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With a little help from our friends: the services we use to build our business

The services we use at Epignosis - TalentLMS Blog

There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at Epignosis HQ, home to the makers of TalentLMS and eFrontPro, so you can have a steady stream of releases and the top class support that comes with them.

In this post, we’ll have a look at a non exhaustive list of tools, products and services that our various teams use to get their work done.

Xero – Accounting

We use Xero to stay ahead of our accounting, and it does the job smoothly and efficiently. We especially appreciate the real-time consolidation of invoicing with bank accounts that helps us know exactly where we stand financially.

Salesforce – CRM

We picked Salesforce among several competitors mainly due to its deep functionality and status as the de facto standard CRM platform. Its current interface could use some retouching, but there’s an upcoming UI update, codenamed Lightning, that seems pretty solid.

Stripe – Subscriptions

We can’t say enough good things about Stripe. Having worked with PayPal in the past, we found the ease of getting started with Stripe rejuvenating. Their service understands developers needs — and that shows in every possible way.

OneSkyApp – Translations

We use OneSkyApp to translate our products in various languages. The best part is the tight integration between the core translation software and a universal community of translators. In the past, we used Transifex and its Gengo integration. It worked fine but started getting too costly. Sorry Transifex, but maybe lower your price?

Rackspace – Infrastructure

We decided on Rackspace as our hosting provider for two main reasons: simplicity (compared to providers like Amazon it was much easier to be productive) and support (they offered unlimited chat based support, which was something not offered by most big hosting providers).

Rackspace is also on par with Amazon on industry certifications and other important metrics. Not that cheap, though.

Amazon S3 & Amazon Cloudfront – Storage & CDN

Our “hybrid” hosting environment blends Rackspace with Amazon’s S3 for long term storage of customer files. We opted for S3 due to its combination of low cost, security and flexibility. On top of it, we leverage Amazon’s Cloudfront as our CDN solution.

S3 and Cloudfront are not that easy to work with, compared to Rackspace’s Cloud Files solution, but they are much more flexible and cost-effective.

Sparkpost – Transactional emails

For a long time we used Mandrill for our transactional emails (the emails that are sent through the application). However, after the Mandrill fiasco, we had to look for an alternative solution. We didn’t have to look far, though, as Sparkpost offered a painless and affordable migration process.

Mailchimp – Newsletters

We use Mailchimp to send newsletters to our growing communities. It is a solid product with rich functionality and very good deliverability — both of which come at a price.

G Suite – Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Calendar

We use Google’s suite of business productivity solutions for handling company email, file sharing, and meetings scheduling. It is from Google, so you know that it works.

Asana – Project management

Asana is our choice for “light” product management. Most of the company’s projects are run through Asana. An added benefit is the transparency that it offers on the inner workings of the company. Everyone can be kept informed on what all the other teams are doing without a formal meeting or communication session.

Slack – Thematic communication

We are not yet fully committed on Slack, but seems like a nice alternative to Skype’s informational chaos. Having all conversations in a searchable system is the biggest benefit I see, combined with the kind of transparency that is also present in Asana.

Skype & Skype Manager – VOIP

We are heavy users of Skype for informal, day-to-day communication. A simple internal rule is that as long as you are “green” on skype, you are working. We also use it to support our international phone numbers through its VOIP functionality.

Google Analytics – Traffic analysis

Whatever Google’s reasons for creating this and giving it for free may be, we can’t really complain for such a deep and usable product for traffic analysis.

Semrush – SEO optimization

Semrush is one of those products that you cannot believe exist. It is the Swiss army knife of the marketeer, giving us insight on our competition, website SEO and myriads of other types of information.

Inspectlet – Insights on visitors

Inspectlet records the sessions of your visitors on your website and lets you review afterwards. This helps your marketing department understand how specific individuals interact with your site, where they spend most of their time, and what they find unimportant. It helped us spot some improvement opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Ninja Outreach – Outreach

Backlinks and guest blogging is a standard way to increase your traffic. It can, however, be really complex to find people that are relevant to your industry and communicate with them efficiently. This is where Ninja Outreach comes to the rescue, as it can automate this process in several meaningful ways.

Unbounce – Landing pages

We use Unbounce to build landing pages and A/B test them in the context of various marketing activities. This a full-featured product that helps your marketing team perform many different tests without bothering your programmers and designers.

Hackpad – Documents collaboration

We are heavy users of Hackpad for real-time content editing. One way or another, all our documents pass through Hackpad. We like the program because of its usability, no-brain sharing tools, and flat learning curve.

Instabug – Tracking mobile applications

We are building a number of mobile applications at the moment, and Instabug solves an important problem we had; that of tracking crashes and allowing end-users to send meaningful feedback. I especially like the ability to take screenshots and add comments on them.

