The Tools We Use
We give a lot of thought to the selection of which tools we employ. For a number of reasons, in this order: effectiveness/comprehensiveness, affordability, ease of use, the ability to integrate with other tools we use, and finally, the degree to which it makes our lives less complicated. Here is an overview of the tools we currently use to run COMMAND C.
Highrise + Basecamp
Both by the 37signals team, Highrise is our CRM. It allows us to manage contacts, track inquiries, set tasks, and it seemlessly integrates with sister software, Basecamp. Basecamp is what we use for project management–allowing us to share designs, milestones and messages with our team and our clients. With everything moving in the direction of web-based software, these tools are a.) gonna be around for a while and, b.) can be accessed from anywhere, with no downloads, upgrades or backups on our end to worry about.
For our email marketing/newsletter we use MailChimp, which integrates seamlessly with Highrise so all of the contacts in our CRM can be automatically imported into our e-newsletter system. One of my favorite things about MailChimp is that you can really tailor it to your own needs, both visually and financially. You can create your own email templates and they offer a credit-based purchasing system allowing you to send out emails without a monthly commitment.
Since we offer hosting, domain names and SSL certificates to our clients, we need some customized service tracking system to manage services that expire on different dates throughout the year. We have yet to find a great web-based tool for this, though we’d love one and have considered building a custom Rails app for this purpose. But instead, we created a custom database using FileMaker Pro. It allows us to quickly filter through all packages that expire in any given month and promptly send out an invoice.
Our email is run through Google Apps which allows us to keep our domain name associated with our email address, but keeps our email off our server–Godsend.
There may be more beautiful time tracking software out there, but SlimTimer does a really great job–it’s free and really simple to use. And that’s why we use it.
For larger projects that require issue tracking, we use LightHouse to manage tickets. It’s pretty simple and there’s a free version. Though, I would be a lot happier if Basecamp added an issue tracking tool to their system.
Every designer I know keeps some sort of inspiration board. I loved the idea of weheartit.com when I first came across it a couple of years ago, however I never used it consistently because it felt too disorganized and amorphous. I’m REALLY excited about Pinterest though–they put some good thought into the user experience, organizational tools and social aspects of the site. Come follow our boards here.