Digital product development unifies a number of disciplines, each being very specific in terms of the tooling used to build, deliver, and maintain the product whether it’s a piece of software, a website, or a mobile app. The technology changes over time and so does the set of tools and instruments used to unfold this technology.
This is the list of our tools we’ve been able to collect, test, and use on multiple projects. Hopefully, it’ll help you solve some of your business tasks or better understand the reasoning behind our very process.
For an international digital agency like ourselves, it’s extremely important to be within reach via any possible communication tool at hand, regardless of the time zones and holidays. Basically, any live chat application that allows you to be online 24/7 is already a communication tool. However, in order for it to become a business communication tool, there is a number of requirements it has to meet:
- Momentum. By that I mean the tool’s ability to satisfy various needs of as many people as possible. Things that help us daily transfer well to the business realm.
- Simplicity. There is a reason why a Snapchat-ish communication tool can never be a business instrument – it is too crony. You have to be able to explain the tool in one minute both to your grandmother and your 3-year old.
- Reliability. A reliable tool will deliver a crucial message on time every time, it won’t set you up, instead, it will be there for you all the time.
We don’t consider every item in our communication tools list to be perfect. It’s more of a substitutable set in most cases, however, these tools are somewhat different.
Skype is the #1 real-time voice/video call tool in the world. Everybody is on Skype and it’s perfect for the initial contact in that sense. However, skype I known to have issues every now and then, so it can’t be your only option.
Slack is for those willing to take the communication up a notch. It allows us to still have chats between teams and projects but also supports channels to share updates and get some advisory support from the peers.
FaceTime is always on your iPhone. Supported by Apple, it runs smoothly, rarely crashes and is good for quick video calls (unless you are insecure about your front camera face angle).
Telegram is sketchy, but we believe it does have a potential to become huge at some point. A primary method of reaching out to most potential clients is still good ol’ email.
We use corporate Yandex mail and Google Hangouts for email communication. We also run the Intercom app on our website 24/7.
The design and development stages are preceded by project definition and scoping. This is a lot of work and most of the time it is a collaborative effort. The project’s further progress depends on how you kick it off. One of the most important things to do is have everybody get a shared mindset and be on the same page for what concerns the philosophy and the purpose of the project.
We use Dropbox to keep track of all the mood boards we create while brainstorming on the point of every new project. File distribution is extremely easy and effective with this tool.
Our main collaboration tool at every stage of product development is RealtimeBoard. We’ve accomplished multiple missions with this tool and are continuing to use it on all our major projects in 2018. For an outsourced agency running a lot of complicated projects with the same intensity and dedication, RealtimeBoard is key to always being on point in collaboration with a client and never having a misunderstanding.
Google Docs is a staple of a web-based software office suite that completely replaced general-use desktop applications. You can access, edit, share, and comment your documents from anywhere anytime. I even approach Google Docs as a design tool in my UX writing routine.
The development process of any user-facing digital product has to start with the design. We not only design visual elements and controls of the interface, as well as the colorways and styles of the products. We create an experience that the product makes through its multiple instances. This involves graphic design, behavior design, microcopy, UX writing, and prototyping.
Sketch was developed specifically for UI design. We switched over 100% to Sketch over a year ago and the results are quite impressive at this point.
For the longest time, we only used Adobe CC for all our design work. As of now, we use Illustrator for vector graphics, After Effects for motion design, and Photoshop for raster graphics.
Version control and real-time co-work have never been the strong sides of design. The Abstract app came along to change that and introduce the functionality that caters to designers alone. At the moment, we are transitioning all our major projects to this app to take advantage of its organized and structured approach.
A whole array of tools allows us to present our designs in a form of a working prototype. These include web applications like Principle, Marvel, and Invision. A static design is one thing, but the ability to test the design before one single line of code is writte is a great option.
The final tool we use to pass the designs to our front-end team is Zeplin. It breaks the layouts down to essential parts that can be further integrated into a full-blown web page or mobile app screen.
Front-end development tools
Easily accessible, intuitive and relevant interface is what we strive for in our front-end development. The way our websites and apps look and interact with a user is the pinnacle of our performance.
We only use well-established, tested, yet innovative technologies including Angular, Ember, React, jQuery, Sass, Haml, and Slim.
Back-end development tools
If our front-end applications are the face of our production, the real grind happens at the backend. We measure performance by speed, capacity, and scalability. That’s why it is crucial that we use top-notch technologies to create a strong backbone for our commodity.
Ruby on Rails is our main back-end development framework. We require expertise in Ruby and Ruby on Rails from all our developers to make sure we get the best out this great framework. The language maturity and capability to build solid maintainable code on this framework, the efficiency with time and money, and abundance of tools and libraries to use make RoR our number one development tool followed by Elixir and NodeJS.
Infrastructure development tools
A strong and team of developers, engineers, and analytics is a bunch of single professionals up to the point where they are glued together by some sort of connection that makes them all part of one system. The succession of processes is a key feature of a smooth and prosperous workflow. With our accurate infrastructure assets, we make sure we keep track of everything being done around our projects while providing the best problem-solving tools and evolutionary opportunities.
These are the infrastructure technologies we use are Redis, Nginx, Ansible, Docker, Capistrano, and Websockets.
All of our abilities and expertise would not make a lot of sense if we didn’t know how to put it to use the right way. The ability to create a following and let our voice be heard means having the pleasure of meeting a lot of cool people with great ideas that we can help bring to life. Marketing in that sense is more than just lead generation and deal-closing. For us, this is a way to express our passion through the production of quality content.
We use Google Analytics and Serpstat as the ultimate tools that allow us to get to know our customers and visitors better. Through them, we learn a lot about ourselves.
Shakuro Blog is our main content delivery tool. Twice a week we share our knowledge, our skills, and experience with a true belief that if we all contribute to the knowledge pool, the level of our work, as well as the appreciation, will grow responsively.
Quora is a great way to tune into the real people’s questions the industry is facing. You can help with guidance, practical advice, and even bust some myths.
Medium is the most successful attempt to turn us back to reading stories, the habit that got killed by twitter and all the 1-minute long posts. Medium is there to save us from the ad-infested platforms and create a distraction-free reading experience. We contribute regularly to UX Planet, iOS, Android, and Startup publications as well as our own.
A bunch of other lifesavers
The list is far from being complete obviously, and for a reason, we’ve kept a lot of our secret weapons uhm… secret, but we do use spell checkers like Grammarly, a performance measurement tool like Jira, the Time Doctor software to track time spent on feature implementation and task completion.
On top of that, YouTube is a helpful source for any business looking to be on the cutting edge in 2018. My personal daily assistants are Multitran, Thesaurus, and Unsplash. I believe everyone has their loadouts of productivity tools like TV shows these days. Occasionally it’s cool to take a look at someone’s set and compare it to yours.