Helpful Tools and Resources for Managing a New Internet Business
Whether you are working alone or with a team of people, launching a new business will take lots of time and effort. Internet-based companies are somewhat easier because there are no requirements to handle physical products. Granted, physical products come into play if you are managing an e-commerce store. However creating digital products on the Internet provides a more lucrative method of launching and scaling quickly.
But what type of tools would be useful when just getting started? I have put together a collection of webapps and resources that you can use for any new project launch. There are often so many details to remember and it is easy to get lost in the myriad of choices. But you should make the time for testing these different tools and see which ones provide the most benefit to your workday.
The biggest problem I always run into is keeping everything organized. What needs to be done and what order should these to-dos be completed? The best way to keep yourself organized is by using a task management system. But there are countless solutions out there, so it’s tough deciding which is best. It all comes down to what you are personally looking for and how much functionality is required for yourself or a team.
The task management tool Asana works great for any type of company. Even if you are working alone by yourself, their interface is really simple for managing project tasks. Plus you can invite people into specific tasks as needed. I think it is a great place to start with a free account and see how you like the features.
Another free solution Teambox also puts a lot on the table. I am enticed by their backend interface features which allow for multiple project workspaces. This means you can organize tasks between different online products or even completely different companies. Also Teambox has a conversation feature where you can message other members on your team. It is definitely worth some consideration if you are looking for a free tool that’s also easy to learn.
To mention just one more resource Trello is a great webapp that comes attached with a free price tag. You can signup and invite team members to your projects forever on this free account. It does not offer as many features as you will find in other project management tools. The interface is a bit simpler and much more focused on tasks/projects rather than team collaboration. But if you like the interface then it is a wonderful solution for any new business.
Online cloud hosting platforms are often much more agile for sharing files between computers. It’s a different story when you consider web hosting and CDNs. But consider sharing a .zip of your latest website HTML with two co-workers located at different places around the world. It would be easiest to upload the zip archive onto a hosting client and then share your link with both people.
Dropbox is a powerful solution for keeping your files organized and sharing entire folders with other people. It also offers a free plan which does limit the amount of files you can host. But this storage space limitation can be upgraded by inviting new people onto the service. I really like their web interface because you can drag-and-drop files to upload into your account. Also you can download entire folders of content as .zip containers right from the website! It has a great system for collaborating with other teammates and I highly recommend that everyone should have a Dropbox account.
People often forget about Google Drive, which comes out-of-the-box offering 15GB of free storage space with every Google account. Drive is generally meant for handling online documents including spreadsheets and presentations. But you can also upload other types of media for sharing with your team members. For a free service run by Google it does provide a nice allotment of features. But just the document viewing & sharing functionality puts Drive well above many other competitors. Box.net is another similar webapp you might consider.
Social Media Accounts
If you have a great product then you will likely want to create an online presence. Consider registering a new account on networks like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and and others. It will boost your website’s visibility and help people find you quicker. But what kinds of tools are useful for managing all of these profiles?
This newer product GrabInbox has not been online for too long. It is a service which allows you to manage a set network of accounts from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can schedule messages to post at certain times while also checking user responses. Signup is free but for now it’s difficult to tell how the company will progress. If you like demoing these tools as an early adopter then I say go for it!
Now HootSuite is a much more professional solution which has been tried & tested by many other companies. Their free service is phenomenal when you don’t have money to pay for a pro or enterprise account. You can easily manage social profiles from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other common networks. I would recommend trying HootSuite and sticking to them if you like the service. It is simple to use and you’ll never be forced to upgrade from a free account.
Throughout the early phase of launching your product there will always tweaks worth making to the user interface. Nothing is perfect during its first inception, but how do you know exactly what needs to be retouched? There are plenty of tools online for testing various analytics and UX ideas. I want to share just a couple that may prove useful to a majority of Internet projects.
One tool I can really get excited about is Visual Website Optimizer. This allows you to run A/B split testing on your website and track user analytics to learn from the results. I have been very impressed with the many case studies involving big-named corporations. When first getting started you may not have a need for A/B testing – or even understand why it’s helpful. But optimizing the user experience is crucial for obtaining the best results and delivering the best product out to your visitors.
Support & User Feedback
If you are working with customers then it is best to have some type of support management application. Even if you are building a startup or webapp for people to use freely, it helps to garner feedback. Your audience knows what they like and what they don’t like. So with enough testing and great feedback you can fine-tune any project to be working as efficiently as possible.
Intercom is an online service for handling user support problems. This includes a typical web-based helpdesk along with customer relationship management tools. Intercom is a beautiful system for overseeing a project with clients or customers. Even a free social networking site may find Intercom useful for managing support questions. Their free plan is a great way to play around with the features and determine if Intercom can really benefit your project.
The web application UserVoice is perfect for handling more direct feedback. You can setup a tiny widget on your site where visitors may directly send messages to your account. It also works as a support system with organized backend tickets. This is a great all-around solution for handling feedback and support problems within a project. Their plans can range up to $100/month but you may also keep the free plan indefinitely for one account.
Lastly the startup TrackDuck is not known all too well, but it is a very powerful tool. You can setup a tiny box in the corner of your site where visitors can send feedback about the interface, potential bugs, and really anything they want. It can integrate with other applications like Basecamp for easily tracking user feedback. Plus there is even a free edition which provides all the basic services for one account! I would definitely recommend TrackDuck if you are just getting started with user feedback tools and want to test the waters.
There may be other categories of webapps and tools that can really help entrepreneurs manage their projects. I put together this collection of specific tools which really helped me, and I hope some of these tools will help others as well. But if you know about similar resources that I may have skipped please share with us in the comments discussion area.
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