Tools for research
Dovetail is my research repository. I use it to organise, tag and analyse research findings and then turn them into insights.
I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, and I’m a big fan. It’s given me a more organised and structured approach to analysing data collected from interviews, surveys, and audits. It also helps to make data and insight useful in the long-term too. It’s very easy to search and filter, so you can get to the information you need later on down the line. I’d love to see more organisations using Dovetail – or something similar – to organise their data, research and insight, and make it more accessible across their organisation.
Try it: https://dovetail.com
Grain is an AI tool for transcribing calls and meetings.
I used to use the much better known Otter, but switched to Grain because I’ve found it to be a lot more accurate. It does a better job with UK regional accents, which Otter really struggled with. It also has some additional features that I’ve found incredibly useful for research:
- It writes a quick summary of the call
- It creates a list of key points
- You can highlight sections of text and it will summarise them
- It creates video clips of the sections your highlight
- You can tag highlights
- You can build collections of video clips
The time it’s saved me in video editing alone more than pays for the cost. I also found the team responsive when I got in touch asking about other upcoming features and giving feedback.
Try it: https://grain.com/
I’m cautiously using Chat GPT as part of my research process, to summarise and spot patterns in large volumes of text.
For example, if I have a survey with a free text field, I’ll copy the data over and ask Chat GPT to do things like spot trends and patterns, count common words, etc. I’ve been double-checking a lot, as I don’t have a lot of trust in Chat GPT, but so far it’s been reliable. I would never just use Chat GPT findings, but if I can use it to do time-consuming grunt work then I will.
Try it: https://chat.openai.com/
A tool for content audits
Sitebulb is a website crawler and content audit tool.
I used to use Screaming Frog and URL Profiler together for this, but found that Sitebulb combined the best of both those tools. The user interface is a little bit more intuitive too.
I use it to get a full inventory of website content – including meta data, readability scores, etc – and to get logs of common search and accessibility issues. The outputs are very actionable and it creates some nice visualisations of site structure too.
Try it: https://sitebulb.com/
Tools for content design/creation
Google Docs is, well, it’s just Google Docs isn’t it?
I mention it here, because I’m still using it to write most of the content I work on, despite the availability of so many other tools. I’ve tried writing purely in AI tools like Writer, and still do some writing in Notion and ClickUp (more on these two later). But Google Docs is my tool of choice, mostly because I like how easy it is to share documents and manage comments and feedback.
Try it: https://www.google.co.uk/docs/
While I’m not writing directly into Writer any more or using the content generation features, I do use the Chrome plugin to spot typos and get suggestions for improvements, simplifications, etc.
I’m currently using the free version and weighing up whether I need the upgrade.
Try it: https://writer.com/
A wireframing, diagramming and IA mess
For the more visual side of my work, like wireframes, diagrams, IA, sitemaps etc, I’m in a total mess. I’m simultaneously using Mural, Miro, Figma, Whimsical, and Flowmapp, depending on the client and the project.
I need to try and simplify this (for the things that I’m in control of at least). I want to make Figma my tool of choice, but I’ve got a steep learning curve to travel to make this a reality.
Try it: https://www.figma.com/
Tools for productivity
ClickUp bills itself as ‘One app to replace them all’. It covers project and task management, reporting, docs, whiteboards, chat, and more.
You can do an absolutely mind-boggling amount with ClickUp. So far I’ve been using it to plan, cost and manage my projects, track my availability, as my personal to do list, and to share proposals and other documentation with clients. I feel twice as organised and in control of my work since I started using it. I was also impressed by just how much you can do with the free version.
Try it: https://clickup.pxf.io/lapope*
Flown is a virtual co-working platform. You join a video call, set your intention for the session, and then work in silence, side-by-side. Some calls also have breakouts for stretching, breathwork, trivia, etc.
It sounds weird, but it’s helped my concentration and productivity no end. The discipline of time-boxing tasks and removing distractions has really helped me get more done and feel better too.
Try it: https://flown.com
What I’m not using/phasing out
- Otter: I’ve stopped using Otter for transcription. It’s not accurate enough and can’t compare with the extra features Grain offers.
- Zoom: This was a wrench, but I’ve ended my subscription with Zoom. I’ve always been happy with Zoom’s performance and features, but recent updates to the terms and conditions worry me – especially given the nature of the information people share with me as part of user research. I’m using Google Meet for now, and looking at other options.
- Notion: I’m in the process of phasing out Notion for the same reason. This one is going to take me a while, because I have a huge repository of data, links, and writing there. I think ClickUp will be my replacement, but the idea of migrating everything over is daunting.
- Mailchimp: I use Mailchimp for my email marketing, but as my subscriber list grows, it gets more and more expensive. I’m considering my options, but Substack – which is free – is looking pretty appealing.
- Airtable: I still like it, but none of my clients use it, so I’m finding that I rarely have a reason to login these days.
A few tools that I use and wanted to give a brief honourable mention to:
- Shift: A desktop app to seamlessly work across multiple email accounts, calendars, apps and workflows. Great for consultants with multiple clients/project. Try it: https://tryshift.com/*
- Freeagent: for bookkeeping, invoicing, etc. Try it: https://www.freeagent.com/
- SessionLab: for intuitive agenda planning for meetings, workshops, events, conferences, etc. It also has a big library of ice breakers, exercises, facilitation methods etc Try it: https://www.sessionlab.com/*
- Zapier: for automation and connecting tools and apps. Try it: https://zapier.com/
I’d love to hear about the tools you can’t live without – drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.