source projects, though. That code is public anyway.

#7 Skara

We also evaluated a ton of knowledge bases, but we couldn’t find a decent one. So yeah, we’ve again built our own.

Skara is still in private beta, and that won’t change soon. We’re using it for a year already and have a massive base of documentation for everything, and it just feels fantastic. It takes a lot of discipline, but it’s worth it.

We are probably the only company in the world not using Notion, but we think Notion with all its possibilities leads to an unstructured mess. Also, it’s slow, and we don’t like that.

#8 TeamSpeak, self-hosted

We’ve set up a TeamSpeak server where everyone can jump in and out to talk to others at any time. The user interface looks like it’s 1995, but it’s great to hang out together.

Looking for alternatives

We always look for alternatives, especially self-hosted tools, with excellent user experience. If you know the one we should try out, send us a link! I’m looking forward to try it out.

What’s your stack?

Thanks for reading! I hope you can take something from it. Let me know on Twitter what you think!

Hans Pagel