Workable – Hiring

Hiring is an integral part of the growing process of a company, and Epignosis does a lot of both (growing and hiring). Workable helps us keep this process organized, while also offering a searchable built-in CV library.

InterviewZen – Programming tests

Speaking of hiring, take a look on InterviewZen. This little gem of a service allows you to create programming challenges and record the programmers while they try to solve it. This process can give you incredible insight on the skills and seniority of a programmer.

Uservoice & Zendesk – Support

Support is an essential part of our offering. We currently support customers via Uservoice (for TalentLMS) and Zendesk (for eFrontPro). Both products have their pros and cons, with Zendesk being a more complete product and Uservoice having a feature-voting mechanism which we find invaluable for prioritizing further development.

BrowserStack – Browser compatibility

If you have worked on support then you understand what it means to have a client saying that your app does not work on some old version of an obsolete browser. BrowserStack has a convenient answer to this problem, as it lets you test your application on any browser you can imagine.

GitHub – All the code you can eat

We use GitHub to control the development of our software. Despite a number of stability issues now and then, GitHub has nailed it when it comes to the usability and flexibility aspect of managing big software projects. What I really like is the ability to mention issues on software commits that then become comments on related open issues.

Adobe Creative Cloud – Photoshop and more

The tools of choice for most senior designers, Adobe Creative Cloud includes the full Adobe suite of products, but most importantly, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Balsamiq – Low fidelity mockups

Balsamiq is a joy to use for creating low fidelity prototypes. Our team uses it to sketch the flow of our apps before building more detailed photoshop mockups and designs. This process saves enormous amounts of time for our designers and product owners.

Invision – Collaborate on designs

Efficiently collaborating on design prototypes is a difficult problem. Invision tackles it in a efficient way by letting people comment directly on designs.

Zeplin – Design specifics

Zeplin is another little gem that improves the communication between designers and programmers. It allows programmers to get details like spacing, colors and font selections directly from designs.

GotoMeeting & Zoom.us – Video conferencing

We often conduct product presentations to potential clients through GotoMeeting and Zoom.us. Both are nice and rather inexpensive products that you can also use to host Webinars.

Baremetrics & Chartmogul – KPIs

Keeping track of the health of your SAAS is important. Baremetrics and Chartmogul are two excellent products that can help you digest your numbers. We use both, as each has a subset of different features that we find useful. Chartmogul offers more opportunities to slice and dice your data, while Baremetrics is generally more visually attractive.

UptimeRobot – Stay alive

There are numerous tools that help you build a status page for your service. The main benefit is that they reassure your customers you can maintain a good uptime record. They can also be used internally as a notification service for your operation team in case of an emergency. We opted in favor of UptimeRobot due to its minimal design and price.

99Designs & UpWork – Freelancers for micro tasks

We have used 99Designs and UpWork (previously oDesk) for various small tasks, from banner creation to blog writing.

99 design is primarily for visual designs and is based on contests that give you many suggestions from which you select a few that pass to next stage. In Upwork, on the other hand, you opt in favor of a freelancer based solely on personal communication and previous reviews.

Both need considerable management effort from your team — and your results may vary, but nonetheless both are worthy additions to your toolbox.

Adwords & Adroll – CPC campaigns

A lot of our marketing effort revolves around Adwords. Optimizing an Adwords campaign requires a lot of effort and specialized skills, as the complexity and keywords competition has skyrocketed in the last years.

A nice alternative can be Adroll. We used Adroll for retargeting campaigns in the past with good results. It offered a more polished interface when compared to Adwords. However, now that Adwords offers retargeting, among myriads of other things, it makes little sense for us to use Adroll on top of it.

GetApp & Capterra – Directories

Software directories can be an effective way to promote your products. Two prominent such directories that we use are GetApp and Capterra, as they bring targeted traffic that can be easily converted to customers. Just make sure you have a great product listing and strong testimonials.

Encodemagic – Media transcoding

This started as an internal project but is now also a product by itself. Encodemagic offers a unique blend of conversion profiles between multimedia files. Most other conversion services are limited to video files (e.g., AVI to MPG4), but it also offers some unique conversions like Powerpoint-to-Video.

Grumpicon – Turns your SVG images to CSS

Last but not least, my favorite little toy of the past, Grumpicon. This tool does something simple; it converts SVG files to (reusable) CSS. We have used this technique with all of eFrontPro’s icons and it has worked greatly.

Conclusion

In this post we made a small list of the kinds of tools we use day-in, day-out at Epignosis to get our job done.

We whole-heartedly suggest those tools if you happen to have a similar use case, and we are interested in knowing what other products and services you have to recommend!


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