A couple of weeks ago, my teammate Andrew Lima wrote an in-depth article on productivity for remote workers. Inspired by his words, I decided to put together an article of my own to outline the key tools we use at Paid Memberships Pro. These tools help us accomplish work and maintain communication in our geographically diverse team.
Tools of the Trade
These are the essential tools we use to ensure that our remote team performs as well as possible. If you have ever attempted to cook a family meal or build a handmade piece of furniture, you probably know just how important it is to have the right tool for the job. No kidding, have you ever been the unfortunate soul trying to build a wooden bench using a handsaw, hammer, and nails? How about trying to carve out a pumpkin or chop vegetables with a dull knife—not fun and quite dangerous. If you throw a power tool or high-quality chef’s knife into the mix, suddenly these burdensome, energy-draining, and seemingly impossible tasks become fun and exciting. You’ll complete a task thinking “What can I create next?” and not “I never want to do this again.”
The PMPro team is 100% remote. Even though we are “digital creators,” we too cannot get by with inadequate tools—far from it! This is a list of the most popular tools we use to build the best WordPress membership plugin out there. I hope you discover a new tool that can help you improve your workflow—if so, let us know in the comments below.
Code is a huge part of what we do. Every feature, menu option, checkbox and word in our plugin has been strategically added into Paid Memberships Pro using some code. This is rather a big topic, so we won’t get into the nitty-gritty of PMPro’s code base, but as you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to store, maintain and contribute to our code base. We needed a platform to open source our ever-growing library of Add Ons, Code Recipes and Core plugin.
Github does an amazing job in allowing developers to store, view, edit and maintain code. You can also add team members to your organization to give them special permissions and capabilities. What we really love about Github is the way it handles code changes. Anyone can submit a potential code change or ‘Pull Request’. Once submitted, the repository’s owner can review these code changes, post comments, suggest changes, then merge or reject them. This makes Github a great place to store our Open Source GPLv2 code and encourages talented developers to follow along and contribute to our plugin, making it better and better—the beauty of Open Source.
- Store, edit and develop code.
- Offers multiple features to share your code with others.
- Keep track of project issues, pull requests, comments and versions.
- Encourages development and contribution to code.
What is the single most important thing a remote team needs in order to be successful? Communication. This may sound cliché but it’s 100% true: communication plays a huge role in determining whether a team merely survives or thrives.
We use Slack as a primary means to communicate. Slack offers real-time messaging for teams and individuals in an organization. With it, you can create different channels for different teams or projects, so all messages stay relevant to the topic of that channel. It is essential for most remote teams because it allows quick and easy messaging regardless of timezone or locations. Some of the most valuable added features that we use include:
- Third party apps integrations like Zapier, Trello, RSS feed posting, and Giphy 😋
- File sharing: Documents, Audio files, Videos, you name it.
- Code snippet sharing
- Voice and Video calls
Face-to-Face team meetings matter, especially for remote teams. PMPro uses Google Meet for our standing Team Meetings. Google Meet is a video conferencing web app for holding meetings with team members from anywhere in the world, on any device. During our team meetings at PMPro, we often have to share screens to show a project or code to the rest of the team, this works great with Google Meet.
We’ve also heard good things about Zoom but have not had the opportunity to test it out yet.
Local by Flywheel
Local by Flywheel is a free local development environment designed to simplify the workflow for WordPress developers and designers. This is an essential tool for WordPress developers and serves as an alternative for MAMP, XAMP or DesktopServer. In just a few clicks, you can spin up a new local WordPress site. We use Local by Flywheel quite a bit here at PMPro both in our marketing team and our support and development teams. Some key features of Local by Flywheel are:
- Live Test Link: Safely share a link to your local site to anyone online.
- Local SSL Support
- Flexible Environments: Easily swap PHP and MySQL versions for compatibility checks.
- Website Blueprints: Create new sites with the same set of pre-installed themes and plugins.
- Site Import/Export: Share completely pre-configured environments between your team or with outside collaborators.
Google offers a huge suite of web apps. We use Google Docs for writing new documentation, planning project requirements, recording team statistics and drafting articles. For storage of important files and folders, we use Google Drive. When it comes to scheduling meetings and organizing our time we use Google Calendar. Every team member also has a team email address through our Google Suite. These applications all work together to simplify both administrator and individual work.
Toggl is an intuitive time tracking web app that allows you to track time spent on different projects and tasks. It includes filterable reports and provides a clear overview of the time spent by you or your team on different areas of your business. If you are someone who is charging clients on an hourly basis, Toggl might be especially interesting to you.
- Timed task/projects reports
- Automated timesheet management
- Client reports
- Integrates with other web apps and services
Pep Cards is a recurring task management app that helps monitor your daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly tasks. You can assign tasks to certain people in your team, create workflows for tasks, and more. It also sends email notifications for any reminders or changes to your assigned cards.
- Keep track of complete, incomplete, and overdue tasks.
- Keep track of individual or team productivity.
- Break projects down into smaller, achievable tasks
- Set up a workflow
- Integrates with Slack
Trello is a project management tool that keeps your projects and tasks organized. It uses the famous Kanban system to arrange workflows. It’s become a popular project management system for remote teams and if properly maintained can prove to be an invaluable asset to any team. If you are a fan of using the Agile approach in completing projects, check out Trello.
Good ol’ Pen and Paper
I can’t speak for our entire team, but I personally often resort back to old school methods of keeping organized by journaling and note taking using just a pen and paper. This may be primitive when compared to all the fancy technologies available, but I find having a trusty notepad and pen at my side is the best way to jot down quick notes and brainstorm an idea. You can always store these notes later digitally for safe keeping.
There is something extremely satisfying about writing an idea out on paper or scratching off an item on your to-do list. I use a mix of digital and analog mediums to create my personal productivity system, namely a Bullet Journal and Google Calendar—but that is another blog post altogether.
That’s a lot of stuff.
The truth is, there are loads of platforms, web apps, and tools you can use to ensure your remote team is productive, happy, and organized.
The tools that fill your toolbox must fit your needs for ease of use, maintenance and management. Remember, this toolbox is designed to help you. If you find yourself constantly wrestling a system or application, maybe it’s time to retire that tool and look for a replacement.
I hope this article sheds some light on what it is like to work remotely and the tools we rely on to make PMPro great.