10 Chat Tools for Better Communication in Team Projects

Posted by Harshad

10 Chat Tools for Better Communication in Team Projects

10 Chat Tools for Better Communication in Team Projects

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 07:01 AM PST

When building ideas together in a team environment you need a reliable means of communication. The people you work with should all provide their own ideas while keeping everybody on the same page. This is easier when working together in the same physical office space. But what about communicating remotely or working with freelancers around the world?

I want to present 10 of the best tools for managing a chat system, either one-on-one or a team chat. There are plenty of free products and even a few paid ones that can offer more than just instant messaging. But each communication tool is different and you need to find the one that will best fit your needs.

Check out these examples and see if you can try out anything new for your next team project.

1. HipChat

A fast-growing solution for team collaboration is HipChat. I really like this product because it offers more than just a chat interface. You can share files through any of the HipChat applications for web, mobile, or desktop computers. The group chat is also helpful because users can embed photos or other types of media which need to be shared.

atlassian hipchat tools team collaboration

Thankfully you can sign up for a free 30-day trial just to catch a glimpse of what is possible. Overall the plans charge $2.00/user which can add up if you have a big team. However for a small business or design studio this can be perfect for all your collaboration.

2. Campfire

Among many other projects online, Basecamp and Campfire have been an excellent choice for Internet-based companies. Their Basecamp service allow managers to assign tasks, group notes, and file downloads. It is such a powerful way to organize any project online with any number of people.

campfire team collaboration chat application

This is why Campfire can be such a great solution if you are already familiar using Basecamp. The interface is quite similar and it is also easy to learn with some practice. However you will notice that Campfire’s pricing is a lot higher than other choices. Whether you need the service or not will help define if 37signals products are the right choice for your company.

3. Google Chat/Hangouts

With Google+ now online it is common to find people you know within their network. Facebook was created for more of a personal connection to friends and family, while Google+ does seem to have a more professional overtone. Their Google Chat/Google Hangouts feature is an easy way to have conversations with a single person or groups of people.

google+ chat hangouts collaboration tools

And the best part is that it’s all free! Google Hangouts now come built-into the Google+ interface. You can invite anybody into the hangout chat room and the entire conversation can be archived for later use. There are privacy concerns if you would rather use an internal system. Or if you don’t like using a social network through Google, then other solutions are available. But GChat + Hangouts is a free and easy method when you don’t have a lot of money.

4. Grove IRC

A newer startup called Grove is a private IRC host for managing chat rooms. IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat which connects into many popular Instant Messaging clients. There are even free web-based IRC scripts for accessing different chat rooms (known as channels).

grove premium paid irc server webapp chat tools

The plans for Grove are also fairly expensive when you consider the service is merely an external server for IRC. The costs are over $250/year for a company of 10 users. It is a nice system because you have access to a backend panel with the IRC chat rooms available right away. But if you need advanced features like file sharing or member profiles, then Grove is much too simple for filling the void.

5. Redbooth

If I had to recommend the best choice for a new startup it would be Redbooth, previously Teambox. The webapp allows any company under 5 users to run their account for free indefinitely. This comes with 5GB of personal storage, plus integration with Google Drive and Dropbox. Each account has so many features like tasks, notes, and most definitely chats.

teambox pro tools webapp chat collaboration

They are labeled as conversations which can include 1 or more people. The conversations may also be archived and stored for free in the account. Also their whole backend interface is very sleek. Being able to use this for free when just getting started is a great marketing choice to keep people using their application. If you have never seen the Redbooth website I highly recommend looking over their features to see what is possible.

6. Flowdock

Flowdock does have some great features to make it work as a constant means of communication. But it is also very slim with features in comparison to full project management tools. It is branded as a "team inbox with chat" that offers mobile and desktop applications.

flowdock collaboration tool webapp preview screenshot

Under 5 users, everyone on the team gets to use this for free, but once the user-limit is breached, everyone is charged $3 per head per month. This can still work great for medium-sized teams. It will not be great for everyone but I think Flowdock is a useful webapp that is definitely worth some consideration.

