Note from Jimmy Hua: Using the right tools will make your life much easier. WordPress and KISSinsight are good. I don’t quite think the other three are that essential.
This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to 5 Essential Web Apps for the Lean Small Business
Donna Wells is the CEO of Mindflash.com, software that provides the best online training for small businesses. It makes employee training easier, faster and more cost-effective than ever before.
As consumers, we’re adopting cloud-based apps and tools rapidly. But we’re still at the beginning of the curve in applying the same kinds of low-cost tools to running small businesses. I managed about two-thirds of all of my work at my previous company, Mint.com, on inexpensive web applications. At my new company, it’s closer to 100%. Why? There’s been an explosion of well engineered, secure apps that facilitate almost all of my accounting, marketing, project management, and other business tasks at a small fraction of the cost and time required by their enterprise predecessors.
Here are five cool tools I’ve learned to love that cover some important bases for any business — from basic file sharing and team communication to user testing and content management. Are there countless others worth trying? You bet. But here are a few I consider keepers.
What it is: On-demand user research.
Why you need it: Without an intimate understanding of users, our businesses wouldn’t thrive (or even exist). User feedback is the most valuable dataset we can get our hands on. As a one-two punch, Ethnio and Usabilla deliver great insights quickly and cheaply.
I recently had lunch with a product-VP, and we both had a good laugh over the fact that it used to take him nearly four days to set up a single day of product usability research. Between the manual labor of finding and qualifying the users, then organizing the process, it had become one of his most time-consuming and expensive tasks.
Ethnio allows us to grab and vet potential candidates through website pop-ups. Usabilla then pulls the best candidates from the Ethnio session to work through questions, product concepts and sends feedback and analysis to the business.
Set up properly, this nifty duo works almost entirely hands-off, allowing the site to motor along while continually mining data. And it keeps our top research and product talent focused on interpreting the results – not collecting them.
What it replaces or complements: Focus groups, traditional user testing
Cost: Ethnio: Free to $800/year; Usabilla: Free to $139/month
What it is: A walled, instant-messaging service geared for office communication and collaboration.
Why you need it: Yammer is commonly referred to as “Twitter for businesses,” only without the 140-character maximum.
A few weeks ago I had to cancel a 9 a.m. company-wide conference call on short notice — at about 10:30 p.m. the night before. (It should also be noted that half of the company works remotely.) Instead of a blast e-mail or calendar change, I simply “Yammed” the change of plans. The update went out instantaneously, got read, and no one wasted time dialing in the next morning.
What it replaces: Instant messaging, e-mail
Cost: Free to $5 per user/month
What it is: Deep-drill insights that Google Analytics doesn’t deliver.
Why you need it: Most everyone uses Google Analytics to measure website activity and track important metrics. But we’ve recently deployed KISSinsights in our online training app to also get critical, qualitative feedback that GA doesn’t collect.
By embedding a few lines of KISS code, we can now pop contextually relevant questions to users within a live session. This allows us to learn what users like and don’t like about the app’s features and design, what they may be confused by, what’s missing, etc. It’s feedback that is becoming priceless for our company’s success at an incredibly low cost.
What it replaces: It doesn’t replace Google Analytics, but it’s a vital complement.
Cost: Free to $300/year
What it is: A complete content management system.
Why: In a past life, I worked for a big company with a huge e-commerce website in which all content was entirely hard-coded. We had to work through an engineer to do something as simple as altering a sentence of copy. Needless to say, this made my life hell and made the company uncompetitive compared to those that had built sites with functional content management systems.
My current company runs our public website on WordPress, meaning anyone in the company can quickly update and alter content nimbly, efficiently and cheaply.
What it replaces: Flat, HTML design, expensive enterprise-level CMS
Cost: Standard version is free, but you’ll still need basic design and development to customize; VIP Hosting: $2500/month.
More Business Resources from Mashable:
– 6 Ways to Market on Foursquare Without a Location
– 5 New Online Services Perfect for Small Businesses
– What Does Web Design Say About Your Small Business?
– 10 Ways Business Leaders Can Turn Ideas Into Execution
– 7 Tips for Building a Better Branded App
Reviews: Drupal, Google Analytics, Joomla, Loop11, Mint, UserTesting.com, WordPress, Yammer, iStockphoto
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