The 10 Best Tools for Boosting Digital Productivity
You’ve probably seen the news of companies starting to slow-roll their ‘return to office’ plans, with many not planning to reconvene in person until 2022. As we, like many, have settled into our distributed team structure, we’ve gotten pickier about digital productivity and collaboration resources. A few have proven to be essential to how we collaborate, communicate, coordinate, and conviviate. (I made that last one up for the purpose of consonance — I mean play!)
In May, we internally crowdsourced a list of our Dragon Army team’s favorite resources for reading, learning, and generally making your conversations more interesting. (Which ones are you using? Do tell.) In this listicle, we’re focusing on boosting productivity and connections in a digital environment.
Whether you’re brainstorming, file sharing, or building relationships, chances are, there’s a slew of digital platforms for you to use. This select group has been deemed the winners by our team of UX, UI, app and mobile development, and content pros.
Collaborate. The transformative power of shared ideas…even outside of a shared space.
Miro is an online collaborative whiteboarding platform for teams. It’s like a physical whiteboard and face-to-face work sessions, but better.
Why we love it: We use the platform to brainstorm and collaborate with one another and our partners simultaneously and as needed. The platform offers various templates, including digital sticky notes and agile workflow diagrams, and the ability to zoom in and out gives you micro and macro views of whatever brilliance is emerging.
AirTable is like a spreadsheet on steroids. It’s a way to collect, organize, and manage ideas, content, projects, audit data, and more at scale.
Why we love it: AirTable enables content management, web audits, competitive research, and so much more. It’s secure and easy to share and collaborate with clients. The platform makes it simple to embed content, links, and visuals.
Trello is a visual collaboration tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to help people organize and prioritize ideas, schedules, deadlines, and more.
Why we love it: “Post-it” like cards allow for easy ideation and sizing. Team members can collaborate and move concepts or categorize as needed. Its flexible interface allows us to use it for everything from creative outlines to task lists. In truth, Trello does a lot more than serve as a collaboration tool. It’s also an excellent project management and calendaring platform.
Communicate. From anywhere, in any format, with anyone.
Billed as a digital project management assistant, Standuply is a bot that runs stand-up meetings in text format in Slack. With it, teams can organize and participate in stand-ups from anywhere.
Why we love it: From weekly sentiment check-ins to make sure our team members are happy and healthy, to scheduled reminders to check in about the important stuff (like remembering to record our hours daily!), we use it to communicate in pre-set formats and times. No one person has to be in charge of starting the conversation. Win.
Screencastify is a free Chrome extension that “lives” in your browser and makes it easy to record, edit, and share screen recordings up to 5 minutes in length.
Why we love it: We use Screencastify to explain ideas and issues to teammates and clients without having to write an email. You can embed your webcam for easy explainers, preview and edit your video, and share or export directly to a video file. And because it uses a Google Account and GDrive for space, there is almost no limit on the number of recordings you can do.
Coordinate. Show and tell. Gather feedback. Iterate in a shared space.
The app describes itself as “an accessible workspace that is friendly to non-designers including developers, product managers, copywriters, and more.”
Why we love it: Coming to you as a non-designer who works closely with designers, Zeplin is not only necessary, it’s simple and really fun to use. The fact that the app integrates with just about every design and collaboration platform means that just about everyone can get in and participate, helping to guarantee that when a design or project is deemed ‘done’ in Zeplin, it actually is.
The Google Workspace (The Artist Formerly Known as The GSuite)
GSuite has become so ubiquitous that it actually gets a bit overlooked when talking about collaboration. (It’s like the Tiger Woods rule of technology.) Almost every task you need to do is connected, sharable, and collaborative in the GSuite, from Project Plans, Estimates, Requirements, Contracts, Content, Presentations, and on and on and on.
“One thing that I think we all take for granted is the Google Suite. Slides, Docs, Drive, Sheets — we use that stuff all the time, and they are all very team-focused, allowing multiple people to access and edit things simultaneously.”Andy Makely, Lead Developer at Dragon Army
For those who appreciate choice, Paper (a collaborative document-editing service) is an excellent alternative to Google Docs.
Why we love it: Dropbox Paper makes note-taking, research, and documentation fast and easy. Plus, it’s got some cool built-in extras like automatic drag-and-drop image galleries, Youtube video embeds, easily organizable lists, and an automatic table of contents.
Conviviate. A made-up word for the act of coming together for good cheer and good fun.
Jackbox Games produces fun online party games like YOU DON’T KNOW JACK and Trivia Murder Party.
Why we love it: Zoom happy hours are fun (especially with an interesting topic or pets) but sometimes some friendly competition is just what the culture doctor ordered. (Plus, you might have heard, but we have roots and cred in video game production so we always appreciate a good online playspace.)
You know what Peloton is, so we won’t describe it here. But we’ll defend its place on the leaderboard. It’s in your home (win: easy). It’s collaborative (win: community). It challenges you to do new things (win: exploration and growth). In other words, it’s designed to be a perfect single- or multi-player game.
Why we love it: Is it an exercise class? Yes. Is it a cult? We’d argue against that label (please don’t tell Robin). Can you work out with friends? Most definitely. (Hit me up at dragonmama262!) Either way, it’s fun to organize a virtual group of friends to take a class together, and you’ll all feel happier once those endorphins hit.
We’re certainly not the only folks considering how to work together well in this enduring digital environment. Our partners at AIGA recently shared ideas about hybrid teaching in a great conversation about “Roomies and Zoomies.” And Seth Godin made some really good points recently about the evolving structure and role of the modern office space, and what we need to make it work.
And after more than a year of working (all or mostly) remotely with teams and clients, you probably have your own list of go-to platforms. See one we’ve missed? Connect with us on LinkedIn to share.