7. Hall

Now aside from chat systems I think Hall does a really good job of solving project management. Their application is free to use for a personal account when just getting started. It is worthwhile to sign up and see what is possible, spend a bit of time familiarizing yourself with the interface.

hall.com chat webapp tool screenshot

Hall offers both group chat and private chat, along with video conferencing. All of the products for team chat also save logs of everything. In the advanced paid plans you can even search through chat logs for specific keywords. The first five users get accounts for free, 1 GB free storage and 1-on-1 video.

8. Podio

Another really cool solution named Podio is not only for chat. It is a full backend management suite for projects that need to handle multiple users. Their signup is free under 5 team members and you can try out a large number of their applications using this free account. These apps include to-do tasks, calendars, and of course chatrooms.

podio online collaboration task management tool

It is very easy to signup with direct connect OAuth using Google, Facebook, even Windows Live. The free account works because you can demo all of their applications just to see if it could work for your company. Teams have different needs and I do think Podio can fill the gap for some people. It is free to signup and try out so you don’t have much to lose!

9. Jaconda

If you are looking for a classic team chat solution then Jaconda must be a fantastic choice. It is free for 30 days and it does have some costs associated with a paid account. However their services include a number of chatrooms with support for very large teams, think medium-to-large companies in size.

jaconda team chat webapp tool screenshot

Also your account will come with 10+ GB of storage space for sharing files in the cloud. It is also possible to integrate with other services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box.net and others. Even better is that you can access chat rooms via any common program like Google Chat or Skype. Jaconda is very flexible and it provides one powerful definitive system for team communication.

10. Azendoo

Azendoo is another one of these free personal services where you can try an account without ever paying any money. It is a project management system which allows for a full company-wide group managing individual projects. The chat system is very similar to Facebook where you can get notifications and private messages. You can also leave comments on certain tasks based on projects in the group.

azendoo chat team collaboration webapp tool website

You are given 10GB storage for free along with Dropbox/Google Drive integration. It is also supported on iOS and Android. Its premium plans give you higher storage (50GB and above) and better support. Azendoo is just one choice along with many others for project collaboration. It may not be as helpful as other tools but if you have some time give it a shot and see what you think.

Final Thoughts

I love to research business tools for digital agencies and Internet-based companies. There are so many tools available to help with communication and task management. But with a flooded market also comes a tough decision of picking exactly the right tool for your company. It is my hope this article can get you thinking about chat tools and moving in the right direction for successful team collaboration.

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9 High-Tech Toys & Gadgets Designed For Kids

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 05:01 AM PST

There are many parents who are worried about their children spending too much time online, or on smartphones and tablets. However, learning programming may become of one of the many essential skills your child would need in his or her future life.

Rather than take technology out of their lives, there are smart gadgets out there that can help kids develop programming skills while providing them with a safe environment to explore, play and grow.


We have here 9 gadgets that provide a new form of interaction for the younger generation. Some of them are created to help your child pick up a new programming language, others, essential problem-solving skills. These smart toys are very different from the toys today’s adults grew up in but if you are a parent who want to give your child a headstart in technology, these may be the gadgets that can help.

1. Ubooly

Kids can learn a lot about responsibility and develop their self esteem by taking care of pets. However, some children (and adults) may be allergic to hair or dander from dogs or cats. An alternative is a robotic pet that is twice as attentive and not as allergy-causing.


Ubooly is a great example. It can tell jokes and bedtime stories, even play games and even trade conversations with your child. Ubooly can also be personalized via the app for updates on games, stories, adventures and exercises. It is supported on iOS and Android platforms. [$29.95-$59.95]

2. Sphero 2.0

Sphero 2.0 is a ball created by Orbotix that can be controlled by your phone. Nothing special there, except that when it is paired with augmented reality, you can virtually replace the ball with any other character, say an imaginary cartoon-like pet, then send commands to it. Essentially this is an attempt to control a sophisticated robotic toy with just your mobile device.

