Design agency owners, what tools are you using?

over 1 year ago from , Founder & Creative Director @ Dreamten

We’re a 100% remote team and rely heavily on tools. We’ve spent a ton of time trying to find the perfect tool for every job. Here are the ones we’ve grown to love:


Design / Dev

Design - Primarily Sketch, Occasionally Photoshop

Sketch is currently the absolute best UX/UI tool available. Between our team we’ve opened Photoshop maybe once in the past several months, though it used to be our go to tool for design. Waiting for the day when we can cancel our CC subscriptions.

Design Feedback - RedPen

It’s had some downtime lately which is annoying, but overall it’s the simplest and easiest feedback tool for our clients. We’ve tried Invision and while it's powerful, it was too bloated for our clients.

Design Storyboarding & History - Custom solution using Craft CMS & RedPen

Read more about this here.

Versioning - BitBucket & GitHub

BitBucket for private repos (because they're free). GitHub for public repos (because they're free).

Code Deployment - DeployBot

Beautiful and simple interface.

Prototyping - We’ve tried Marvel, Atomic, and a few others, but haven’t settled on one app we love yet.

Screenshots & Uploads - CloudApp

Helps us take quick screenshots and upload files. Very useful and saves us a ton of time.


Business

Accounting & Invoicing - Freshbooks

Not the sexiest invoicing system ever, but it's dead simple, has tons of integrations, and seems to be the most complete saas invoicing product available.

Project Management - Flow & Basecamp

We occasionally use Basecamp with clients, but they're generally reluctant to adopt it as part of their workflow. Flow is absolutely critical for our internal project management and we use it heavily every day.

Credit Card Processing - Stripe

Best and most flexible payment processor ever.

Payroll - Gusto (Formerly ZenPayroll)

Payroll can be an expensive nightmare, but believe it or not Gusto actually makes it FUN! and inexpensive! They even file tax and government paperwork for you! Can't say enough amazing things about them.

Email - Google Apps

Rock solid and completely reliable for us over 6+ years.

Password Storage - Passpack

Terrible design but brilliant and free password storage/security.

Filesharing - Dropbox

We store literally all of our project and company files on Dropbox, making it easy to share with clients and our team, and make sure everyone always has the latest files.


Would love to hear what other agency owners are using these days. Please share!

10 comments

  • Meanu NormiaMeanu Normia, over 1 year ago

    Project management tool

    ProofHub Full packed with most advanced features like Gantt charts, reporting, resource management, proofing, group chat. Amazing tool. Plan starts from $0

    1 point
  • Denis RojcykDenis Rojcyk, over 1 year ago

    Tools don't matter

    1 point
  • Tyrale BloomfieldTyrale Bloomfield, over 1 year ago (edited over 1 year ago )

    Slack, Sketch, Invision, Framer.js

    In that order.

    0 points
  • Gabe WillGabe Will, over 1 year ago

    I haven't seen anyone mention what they're using for scheduling projects. We've checked out Forecast and some others, but still haven't settled on a service. Right now we're doing terrible things with Google Sheets that it was never intended for.

    Anyone want to chime in on this?

    0 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 1 year ago

    To avoid repeating already suggested software, I'll only add the ones that we use and weren't already mentioned:

    Quip at it's core, quip is a collaborative text editor that allows for comments and conversations based on a specific selection. It does however support tasks, attachments and even spreadsheets, making it incredibly useful for project management. It also has apps for every platform.

    MindNode 2: Mind Node isn't marginally better than the other mind mapping tools out there, but it feels like the simplest and most bullshit-free. Also, it offers apps for both OSX and iOS (no Windows or Android - sorry).

    Photoshop: While Sketch does have a lot of advantages for UI work, and we do use it for smaller or some internal projects, it is my opinion that it still can't come close to the power of PS - as bad as it can be. Performance is also a little better on OSX since 10.11

    0 points
  • Martin LeeMartin Lee, over 1 year ago

    Quickbooks for accounting, Skype for communication, Trello for task management, Bitbucket for code versioning, Google Apps for email and documents, custom solution for invoicing, Photoshop and html/css for design and prototyping.

    0 points
  • Bryant HughesBryant Hughes, over 1 year ago

    Communication

    Slack Pretty much what everyone uses it for. Daily BS'ing and project related stuff. We've got site downtime alerts configured to ping us in here as well. Giphy integration FTW

    Asana For all internal project, task management, running meetings, tracking OKRs. LOVE Asana. The new redesign is amazing as well.

    15Five End of week status reports and light OKR planning. We're just starting to use this tomorrow, so don't have too much to report for now. Heard lots of great things from other remote teams though.

    Sqwiggle Being able to see people and quick one off chats (we're a remote team). Definitely seems creepy, but I really like it. One stat I heard before was that the average Skype call was ~12 minutes and the average Sqwiggle call was < 2 minutes. It's great for the allow for "tap on the shoulder" conversations for a remote team.

    Gmail Email, duh.

    Basecamp Solely for project related communication and task management with clients at this point. Probably going to try and move them to Asana at some point and get rid of a tool. Basecamp 3 could be interesting though...

    Google Hangouts Group chats

    Design

    Sketch By far the best tool for all the design work we do. Photo..what?

    Invision Client reviews and handoffs. Had some issues with this recently though.

    Xmind Design planning: sitemaps, user flows, etc.. It's a pretty basic piece of software, but perfect for creating documents that don't need superfluous aesthetics and favor quick organization vs. style.

    Development

    Sublime Text Writing Code

    Codebase HQ Git hosting. Github is expensive for agencies with tons of projects!

    Craft CMS By far the best CMS we've used. We try and contribute to plugins and dev as much as possible.

    Foundation Framework of choice for site and app projects

    React JS Framework of choice for interface (and native!) projects

    Business

    Harvest Time tracking and sending invoices. We probably don't automate this as much as we could, but it gets the job done.

    Xero Accounting and book keeping. Not the most intuitive or easy to use, but it makes our accountant's life easier.

    Dropbox Filesharing. Mostly project related files (designs, fonts, brand assets) etc..

    Drive All of our documents and spreadsheets. Both client and internal.

    Wow, we use a lot!

    0 points
    • Philip LesterPhilip Lester, over 1 year ago (edited over 1 year ago )

      Awesome list and lots of solid choices there, thanks so much for this. 15Five is one I hadn't heard of and looks amazing.

      0 points