6 things I can't live without as a web designer/developer

6 things can't live without as web designer developer

6 things I can't live without as a web designer/developer 

I'm a sucker for seeing how people work and what goes on behind the scenes. I can't help it that I'm curious about the tools people use, the products they swear by, and the things they can't live without. If that makes me nosy, then so be it! ;)

Some of my favourite content that other designers/developers create is the more personal posts where I get to see how they run their businesses and get their work done. There are a million and one ways to get to the same final result and I'm always fascinated to compare my own processes with my peers'. It's cool when there's overlap but it's equally interesting to see our differences, you know?

Today I'm giving you a look at 6 of my "must haves" to do my work as a web designer/developer. Some of them are going to be pretty standard for web designer/developers everywhere but others are a little more personal. Either way, they help me to get the job done right every time!

Note: If you like these kind of personal/business posts, be sure to check out the gear I use everyday in my business and life and a look at my typical day as a web designer/developer!

Alright, let's jump right in.

1. Squarespace account

This is a no-brainer and of course it's the first tool on my list! I literally spend hours every day using Squarespace and am a total fan. I currently have the commerce plan because I sell products on my website (shameless plug for my Website Growth Tracker) and love having them easily for sale within the platform I already use. I run my primary site charlotteohara.ca on Squarespace but also run/manage loads of other websites through the same account. Squarespace is an "all in one" platform and it makes things infinitely easier having everything in one place under the same account and login info. 

Related : Why I build client websites on Squarespace and How to easily find out which Squarespace template a website is using (video tutorial)

2. Google Drive

This is where I store pretty much every file, template, document, blog post etc. that I work off of in my business so it definitely deserves a spot near the top of this list! I used to use DropBox but Google Drive has mostly taken over. 

Google Drive is a lifesaver because I can store all my files within their cloud platform and access it from any device (phone, laptop, tablet, whatever). They give you a TON of space even within their free plan and it's the cost for additional storage space is very reasonable.

I also use Google Drive to share files with clients (you can read about how I do this with my Client Questionnaire here) and give them access to documents that we can both view, edit and update in real time. I simply update the sharing setting on a particular file, send them the link and watch the magic happen. The same thing goes for accessing photos for client websites. I simply have my clients to upload all images/files into a shared Google Folder and send me the link. To do this, create a new folder in your Google Drive > click the drop down menu on the Folder name > Select Share > Fill out the sharing settings. See screenshot below:

 
Google Folder Sharing Settings
 

Not only does this clear up space in my inbox, it also makes things way more organized. I don't have to worry about storing files ON my computer because it's all in the cloud and is accessible from all devices. Google Drive makes it easy to stay organized and it's where I create and manage master versions of important files (e.g., invoices, work agreement, client questionnaire, getting started guide, etc.). From here, I simply make a copy of the master file and customize it as needed for individual projects and clients. 

I also use Google Drive to draft and store blog posts (as well as blog post images). I used to use Pages but made the switch and will never go back!

3. Project checklist

I'm almost embarrassed to share this in case you think that I'm disorganized or frazzled but WHATEVER, I think it's important to share the things I actually can't live without and my project checklist is one of 'em!

I have a web design/development checklist that I reference on every single project to make sure that all deliverables are being met and that I don't forget anything. Generally speaking, most of my work falls under my Website Design & Development package but there are times when I take on work with modified scopes, extra requirements, different items, etc. I want to make sure that everything is being delivered in the right order, that all supporting materials are delivered to the client, meetings are scheduled and held, ongoing/post-project documents are provided, etc.

I have a master version of my project checklist that I update for each client. I always print off a physical copy so I can add notes as needed, cross things off the list, write down date, etc. It's old school but it works!

My project checklist helps ensure the best possible client experience AND helps keep me sane.  

4. Mouse

If you've never tried to build and design a website before, this one might surprise you but my fellow designers/devs know what's up! I get my work done so much faster when I use a mouse (seriously, it's insane), and the process is easier, more precise and efficient. I didn't realize how much I missed my house until I started using one again and I realized how much of a difference it made to my work and experience. 

A mouse is inexpensive, light, and a total game changer. I have a bluetooth one but you could also use one that plugs is if that's more your style. Even if you aren't doing traditional web design/development work, a mouse will make whatever you're doing infinitely better. Whether it's building a website, styling a design element, writing a blog post or email to your newsletter, having a mouse makes it better. 

Death by the touchpad is all I'm going to say. 

5. Headphones

Ever since I stopped working from home, I've done most of my work at a co-working space, coffee shop or the library. It's been a positive change but one thing I have to take into account is just house noisy public places can be! This can (obviously) be very distracting so I choose to drown out that background noise entirely. 

I use headphones every single day and there's no doubt that I wouldn't be able to do my work as well without them. I have a basic pair of in-ear Apple headphones that I use most of the time because they are easy to throw into my bag and I don't have to worry about breaking them. I also have a heavy-duty pair of noise cancelling headphones that I break out on occasion (when I really need to GSD). They were more of an investment but they truly are superior, I just find them a little bulky for everyday use. 

6. Notebook

Yes, I'm a techie who still relies on pen & paper! I would be hysterical if I ever lost my notebook because I use it every day and it keeps me organized. I prefer a physical 'to do' list where I can cross things off, add items as they come up, make notes, assign dates, etc. I still use Asana as my project management tool of choice but I would be lost without my physical notebook. 

My notebook is also where I write out notes for my blog posts (before I create the drafts in a Google Doc), do sketches for web design, take meeting notes, brainstorm, etc. You name it, it probably ends up in my notebook at one time or another. I am constantly ripping out pages and removing content that is no longer important or relevant, but it's a system that works for me. 

Many people are surprised to see that I sketch out and do so much design work in a physical notebook because there are a ton of wonderful online tools available, but I know what works best for me! I usually start with a quick sketch in my notepad and then take that "vision" online when I'm ready to start with the actual build. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at some of the things I can't live without as a web designer/developer and that it offers insight into what I use to run my business and do my work. Obviously there are loads of other items, tools and resources that I use and love but without a doubt, these 6 things top the list and have held up over time.

Now it's your turn to tell me, what things can't you live without? If you're a designer/developer, are there any items that make it onto your list as well? Anything that you use all the time that I didn't include here? I'd love to know so leave me a note in the comments below!


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Charlotte O'Hara

Vancouver