Productivity tips for web developers: How to manage project communication with Slack, and Hipchat!

Productivity tips for web developers: project communication

As mentioned in our last week’s blog post about productivity tips for a better time management, improving the productivity in web development is quite challenging.

A lot of web developers are often wondering about their team communication and how to get them on the next level. On the one hand there are a lot of enterprise solutions for team communication (e.g. Yammer), on the other hand there are consumer-oriented tools such as Whatsapp, Facebook, iMessage. And don’t forget about Emails. All of them compete for being the communication tool for enterprises. We took a closer look and provide you some productivity tips for managing your project communication.

Project communication needs planning

Implementing an effective and efficient project communication for your project(s) means installing & ensuring a communication process for the generation, collection, dissemination, storage of your project information. Everyone involved in the project must be prepared to send and receive messages and must understand how the communication in which they are involved as individuals affects the whole project.

As a result, a communication plan is recommended which determines the following aspects of a project:

  • Who needs what information,
  • when they need the information,
  • how will the information be given to them,
  • and by whom will the information be given.

There are all kind of different schemes and concepts for establishing a communication plan. But let’s face it: People will communicate in project the way it’s most comfortable for them. Nevertheless the aspects above need to be answered.

Using Email for project communication?

Although there are all kind of different communication tools out there, many companies still use emails for their internal team communication. That isn’t that bad as it may sound to many of us and there are still different reasons using emails as your major project communication tool. Nevertheless sending emails needs clear rules and guidelines – otherwise people won’t get the things done on time.
If you’re using emails as your primary project communication tool, we recommend keeping the following aspects in mind:

  • Keep it short & simple: People often write long emails expressing their ideas/inputs/requests. Writing long emails expresses kind of uncertainty about the aim of the email. Think what you would like to achieve (or which kind of reply you wish) by writing that email. Keep answers simple & short.
  • Avoid accusations or unclear messages: Be aware that the message you send to someone can probably be misunderstood by the receiver.
  • Avoid forwarding emails: Just forwarding emails without thinking about the relevance of it for the receiver is ineffective. Don’t do it.
  • Stop CC’ing all: Doing that means that you have no idea who can solve the task or answer your request, which is bad itself. No one will feel responsible and you won’t get the reply you were looking for.
  • Set time breaks for managing emails: communicating in a project via email can be a hassle. Set yourself time limits for reading, writing and answering emails.

Project Communication via Email - the Sender Receiver Model

The Alternative: Professional Chat Software?

Hipchat Messenger for project communicationThe inbox of a Head of Development tends to fill up over the day with feature requests, bug reports, and snippets of user feedback. Sometimes you’ll even receive emails with a whole bullet point list (if you’re lucky) of requirements, pain points, and random ideas. While it’s great that people take the time to give – at times very extended – feedback, it’s not really communicated in an efficient way. Using a professional chat software like Yammer, Hipchat or Slack can change the communication style radically. Making use of professional chat software and other communication tools becomes more and more popular among companies. Users love the easy-to-use tools and flexibility of asynchronous and synchronous communication offered by tools like Skype, Yammer, Hipchat or Slack.

Especially lean communication tools such as Slack, or Hipchat are gaining more and more attention for web development teams. We at Usersnap like the three chat tools which is why I’d like to make a short comparison between the three of them.

Slack vs. Hipchat – the fight of the pioneers

The need for easy to use messengers is huge since traditional collaboration software got more and more complex and haven’t met the need of users. Slack and Hipchat are three of these tools that fight for being the next big thing in business communication. We took a closer look at these two chat tools: Read who’s winning the fight Slack vs. Hipchat.

Although all tools are widely spread among web development and software teams, they are also used by a lot of other industries too. The three tools offer a simple way to chat privately 1:1 with other colleagues or participate in open chat groups. These chat groups can be structured along the organizational hierarchy (e.g. chat groups for each department) or along projects (e.g. chat groups for each project).

Hipchat also offers Voice- and video chats as well as screen sharing, which is quite a benefit since you don’t need to switch back to Skype. Slack, on the other hand, focuses primarily on text chats and aims for being the alternative to email communication. The three chat tools offer a variety of features which lets you improve the project communication and communicate in real-time. Slack, who just launched in the beginning of 2014, is more or less a browser-based messenger – so far there is only a native app for Mac OS X (besides the mobile apps) available. All three chat tools offer apps for Android and iOS which lets you stay connected even on the go. Comparing the three communication tools in detail, we listed the different features in the table below:

Features Slack Hipchat
1:1 messaging yes yes
private chats yes yes
open chat groups yes yes
search possibility yes yes
file sharing yes yes
audio calls yes yes
video calls yes yes
API yes yes
emoji yes yes
Snippet/previews yes no
3rd party integration yes yes

Pricing Slack Hipchat
free version yes yes
number of 3rd party 5 unlimited
free storage space 5 GB 5GB
Premium features starting 6.29EUR/user/month 1.57EUR/user/month
supported apps Slack Hipchat
Web yes yes
Windows yes yes
Linux no yes
OS X yes yes
Android yes yes
iOS yes yes

We at Usersnap are using Slack at the moment as our primary chat messenger & communication tool, since we love the coolness of Slack the most. Concerning the range of features and the pricing model all three tools offer quite the same possibilities. Because of that there is no general answer which chat messenger is the right one for your business communication and collaboration.

Integrate chat tool with project management tool

The great thing about the mentioned chat tools is the integration possibilities with 3rd party tools/apps. All three tools come with standard integration options with other leading project management collaboration tools. All notifications of these other tools are directly displayed inside selected chat channels/groups. From our point of view this comes in very handy since you don’t have to switch between the different tools. For example you can get notifications in your chat each time a task is created in your project management tools, like Trello, Asana or another Asana alternative.

Using a bug tracker and/or project management solution like Basecamp or Usersnap helps you to manage all your project tasks and bug reports. Recently we introduced our Slack integration for Usersnap which allows you to connect your Slack chat with Usersnap. Once you connected Usersnap with Slack, you’ll receive messages to your slack channel every time a screenshot or bug report is created with Usersnap. This is especially helpful since you can switch directly to the reported bug from your Slack chat.

Slack integration from Usersnap for project communication & visual feedback

Similar to our Slack integration, we also offer a Hipchat integration for Usersnap. These integrations give you the same notification possibilities as our Slack integration. With our all-new integrations, you can get notifications in your used chat messenger for example every time a screen is created, commented, closed or reopened.

Check out our awesome new integrations for Hipchat, and Slack!

Communicate and organize!

As mentioned in this blog post, communication is also about organizing your project and its team members. Using a chat software such as Hipchat, and Slack will help you to stay organized and keep your project on track.

Whatever tool you’re using for communicating in projects, be aware of your communication style. Try to be precise and targeted when communicating tasks and other project relevant topics. This also includes knowing who can do what and who is responsible for what. Being in real doubt about responsibilities refer to the project manager or friendly ask other team members.

We at Usersnap also recommend executing some sort of sprint planning (such as Scrum, Agile, or whatever name you like) together with your team. This will help everyone clarifying the important tasks for the next iteration. And most important, don’t leave it to your team members to come up with their own personal communication style during a project. Instead, collect inputs while doing the project planning about the right communication tool.

Are you using any chat or collaboration software for your business communication? What’s your opinion on using such tools?

PS: Stay tuned for further productivity tips 😉

This article was brought to you by Usersnap – a visual bug tracking and screenshot tool for every web project.

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