This week I’ve really been focusing on fine-tuning how I go about dealing with queries, contracts, gathering content from clients to make sure that I have a system that works, and that is clear to me and those I’m working with. There is something so calming and satisfying about getting your ducks in a row and figuring out which systems and tools work best for you when it comes to your business processes.
I made a beast of a document detailing every single step in the process of building a website from start to finish, and alongside it listed the tools I use in each of those steps. I thought it might be useful to share those tools with you, and tell you a bit about how and where I use them.
Since I build websites with Squarespace, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but I'm trying to be more intentional about using my own site as a central hub for useful documents, downloads, questionnaires, contact forms and so on. With so many great tools out there, it's easy to spread your information, files and admin process over a gazillion platforms. Some things I'm doing to centralise my processes are:
- Crafting a more detailed quote form for my site enquiries
- Adding downloadable PDF's to my site which helps guide content generation for clients
- Uploading crucial site information to each client's Squarespace site as a password-protected page
- Creating website style guides within Squarespace when I start designing each site.
I use Asana to keep track of EVERYTHING. I've spent a fair amount of time getting overwhelmed by a number of things that need to be done, nervous that I've forgotten something, or that I've overlooked a critical task. Asana tracks your work and measures your progress from start to finish and although it’s designed as a tool for teams, I find it really helpful even when I'm not working with a team on a project. My best part about Asana is the shooting unicorn that appears every time you tick something off your to-do list.
Evernote is another life saver. They call themselves ‘your second brain’ and it really is true! I use it to capture notes, ideas, plans, inspiring websites, screenshots, quotes, and snippets of code. I use it both when researching information for blog posts, as well as bookmarking inspiring sites and resources I come across on a day to day basis.
The webclipper, which you can install on your browser bar, lets you save screenshots or bookmark sites you want to come back to, and the phone app lets you take pictures or make a quick note on the go.
I use Wave for all my invoicing and quotes. It’s really easy to use, it’s free (!) and you can customise your quotes by adding your logo and colours to the invoice, which makes your invoices look really professional. It also tracks your income, provides reminders for outstanding invoices, and lets you send receipts with a click of a button. It's one of my favourite tools which I use almost every day.
Pages is a word processor developed by Apple. I use Pages to create notes, workbooks, worksheets, ebooks and downloadable resources for clients. I use it to design student notes for workshops that I run, and downloadable PDF's for my website. I usually write all the content in Google Docs, lay it out in Pages, design a cover in Canva, then save it as a PDF. Here are some examples, one from an Instagram ebook I put together, and the other from a 'Preparing for Your Website Build' resource.
6. Google Docs
I love Google Docs! I almost always have a tab open on my browser with a few documents on the go at one time. Google Docs are great because you're able to work on a document with a team without having to save files and email them back and forth. It’s also helpful to be able to check on the progress of a working document when someone else is busy with it (a bit like spying), and to share files either to view, comment or edit. Some ways I use Google Docs are:
- To share client questionnaires
- To craft new client documents
- To write and edit blog posts (I’m working on this blog post on Google Docs right now)
- To share work in progress and get feedback
- To invite someone to edit or proofread a document I’m working on
- To conduct email interviews
7. Preview for Mac
Preview is a tool that comes with your Mac, which allows you to ‘preview’ files like photos, PDF’s and .pngs. My favourite thing about this program is the annotation tool, with which you can make notes, add text blocks, circle things, add arrows, and most importantly, insert your electronic signature. Signing digital documents is so much easier with preview.
I don't think Pinterest needs an introduction, do you? Although many Pinterest users are interested in fashion and food, I have found it to be a wonderful tool for research and inspiration. I usually go here when I’m looking for design inspiration, for fresh ideas on site layout, for ideas on colour palettes, inspiring imagery and logo ideas. (It’s also really hard not to be distracted by beautiful homes, indoor plants and mid-century furniture when I’m there!)
Creating a secret Pinterest board to share with your client, or asking them to share their inspiration boards with you helps you to understand their vision for their product, business or brand..
I could go on and on about Canva, but I’ll try not to. I use Canva for adding very simple design elements on my own site, putting together colour palette ideas for a client, adding social media graphics like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter banners, and I sometimes use it for slide show presentations for workshops. Oh, and I've recently spruced up my blog adding a styled 'pinnable' graphic for each post. I used Canva to do that.
Lightroom, by Adobe, is a photo processor and image organiser which allows you to view, organise, and edit batches of photos. I use this to edit my own photography, and for batch editing and resizing client images for their sites.
Dropbox is where I set up shared folders and files for clients to upload their site images, logo and design files, and documents, all of which form the basis of their site content.
When clients have a large batch of photos they need to send through at once, WeTransfer is a great option because the files come through and then ‘self-destruct’ after a day or two. What I like about it, is that even for people who are averse to using new technology or tools, WeTransfer makes the process very easy.
13. Favicon Generator
You know the little icon that appears in your browser next to the domain name of a site you’re visiting? That tiny little image? That’s a favicon. Here’s a more technical description:
I use http://www.favicomatic.com to generate a unique icon for each client’s site. I should probably go about this in a more professional way, but it’s such a little image that this is working for me right now.
Sometimes writing things out just feels so laborious! When I need to communicate something visual and actually show clients how to do something rather than explain it over email, I like to make a quick screencast using Quicktime. QuickTime Player is a free multimedia player. You can use it to view many kinds of files, including video, audio, still images, graphics. I use Quicktime to make short instructional videos to send through to clients on topics like:
- How to access your payment and billing on Squarespace
- How to write your first blog post
- How to navigate your way through Mailchimp
I also use it to ‘show’ people their website rather than sending through screenshots so that they get a more dynamic sense of how the site behaves.
Typeform is a tool for building “beautiful, engaging, and conversational online forms, surveys, quizzes, and landing pages...” It's wonderfully designed, clean and inviting. It actually makes you want to complete a survey (if you can believe that!)
I use Typeform to:
- Set up surveys for blog posts I’m researching
- Ask for feedback about ideas I’m thinking about implementing
- Devise questionnaires for new clients
- Invite feedback from clients on their experience of working with me
I put together a (somewhat random) survey to introduce you to Typeform so you can get a feel for it. Here it is!
16. Paper & Pencil
This is hands-down the most useful set of tools And they never go offline! I have heaps of notebooks and stacks of paper at the ready whenever I’m working. Sometimes the most constructive thing I can do is step away from my computer, get out a notebook and write, scribble, draw things, sketch and plan. It somehow helps my brain work in a different way, make connections and figure things out. Don’t underestimate the power of the paper & pencil combo!
A last tip. Once I’m done with reading through all the site content, and I've reached the planning stage, I like to get out my little stack of colourful post-its, make titles and categories based on the content and stick them all over the wall. I can arrange and rearrange to my heart's content until I come up with a flow of information that works well. I take a photo and keep it on hand for when I start to lay out the site structure in Squarespace.
That's it for now. If you have some go-to tools that you use on a daily basis I'd love to hear about them.
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