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1. Lean Canvas
If you’re an early stage startup the last thing you want to have to do is write a 30 page business plan. Wouldn’t it be great if you document your business model on one page, allowing you to focus on actually building your business? This great tool lets you adopt the principles of the business model canvas using a simple web interface. Create multiple canvases if you like, collaborate and share with others, and re-visit later. Adapted from the Business Model Toolbox, this is the brainchild of Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and a successful blog. We use this on every project we work on at Spook Studio and you should too. It’s a lifesaver as it makes you focus on the things that count right from the outset – What’s your problem-solution fit? Who are your customers? How are you going to reach them? What’s your pricing model? The Lean Canvas will help you crystalise your ideas and communicate these better. As well as creating the elements that make up your business model, you can also set up experiments to test your assumptions and comment on other people’s entries. An awesome addition to the startup toolkit.
Trello is a handy (and addictive) app that allows teams to collaboratively organise anything you can imagine. We’ve seen product teams such as Makeshift and Buffer using Trello to keep track of feature add-ons, ideas and progress markers, and blog scheduling. The app is ideal for startup teams looking for a simple product management tool that allows employees to engage openly and work collaboratively. Even for solo entrepreneurs with a to-do list the length of their arm, Trello is a fast way of documenting and scheduling what needs to get done today, someday, or tomorrow. We create Trello boards for all of the uses above and more, blog scheduling, writing up agendas for our team away-days, allocating roles for each helper at some of our bigger events like the Happy Startup Summercamp as well as creating boards for employee personal targets.
Ok so this is a bit of a shameless plug. There wasn’t a solution out there already, so we scratched our own itch and built something ourselves. At Spook Studio, we like to create quick, informal user personas to help us (& our clients) start thinking about the people we’re designing for. After many a project hacking together hand-written personas, word documents, Fireworks & Balsamiq mockups, the frustration came too much and Personapp was born. Create multiple personas per project and export for sharing or printing.
This is a must app for those less technically inclined ;) If you’re looking for a cost effective way to produce a simple, mobile-optimised one page website, Strikingly is your new best friend. No code or design experience needed, Strikingly’s great for building landing pages to validate your ideas, in under an hour.
A great little piece of software by UX experts and neighbours of ours in Brighton, Clearleft, Silverback lets you record live usability tests through your built-in webcam (and mic) for watching or sharing later. As well as recording the tester themselves it also records the screen activity of them using your product so you can keep track of each stage of your test. We find it particularly useful for referring back to later when writing up usability test sessions. They can also be useful to distribute to your client if they weren’t able to attend the sessions in person. There’s a free 30 day trial or it’s $69.95 for the full version. A bargain.
Mailchimp is a joy to use for email marketing. It’s a dummy-proof, quick way to design and send beautiful emails and engage with your community. Mailchimp have a unique ability in making something that’s usually a pain in the ass to design/code, a simple, humorous experience. It gives you tonnes of options to make your emails as bespoke as you like, allows you to easily embed sign up forms across your sites and integrates your social networking pages, encouraging your subscribers to interact with you on different mediums. Well worth signing up to Mailchimp if you’re in the early stages of growing a community for effortless organisation of subscribers and communication. Plus it’s totally free to use with fewer than 2,000 sign ups.
The large majority of people never bother to fill in online feedback forms or applications because they’re complicated, long-winded and a hassle to use. Typeform smashes those stereotypes to pieces, giving you the control of creating beautifully designed forms that are a breeze to use. The tool is still in beta (it’s only been around since April 2013) but is far better to use than other clunky competitors like Google Form. Spanish founders Robert Munoz’s and David Okuniev’s designs live up to their strap-line to ‘Ask Awesomely’.
This is a nifty tool to bring your visionary to reality. Moqups is a great tool for creating interactive wireframes and being very easy to learn many non-creatives find it a breeze to pick up. It helps you visualise product ideas without the need for lots of documentation. Don’t create a technical spec, create a Moqups wireframe. Your developer will thank you.
Buffer is an app that lets you schedule tweets, statuses and updates across multiple social media accounts throughout the day, perfect for time-restricted entrepreneurs to keep up their online presence. It comes with a handy downloadable chrome extension too, so if you come across an interesting article online you want to share, just hit the buffer icon and it’ll prompt you to tweet now or later. Buffer is particularly useful to us, as we find ourselves manning two twitter accounts, one for Spook Studio and the other for The Happy Startup School. Buffer helps us separate tweets to both our communities, whilst analysing click throughs to see what tweets work and don’t work.
And finally, Intercom is an essential tool for product companies. If you’re digital startup, keep in the know on who’s using your products in real time. Intercom is the step up startups need to give great customer experience to their users. Those first few days following a signup are crucial. With this tool, you can send email alerts personally thanking those who have signed up to see how they’re liking it and at the same time get in touch with people who aren’t active anymore for feedback. Some great features, worth setting up an account.
Hope you find these useful!
Oh and a bonus one if you’re in the UK…
Managing invoicing and accounts if you’re a service startup can be a time consuming drag. Freeagent is accounting software simplified that thousands of small businesses and freelancers are using, including us. No confusing accountancy jargon, just all your financial info in one place with a less timely approach to issuing invoices and forecasting tax returns.
Let us know which tools you’d recommend too :)
Well done for making it this far!
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