Putting Automation to Work for You and Your clients

An image of an echidna in a hazmat suit, at an array of chip interfaces.

There is an old saying that “you shouldn’t work for a computer, a computer should work for you.” I know we often get frustrated with those daily, repeated tasks and wish there was an easier way. Guess what? There is, because this is exactly what a computer can do best.

I know automation is a big buzzword out there. It can also seem to alienate the very audience that would benefit from it most. If you have tasks that you seem to be doing over and over, here are a few tools we’ve used to save us hours everyday -- and that have also proved adept at catching problems for our clients before either of us notice.

Remember, the idea isn’t that technology is going to replace you, but rather free up the time you’d spend doing “menial” tasks to be better used for value-added, creative work, and providing your clients with better solutions.:

Ghostinspector

Have you ever done a click through on a website to see if things are working? You aren’t 100 per cent sure what to test and you worry you might have missed something. And then, once something is fixed, you end up having to test everything again? Automated Testing is an incredibly helpful tool to do this one time.

Now there are much more complex ways to do this, but we are going to focus on one tool in particular that the team finds helpful, which can help you get started -- Ghostinspector. Want to test out a form? How about checking to make sure your navigation works? Ghostinspector has a handy Chrome plugin that you can use to record yourself using a website and you can save it as a successful test.

Need to test it again? Simply press the play button, or you can run the entire suite of tests you’ve made. Want to have it happen behind the scenes and just let you know when it doesn’t work? You can schedule your tests to run as frequently as every five minutes and it will simply send you an email to let you know there’s been a failure.

It can even take a screenshot to check for things you might not have thought of changing.

Zapier

One of the basic concepts in programming is “if this happens do this.” It may be a fairly simple concept, but if you aren’t a programmer, it can be daunting to achieve. That’s where Zapier can be very helpful.

With new integrations announced every week, it’s an ever expanding tool set to help you save time for those repeatable tasks.  

Want to make it so that whenever you store all of your Gmail attachments in Dropbox? There’s a zap for that. What if you want to make all of your tickets in Google sheets and have them add automatically to Trello? Guess what? There’s an app for that.

If you are trying to make two systems talk to each other and you aren’t sure what an API is, let Zapier do the heavy lifting for you, and you get to reap all the rewards -- after all, you can’t spell Zapier without API.

Loom

Thanks to an investment from some pretty amazing venture capitalists, Loom has remained free to use. I have always believed it is easier to talk to someone and show them what I am doing, than it is to write it out. Loom allows you to record your video, voice, and screen with the ease of a browser extension that is available within moments of you completing the video.

You know those times where something isn’t working on your computer and you need to show someone what’s broken? Or you want to create a tutorial video with a bit of a personal connection. There’s no need to buy a series of expensive programs, as -- for now -- Loom remains free to use, and is a favorite amongst our team to help make our customers’ lives easier.

Zendesk Helpcenter

If you have had a chance to work with our amazing support team, what you may not know is that behind the scenes we are using Zendesk to manage all of the requests that come in. This allows us to decentralize our team, as we know that when something’s not working or you need a improvement made to your site, you just want it done as quickly as possible.

For our clients that do a lot of work with us, we can also have a help center available where you can access things like your tutorials, relevant training documentation, and even track the progress of all the requests you might have with the support department. No more need to dig through emails -- with a simple login you can see everything across your whole team in one place.

Those are just some automation tools that you can use to make your -- and your customers’ -- lives easier. Feel free to share any additional tips, tricks, or tolls in the comments section below.

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