Sphero 2.0

The setup is more than just for play. Sphero 2.0 can be used to teach kids math and programming in a manner that is way, way more fun than what you can find in the classroom. The ball can move up to 7 ft per second and can be controlled by touch or by tilting the paired mobile device. [$129.99]

3. MiP

MiP here is more of a made-for-fun toy rather than a learning toy, but oh boy, what a toy. It’s a balancing robot that you can control from your phone. You can control it manually and in real-time from your iOS or Android phone, or draw paths for it to move on, get it sparring or racing or dancing with a fellow MiP robot.


Since MiP can carry his own weight, you can try stacking up stuff onto his tray in an upright position. Every kid would love to have their own robot and with MiP its a great start. It is available in black and white. Shipping starts Spring 2014. [$119.00]

4. Primo

Primo is a toy to help your child to learn programming, even before they learn how to read. It is made up of three main elements: a robot called Cubetto, an interface for input of instructions, and instruction blocks which delivers instructions of how the robot should move.


The child will then place the blocks in the right order, to deliver movement commands to Cubetto to traverse the obstacles in front of it. Even without understanding algorithms and queues, a child between the age of 4 and 7 will be able to get a headstart in programming logic with this simple setup. [$281.83]

5. Nabi 2

Nabi 2 is a tablet made especially for kids. It comes with a food-grade silicone (that means it is safe to gnaw on) bumper that helps protect against drops and accidental bumps, something that happens a lot when kids grab hold of gadgets. The device has a fast interface, larger-than-usual icons, parental control mode and is built for learning.

Nabi 2

It comes with an integrated learning system known as Fooz Kids University, developed to aid in learning academic fundamentals. On top of that, it is primed for reading, art, games and photo editing, and you can even take pictures and run video calls on the tablet too. [$179.99]

6. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids 7.0

While it may not be a good idea to give your child free rein of your mobile tablets and full untethered exposure to online content, it’s hard to expect parents to spend their time watching over every thing their children tap on. With the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids 7.0 however, you will be giving your child a safe and conducive towards learning environment that he/she can flourish in.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids 7.0

It has plenty of restrictions and parental controls that will set the amount of time the device can be played with, the type of apps they have access to, a safer kid’s mode and password restrictions where necessary. The tablet even comes with front and rear cameras and expandable memory. No more fighting over who gets the tablet next. [$199.99]

7. Kano

Want your kid to learning programming without all the bells and whistles? Kano is a coding kit for both kids and adults and is powered by Raspberry Pi, a computer the size of a regular credit card. Out of the box, Kano can be assembled (that’s where you come in) into a working computer, minus a monitor (you need to bring your own). Don’t worry, it comes with a how-to guide.


Before your kid steps into the world of programming, it would help for him to understand the major components that make a computer run. This stripped down, lightweight representation of what makes a computer a computer is a great starting point. From there, Kano users can create games and learn to code on its open source software. [$129.00]

8. Bo & Yana

Bo & Yana are a duo – Bo is the explorer while Yana is the storyteller. Together these clever robots help your child from the tender age of 5 to learn visual programming and develop basic problem-solving skills. Younger users can teach the robot to play the xylophone, deliver packages, play hide-and-seek or tag, and go on treasure-hunting adventures.

Bo & Yana

The visual programming language used by the system, Scratch and Blockly was developed by MIT and Google. Older learners (12+) are encouraged to use their API to build iOS and Android applications, and to share their innovations with others online. So far, more than 10,000 robots have been pre-ordered, and the first batch has been sold out. The next batch is available Christmas 2014. [$59-$228]

9. Amplify

Amplify is a comprehensive learning system that helps alleviate the administrative burden of teachers while giving the teachers a full-view of how their students are faring in class. Educators can prepare customized lessons, see what their students are doing on their tablet, block apps on their student’s Amplify tablet, test students in real-time (quick polls) and provide supplementary exercises for weaker students.


Students can get reminders about quizzes and homework, and deliver assignments in multimedia form. With online resources at their fingertips, students can breeze through their assignments quickly, focusing on data-sourcing skills, rather than memorizing facts for exams. [Starting from $199/yr; More on Pricing Packages]


Generate Pure CSS3 Toggle Button With On/Off FlipSwitch Generator

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 02:01 AM PST

If you are sick of using buttons to toggle something on or off, perhaps you may find a breath of fresh air in a flip switch instead. With the very nice improvement of web development nowadays, creating On/Off flip switch, like what you see in a mobile OS is very easy. You just need the right tool for it.

Introducing the web app On/Off FlipSwitch Generator which will help you to easily create any mobile OS-like style for your custom On/Off button. The button is also compatible with most of modern web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, IE9, Android and iOS as well.

Getting Started

On/Off FlipSwitch Generator has a pretty simple and intuitive interface. A live preview is also available to display the result style as you change the inputs available. Let’s take a look.

As you can see in the following screenshot, On/Off FlipSwitch Generator comes up with 6 main input option: Style, Active State, Inactive State, Switch, Labels and Sizing.

In the Style section, you can choose what kind of button style you want from iOS4/5, Android and Windows 8. The Custom option will let you build the button from scratch.

Below, there are two useful links: Random style is used to generate a random button. Whilst Reset to default state is used for resetting all changes you’ve made from other input.

Below this you have the look of your button in its Active State and Inactive State. In the sections, you’ll play with background color, text color and the text label of the button. You can change the text label from ON and OFF to something entirely different, like Mute or Unmute.

Switch input helps you with manipulating the switcher style. Here you can adjust the switch size, the switch background and border colors, and the default position of the flip switch. For Dual switch color, you can pick the color of the switch to change, on separate flipped positions.

Also available for customization is the label style: font size and text spacing; and the button size: width, height and border radius.

Getting Your Button

Happy with the style you have created? Now, let’s grab the codes so you can apply to your site or product. Scroll down to see the resulting codes of the button you created. The codes are provided in CSS and HTML, just hit the Copy to clipboard link to copy the content and use the button.

Enable IE8 Support

On the page, it is mentioned that the switch generated at the page is not supported on IE6-8. There is however a solution with a little javascript code (brought to you by one of the On/Off FlipSwitch Generator team, anna.mi).

To enable support in IE8 All you need to do is add a little CSS code which will change the button state based on .onoffswitch-checked class like so.

 .onoffswitch-checked .onoffswitch-inner { margin-left: 0; } .onoffswitch-checked .onoffswitch-switch { right: 0px; } 

Then, to toggle the .onoffswitch-checked class when it’s checked, add the following Javascript to your page:

 <script> $(document).ready(function(){ $('.onoffswitch-label').click(function(){ $(this).parent().toggleClass('onoffswitch-checked'); }); }); </script> 

If the “Switch ON by default” option is selected, don’t forget to also include the .onoffswitch-checked class to your html like so

 <div class="onoffswitch onoffswitch-checked"> 

Final Thought

Do check out this and let us know if the flipswitch generator is working flawlessly without a bug. We can only run so many combinations but at the end of the day, if coding is beyond your capabilities, maybe start off with this handy tool before taking things to the next level. Let us know what you think.


Emotion &#38; Storytelling: How Telling Stories Can Nail You More Clients

Posted: 02 Mar 2014 11:01 PM PST

Everyone is a storyteller. Stories are how we explore our surroundings and communicate with others, whether it’s to persuade them, inspire them, or simply to entertain them. As designers, storytelling is an integral part of our creative process, because we use stories to connect with our clients, and especially with the users who interact with our designs.

Today, we’re going to go over the process of conjuring positive emotions in your users through the use of storytelling, improving the effectiveness of your designs in the process.

What A Story Is

What do I mean when I say the word “story?” Are we talking about Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, with a handsome prince and a plucky heroine? No. Well, not usually, anyway. What I mean by storytelling is an event that happens during a user’s experience that creates a positive emotion.

Don Norman in the TED video Three Ways Good Design Makes You Happy gives a delightful example of storytelling in the playful designs of various designers, including an interactive ping pong table, and chairs by Jake Cress that appear to be “reaching” for missing pieces that are “running away” from them. In these designs, you can immediately tell what’s going on – the designer is attempting to communicate with you through the clever anthropomorphism of the products.

Stories Keep Us Human

We digital designers can utilize the same basic principles to tell stories to our audiences. As can be seen in the previous example, it doesn’t take much to generate a story that makes people laugh or inspires them to feel a connection with you, the designer, through your designs. Just a small bit of humanization where there isn’t expected to be any, can do the trick.

Otherwise, you can come up with your own simple stories to tell. Because if there’s one thing to definitely keep in mind, it’s that…

Simple Is Better

The simpler your story, the more impact it can have on people who only look at it for a few seconds. The power of emotion can turn even the most generic imagery into a powerful storytelling medium. The popular website Reddit uses simple storytelling with its mascot, the little white alien.

Occasionally, the front page of Reddit will feature the alien in intriguing situations, such as (ironically) getting abducted by aliens. Alexis Ohanian, one of the founders of Reddit, has said that this simple use of storytelling on the Reddit front page has garnered the website massive traffic and advertising revenue over the years.

Interpretive Storytelling

Remember, if the key elements are in place, the stories will tell themselves. You don’t need to explain anything or hold your users’ hands – people are usually smart enough to “get it”. It’s all in the expression of your message. You can create a single message that gets people’s attention in many different ways, and make that same message evoke different emotions.

Emotional response is not always about clear readability – in fact, that’s rarely the case. It’s much more about using design elements – color, shape, composition, scale – to communicate whatever emotion will have the greatest impact.

Stories Make People Happy

You make better decisions when you see good design. Why? Because seeing pretty things make you happier. Good storytelling will be automatically accepted and embraced by your audience. Again, you don’t even have to explain it – if it connects on a visceral level, the story will immediately tell itself. Your users will smile, laugh, and happily follow the calls to action you place before them.

On the flip side, of course, stories can evoke other emotions besides happiness. Pride, sadness, hope, confusion, anger – any emotion can be present in a design. Cultural and historical context is important as well.

Political advertisements can conjure a drastically different emotion after a major historic event (World War II, for example) than they did before it happened. What was previously harmless and intended to inspire happiness suddenly becomes a reminder of a terrible injustice or socio-political disaster.

Design In The World

Design isn’t just something that we as professionals get paid to do. Any instance where people interact with the world around them to create a solution to a problem qualifies as design.

Something as simple as leaning your bicycle against a tree – the tree is an object in your space that can be used to solve a problem you have (where can I rest my bike?). The stories we as individuals tell one another in the space where we live can be just as powerful as the stories we tell our audiences as designers – sometimes even more so.

Stories In Graffiti Form

For example, the ways in which people interact with a design can in themselves tell a story. Graffiti and vandalism can tell a surprisingly wide range of stories about how the things designers create are received in the world. What businesses do people respect the most, or the least? Where is a client’s message going to be most effective? Look at the graffiti.

I could go into extreme detail about the social indications of graffiti, itself a complex and fascinating form of design. But in terms of professional work, even digital design has its own kind of “graffiti” in the form of comments, anonymous reviews, and even more malicious things like hacking.


It’s important for designers to observe the storytelling that takes place all around us, and use it to start and lead conversations that will help shape the world. Being a thought leader is a high social position that is available to any designer, in even the smallest of ways. All you need is a really good story.



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