As the design industry becomes increasingly demanding productivity tools are a vital part of keeping a speedy workflow, without compromising on quality. Waste precious time and your work becomes more expensive; save it and you either boost your profits or offer a better package to your clients and win more gigs.
It’s not only a freelance thing either. Productivity tools cut out much of the mundane tasks and free up more time for working on what really counts – something every designer strives for. So today I want to run through some of the productivity tools I’ve been testing lately, plus a few I’ve been using for years.
Productivity Tools for Project Efficiency
For freelancers time really is money and Toggl is the app to help you make the most of those precious hours, minutes and seconds. First of all Toggl helps you keep track of your own working hours, but it also clocks everything into a time sheet so your clients know exactly how many hours you’ve toiled away.
In a similar vein this great little Chrome extension, built by Nash Vail, tracks the amount of time you waste on Facebook and other sites getting in the way of your workflow. Seeing the numbers add up to a grand total certainly hits home when you put your hourly rate next to it – the perfect addition to Togglr and you can download the extension from GitHub.
I’ve shamelessly fallen for this app over the last couple of months. Slack is a communication tool for remote teams that combines group instant messaging with drag-and-drop file sharing and other productivity features. The great thing about it (aside from workflow) is it keeps that all-important bond between remote team members alive.
Speckfox is a fantastic little platform that makes creating website specifications a breeze. It’s a steal at $15 USD a month too, and you can also try it out on one project for free.
Precursor makes light work of team prototyping and collaboration by keeping everything incredibly simple. The app’s interactive layer system means you can create complex user flows in real-time without the headaches. Take a look at this quick tutorial for a preview of what you can do.
Pixate is a free platform for designing and prototyping native mobile apps and it’s pretty damn good. You’ll also find a host of videos, tutorials and demos in the learn section to help you get the most from Pixate.
InVision is another free offering that does just about everything you could want from a “prototyping, collaboration and workflow platform”. High profile users include Adidas, Adobe, Twitter and many more – so you’ll be in good company when you try this one out.
Productivity Tools for Graphics & visuals
Hype from the Tumult team helps you create simple animated HTML5 content without writing a single line of code.
Tinychart is a cracking little app that lets you knock up simple graphs and bar charts by simply inputting your data. It’s a nice visual touch for informational content and it takes no time to put them together.
If you’re looking for a new spin on your video content then this is the app for you. Tiltology allows you to create a more immersive video experience on mobile with touch or tilt interactions and the results are pretty stunning.
Affinity has earned itself the title of a genuine Photoshop competitor, but it’s only available on Mac for now. The biggest advantage is it doesn’t come with the subscription model that has irked many loyal PS users and it is a quality bit of software too. I’m not sure it beats the years of work begind PS just yet and neglecting Windows users needs to be put right – but there could well be a legitimate PS alternative on the horizon.
Productivity tools from design to code
Sublime Text 3
If you delve into code yourself then there’s only one text editor in my opinion. There are other good options out there, but I still can’t find one that performs as solidly as Sublime Text – especially on larger projects. Smooth operation, multi-select and the incredibly customisable auto-completes set this apart from every editor I’ve used.
If you’re into the whole Bootstrap thing then Pingendo is a prototype app you definitely want to try out. You can drag and drop your layouts, edit designs and see the code appear right in front of your eyes for a fully responsive finish. You’ll get an idea of how to work with the app from the video above (which is more than the website offers).
If you feel like your coding skills need some fine-tuning then this resource from Tevko is definitely worth a look. You can try random code challenges, turn a Dribble shot into code or try your hands at solving a random Github issue. The random element makes this a great addition to the likes of Codecademy and a refreshing break from the coding course format.
Random productivity tools for a better workflow
Smart.me is a free add-on that lets you turn new tabs into a customised dashboard. All the resources you use most are one click away, while a number of content feeds keep you up-to-date with all the important stuff. It makes browsing quicker and also helps cut down the distractions.
Agile Domain Search
Domain names are a vital part of branding and they largely shape the conceptual side of the design process, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find available domains.
Agile Domain Search is a pretty good pace to start the brainstorming process; it helps you rule out taken domains, as expected, but the suggestions are surprisingly useful. You may not get a domain from the list it gives you, but you’ll often find a few suggestions good enough to spark a new idea.
If you find yourself regularly opening up a word processor and you haven’t tried Hemingway yet, then now is the time. It’s a distraction free app you can download (paid) or use online (for free) and it makes the early drafting stages a much smoother process.
Sadly, I don’t have the time to try out every tool that peaks my interest so if you have some first-hand recommendations you can vouch for, let me know. I’d like to expand these lists over time with new tools I try out and your welcome recommendations – so don’t hesitate to get in touch!