Hi! I am Olga and I am extremely curious on collective ideas exchange and development, how it influences collaborative work, and how well various tools fit into that.
I love to explore how people think, ideate, operate and manage information flow, what`s usefull, comfortable, intuitive, valid in the context of tools they use
Thing is, one same app is used differently by different people: the same interface & user flow is valid under very different scenarios. This consideration fascinates and delights me all the time: we, humans, have our own meaning, and we place it into a tool`s form to solve a particular task. Sometimes a tool turns out a Procrustean bed. Sometimes it helps us think, improvise and see things anew, hence, unlocking our potential. Isn`t it awesome?
The tools are made for humans, not the other way around: they should clarify, simplify, enhance, and accelerate everything you have in mind. When that is so, they empower you to create together effortlessly.
Hint: if you read it on mobile, click on the first card below 👇 to see the full content, and simply keep swiping 👉 from there on. It’s a 10-minute read.
As it happened, I have been working as a remote entrepreneur for about 15 years. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with highly skilled professionals across 20+ industries over a wild array of cross-discipline projects. Curiosity is a bitch, but a lovely one.
I figured, it might be of help to share some field notes - some personal use cases- as so many people around the world are getting used to a distant work environment, restructure to an online-offline mix, need to be even leaner as a company or preparing to launch one - and who likely doesn’t have extra or any money. These tools are either free or free to the point.
I have prioritized my list based on the level of information & communication complexity these tools manage - and the difference of my user scenarios on mobile and desktop. I limited it to the toolbox we would use for early stages of a startup, a place, a project or a gig. Meaning: before hardcore coding, building, engineering, producing (debatable thouth; some things are simpler than they seem).
Set aside the utility purpose, this list is a thank you note to all these awesome companies. You have made life so much easier for me and the people I was and am fortunate enough to work with.
It’s a personal experience, so take it with a grain of salt. Common sense still works miracles last time I checked.
Quick technical notes:
I work with Dell Latitude 7200 2-in-1 with Windows 10 Pro; Moto Z 3 Play with Android 9.
Here is a wild estimate of my time split for desktop/mobile/tablet (understanding, that the last few months involved way more desktop zooms than usual). I personally shift between the two modes every other day or every week. But the medium number would be a lie, because different types of usage influence my experience and adoption differently.
any stage of active business negotiations: 20%/80%/0%
Use cases: Making quick notes, recording audio ideas, attaching files. Plus hashtags for easy search, and pinning messages for the stuff I use frequently.
Functionality: There is a shared media tab which is essentially a library of your pictures, audio, links accessible via the profile link.
Use cases: Edit notes, move bits to other documents or apps, open links from the desktop and such. Ping pong ideas between devices.
Flaws: One major limitation is that audio file is in *.ogg, so you can`t easily integrate it into other apps or platforms (as in: available to listen directly). I have not found any good solutions to that issue.
Use cases: Rather a tool to catch on the news, exchange ideas, make a call or schedule a meeting, send links and such, to my taste. I usually check in what`s up on mobile, and unless it`s a simple question, I revert to continue working from the desktop.
Use cases: Basically, to write anything bigger than an abstract, but be still suitable for a messenger to read it in, plus edit or move notes and links and materials to other apps, or to go between chats, browsers and apps. When applicable, we screenshot bits of conversations to insert those into a project or research outline to keep the context and cut down the time to collect it all around.
Functionaity: Set aside a shared media tab, there is folders tab to filter groups by labels that you see fit. Each folder allows up to 5 pinned conversations at a time, which helps to easily find comms that are alligned with my current business focus.
Wunderlist was recently bought out by Microsoft, the new name is ToDo, and its nearly as good as it was before. Nearly. Oh, well. The pain of a loss is still fresh though.
Use cases: Personal or business, you can setup a reminder for each list or a task within the app, integrate to a calendar, or share / assign tasks. Intuitive and minimalistic interface design, one love.
Field notes: Wunderlist`s been my personal go-to planner for years, and I used to switch between mobile and desktop versions depending if I need to type a lot or not.
Flaws: ToDo for desktop is so not great, that I dropped using one. I mean: sub-task tree is shifted to the left part of the screen, so editing is highly uncomfortable. I mean: why? Why did they fuck up a Wunderlist perfectly neat interface design fitting a user scenario logic & editing usability? I am in pain!
Use cases: For a business team, with multiple chats separated by topics. Well, you know.
Flaws: its capacity is extremely limited if you have way too many people chatting in the same workplace.
Use cases: I usually use on desktop when I need to send a file from the computer; plus it`s easier to read across multiple sub-chats.
Field notes: To be honest, I have been in Slack only when the team desires to use it for about a few years by now. Team’s comfort is the priority. That being said, Telegram with folders tab casually beats it.
to name a few) many times, but sensations-based reality suggests that my most frequent user scenario is this one described above. It’s been in use for several years and it sticked.
Use cases: I use them on desktop most of the time, so I can also type notes, or share screens, or send links easily.
Flaws: Chat sucks. It`s useless and uncomfortable during the call (specially if it`s a group call or a conference - it`s a cascade of messages and - brrr - notifications). And you cant import any of it afterwards. We either exchange notes in messengers or via email.
Field notes: I loved them since forever. And I am in awe with how they handle 16 figure growth, during the lockdown, fixing bugs and rolling out updates on the go. It’s incredibly difficult IT-wise!
copy and send links or make screenshots to send to someone
read, add comments, edit notes
Architecture: Coda’s and Notion’s method of organization is based on an information unit.
It means that you can add any type of asset (text, table, graph, audio, video), and get them connected via formulas or meta-tags. There are many templates, shortcuts, integrations, or add-ons to insert documents, types of text formatting, and such.
Say, you can upload and interlink a CRM, setup a sales funnel, put together product assumptions, navigate company registration, accounting and legal included. Or structure a festival’s schedule, including timetables, documents, equipment, artists materials and such. Or outline early hardware device specifications, with design, equipment, electronics and software layouts. All that in a matter of an hour or a few hours. Imagine that!
Use cases: Browsing to check if the design looks fine on mobile.
Use cases: Register a domain, with SSL or not, make landing pages with CTAs, add analytics to measure it all; cross-wire to SMM.
We would have at least design docs or specifications at this point. Say, of a target market and customer assumptions, product assumptions, sales ideas, website specifications, name for the business and branding ideas, some references for the company style and such.
Use cases: Browsing; either to see what’s in the works or to check if the design looks fine on mobile.
Now, I am personally learning how to make simple b&w sketches & prototypes for the software or for industrial design or ping pong ideas on a look & feel or a user flow in Figma now, and I love it.
I draw like a broken legs chicken (for real), but i need to transfer and communicate visual ideas from time to time, and desire to do it better. I can snitch or copy an outline from a picture or a design or a scheme, and while simply, it’s a surprisingly incremental improvement.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, and I thank you for yours.
Please, feel free to leave comments, questions, links and ideas, and do share around, if you found this article usefull. Drop us a line if you are intesrested in collaborative tools as much as we do: