Applications: One Day in the Life of a Web Designer

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It’s incredible how many applications we interact with on a daily basis. It’s no wonder we are so critical of them sometimes, Below is a timeline of a typical day for me and the different applications I deal with at certain times. The truth is of course that I interact with these applications as needed and I don’t adhere to any sort of timeline, it was just kind of a fun way to present it.

6:00am GMail

I live in GMail. I probably lose way too much time to email but I haven’t quite gotten around to dealing with that yet. It’s kind of my defacto to-do list. I really love GMail, which is why I freak out when it goes down. Above, GMail is shown with GMail Redesigned, which I go back an forth on using.

6:01am Adium / iChat

I find communicating via IM both extremely efficient and extremely distracting, so I’m pretty picky with who is on my list. The first thing I do in the morning is fire up the ol’ IM and check in with the folks at work. I prefer Adium, in how every single service is combined into one, but I mostly use iChat since the file sharing works better and it has audio and video chat that work.

6:10am Are My Sites Up

While checking my email, if I have a notice from Are My Sites Up, that is my top priority. I need to know that my servers are up and running and if they aren’t, I need to get on it. If they have gone down and come back up, I’d like to know why.

6:20am Wufoo

Also while checking my email, I am reminded daily how much easier Wufoo makes my life. 90% of the forms on any site I have anything to do with is a Wufoo form. Hey client, need a new form? Sure, that’ll take me two seconds and pretty notifications will come directly to your email. I’ll send you some detailed reports and graphs later…

6:35am Things

At this point I’m still on the prowl trying to organize my day. All of my long-term planning I keep inside Things, broken up by major projects.
SPECIAL MENTION: I keep my Things database in sync across multiple computers by keeping the Database.xml file it uses inside my Dropbox. Dropbox is and incredible desktop-based sharing service that I also use to pass files back and forth between friends.

7:10am Coda

Now that the catching up / organizing part of the morning is done, actual work can commence. If that work involves coding of any sort, it’s taking place in Coda. The fact is, I find the text editor TextMate to be a far superior text editing program, but I work “commando style” (directly on the server) 90% of the time these days and the Coda workflow for that is unbeatable.

7:27am Photoshop

I do have the whole Creative Suite, which I do love despite its freakish crashes and often insane error messages. I give the nod only to Photoshop here though, as it’s my primary tool as a web designer. Even if I’m designing something that is really simple and pure text, I go to Photoshop first to help me nudge things around and get a layout looking how I want so I can use it for reference when I begin the CSS.

8:01am Firefox

Of course I’m already in Firefox by this time since I’ve been checking email, but at this point in the day it really becomes a tool of the trade. I develop sites in Firefox first, and do testing in all the other browsers afterward.

9:19am Firebug

While I think Firefox is a fine browser, I would probably be a Safari man if it wasn’t for the ultimate developer’s tool, Firebug. I almost can’t imagine trying to write HTML / CSS / JavaScript without it. Firebug is doing for development what the spell checker did for typing.

9:50am Skitch

Now that work is really moving along, I am needing to stay in touch with the office share / collaborate on what is going on. Skitch is a screen capture tool that makes snapping, annotating, and sharing screen grabs awesomely easy. It even makes posting the grabs to the web for sharing with the world easy.

10:07am MailChimp

A number of our work clients send monthly email newsletters that we handle for them. MailChimp is a lovely service for this, in that it handles prompt and reliable delivery, in-depth statistics, and easy list management.

MailChimp has a zillion features and they are all nicely implemented. Nonetheless, sometimes it can all be a little overwhelming. I also use SendLoop sometimes, which is more streamlined and allows sending one-off emails (instead of needing a monthly plan)

10:32am Google Reader

I’m not a machine, sometimes I need a little break! Sometimes that break is away from the computer, and sometimes it’s just a matter of popping open Google Reader and browsing through some feeds. I find this relaxing and enjoyable, and I rationalize it by the fact that the vast majority of the feeds I read are related to design and the web industry.

10:34am iTunes

Of course no break is complete without busting out a little tunage. I’m weird with music at work though. Sometimes it’s fantastic and sometimes I find it distracting. I find the real “thinky” stuff I need silence for, and the more grunt-work stuff I can listen to anything.

11:40am VMWare Fusion & Windows

I run Fusion in order to run Windows on my Mac. The ONLY reason I do this is to run the program below.

12:37pm IETester

Why the time gap? Before any IE testing needs to take place, I like to light some incense, rub my temples and meditate for a little bit so I can be completely calm and rational. Well, that’s what I should do at least. I am very appreciative of IE Tester, in making testing in all the important versions of IE easy and consolidated to one place.

1:01pm iPhone Simulator

While on the subject of simulation and testing, I fairly regularly use the iPhone Simulator that comes with the iPhone SDK for checking out sites in the Safari Mobile browser.

1:30pm FontExplorer X Pro

Alright back to work! Font management is a fact of life for designers. We used to have Suitcase back in the day at work. When I started working from home and needed a new one, I decided on this instead. I have a few gripes, but it all in all it works pretty well.

1:44pm WordPress

Most of the sites I deal with both at work and personally I’ve ported over to WordPress over the years. I love WordPress, but I love even more having so many sites share the same publishing platform so it makes it easy jumping back and forth.

2:11pm Microsoft Office

I have Apple’s Pages and Numbers, which are very nice, but of course in the business word you just simply cannot escape Office. I find myself inside Word and Excel constantly. I create send clients their sales reports in Excel, site statistics reports in Word. I keep track of financing stuff in Excel. It’s just unavoidable.

Lately I’ve been using Google Docs a lot more too, especially when the documents need to be collaborative, but I still haven’t quite replaced Office.

3:05pm FreshBooks

With my regular work day coming to a close, I start thinking about wrapping up loose ends. Sometimes that means billing for work done, and my invoicing application of choice is FreshBooks. I heart FreshBooks. I can go from absolute scratch (having never invoiced a client before) to having a very nice looking professional invoice out to them in just a few minutes.

4:07pm BuySellAds

In the evenings, I am more free to work on my own projects, like CSS-Tricks. Many of these projects are monetized through BuySellAds, which takes all the stress and work out of selling ads on websites.

5:30pm iCal

I only use iCal for significant events that are far enough off that I’m certain to forget about them. It’s fairly sparce, but it’s still vital for me to check in on on a daily basis to keep important things in mind.

9:18pm Google Analytics

I used to be absolutely addicted to web analytics, but I have (thankfully) gotten over it. They are still very important though, and do all my statistics browsing for both work and personal stuff through Google Analytics.

On some sites, I use alternatively use Mint, which is also very nice analytics software. I prefer Google Analytics as it’s free and I have all my sites in one place, but I like how Mint is a self-hosted product which feels safer to me.

10:04pm Tweetie

Tweeting during the day is more “effective” (as awful as that is to say), but I find night-time Twitter more casual and more fun. I was a Twitteriffic man forever, then I moved to Nambu for it’s awesome features liked saved searches, now Tweetie blows everyone away with it’s beautiful interface.

Wrap Up

It’s funny looking through this how few of the apps are directly related to productivity. I could do 90% of my actual “work” with Coda and Photoshop. Everything else is organizational, communicative, or entertainment.

Honorable Mentions

Of course this list doesn’t cover nearly all of the apps that get touched in a day. I didn’t even get into iPhone apps which is a whole barrel of apps that might make for a good post someday. Apps that I use that didn’t make the list: Terminal, Transmission, Transmit, TextEdit, Preview, ScrnShots, Flickr, Address Book, Bridge, HandBrake, Quicktime Player, all my games, and of course the operating system itself, OS X.