A large and growing percentage of design and development teams collaborate remotely. But whether it’s from across town or across the world, online collaboration can make it easier to get collective feedback, to get designs approved, and to streamline work for all parties. And while there are dozens of online collaboration tools available for teams and organizations of all sorts, all are not created equal.
Online collaboration tools run the gamut. From free browser plugins to paid commercial-grade applications, they come in every price bracket. And some are designed with specific industries in mind! So before selecting an online collaboration tool, it’s important to consider what your team needs. While the right tools can help your team work faster and be more productive, the wrong ones could cause critical issues, delaying important deadlines and decreasing client and collaborator satisfaction.
A Detailed Needs Assessment
Even in the same industry, not all firms or teams will go about accomplishing tasks the same way. Before looking for a collaboration tool, think about the tasks your team completes which would benefit from live collaboration ability. Would you benefit from a shared digital whiteboard? Text chatting or voice chatting? Shared calendars and task reminder alerts? Team member check boxes? Mockup sharing?
Make a prioritized list of your team’s needs to keep in mind, and factor that by the size and number of your teams. If you have more collaborators across the organization, you should consider an enterprise-level tool. If you have a smaller number of collaborators, you might be able to get away with paying less (or possibly nothing) for a tool that does everything you need.
And we’ve collected information on some of the top collaboration tools to help narrow down your search.
Trello allows different team members to access a customizable shared to-do list which is modified in real-time. The look and feel of the Trello task management system is unique and a little fun; it looks like a shared collection of cards or post-it notes, which can contain documents, files, photos, and more. The Trello system helps project leaders break the project down into tasks, so that when tasks are completed, a shared progress meter gets updated. Trello can’t allow team members to share or actively collaborate on complex tasks: but it will send reminders and help ensure that tasks on a project get done. And the best part? Trello is absolutely free.
Yammer is a special enterprise-level business-based social network which was designed to be used internally for colleagues. This platform is web-based, but translates easily to mobile and tablet use, and allows team members and coworkers to quickly chat, share documents, and manage projects. It even integrates with SharePoint, which increases the ease with which different groups of collaborators can access collateral. As a plus, Yammer can replace many emails with the use of their group chat function.
Clarizen produces a fantastic project management software which integrates task lists, project reports, dedicated dashboards, and detailed reminders at all steps in the life cycle of a project. Though Clarizen is an enterprise-level solution, it allows teams and organizations to pick and choose from its suite of applications so that you can custom-build your own collaboration suite. Built to increase efficiency and reduce organizational costs, Clarizen has options targeted for several industries from IT to Marketing and helps centralize everything from accounting to prioritized tasks.
There are only a handful of collaboration tools specifically for graphic and web designers, and Invision is one of the best. Invision has both web-based and mobile options, which can help not just streamline a project with shared and actionable to-do lists, but can turn completed mock-ups and designs into prototypes using .gif animations and transitions. It even allows for clients to leave feedback on completed mockups, without showing them project task lists or other confidential project information. Invision ranges up from about 15 dollars per month.