Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Indie Web Toolbox

Yes another toolbox, but this time it's not software but more about web site/service/hosting that could be quite handy for an indie devs.  I was reminded to talk about it after reading this week @snappytouch excellent article about Google App Engine (definitely worth to read if you're looking into setting up some web service for your apps).  In my previous article "The Indie Software Toolbox" we took a look at many software tools that could let you different jobs, whether its to make some graphics, audio or business work.  But they are also another set of tools that you should add to your tool belt and those are the one that I call web tools.  Those tools could let you store files/documents and share them with your team members, it cool be a bug tracking tools, an email service to deal with all your technical support, etc...

And as previously mentioned In my previous article "The Indie Software Toolbox" I tried to find the right tools for the jobs and the one that could be easily afforded by shoe string budget (if its free its even better).  So now let see what that Indie Web Toolbox could contain (those are my recommendation, feel free to give your suggestions in the comment section).


I think this is first kind of web tools that should go in your toolbox as its usually relatively easy to set up and will let you reach customer in a simple way.  And those are getting more and more popular everyday, they are already millions of users on those social networking that are just a click away to be connected with you.  But where to start? Well for me the first network that I joined for Quebarium was Twitter the cost for entry is 0$ but be prepare to spend countless hours to socialize with people and build your network.

To use it is quite simple you simply wrote something you would like to say (whether its to announce your new game, a contest, a promotion, how you're feeling, etc...) and "tweet" it.  Then people that follows you will see what you wrote and they can share your post by "re-tweeting" it to their followers.  So you could easily reach thousands of people very quickly, of course this all depend on your network.  As an advise the more you socialize with people and have something interesting to say the more chance you have in getting more followers.

Of course the other popular social network is Facebook, if you haven't heard about it by now you must have been living under a rock. Once again the cost of entry is darn cheap at 0$, but they are only one caveat is that you will need create your personal profile (well you can probably create a fake one) which has been under a lot of scrutiny due to their privacy policy.  I strongly suggest when you create your personal profile don't put too many private details (phone, full adress, etc...) as those aren't really required to use the service and might be seen by the wrong people if you aren't careful with the privacy settings.

As with Twitter it allows you to post news that people can see (you wrote on your wall, which anyone can see).  Also people that "like" your page (similar to a follower in Twitter) will receive a notice about the change you made to your page.  To get you going you simply create a page and give it a name and fill up the require information (name of your company/product, etc...).  By default you will be able to store photo, have a discussions section and of course your wall where you post new and link.  If this is not enough for you, they are thousands of applets that can be installed on your page to provide additional functionality (not all of them can be installed on a pages though).  Oh and you also get statistics of the visitors on your page which can be quite handy for marketing purpose (no you don't know who came exactly, but it give you number of visits which country, age group, etc...).

One web tool to rule them all... well I have been using different other web tools, but instead of creating a separate section I decided to put all of them together as they are all own and run by Google. Our first stop will be with YouTube which will let you store/share videos.

When you will have your first trailer of your upcoming game or just a teaser this is going to be the place to put it online.  You can even have an HD version of the video you're uploading an you don't need to deal with the bandwitch or storage usage needed to store all those video files.  Its also possible to embedded those video on your web page and or in some discussions forums.

Next service from Google, well you're actually on it... yup I am talking about Blogger the blogging services.  As the name implies it let you blog as much as you want and its quite handy for your #iDevBlogAday post ;-).

To set up a blog/web page with the provided tools/template is quite easy and can be done in a few minutes.  If you need to have more control its also possible to send your own page in xml but then you will not be able to use the design tools properly.  Of course as all the other tools this is totally free for using the service (no fee for hosting of any of the contents), by default you will have your blogname stuck with the but for a little 10$/year you can register your own domain name.  You can create a few limited pages (useful if you want to create an about/contact/product page) and its also possible to add a few applets to your page too (want to do a poll, get a search button, etc...).  Another good thing, if you login via you will get beta functionality such as the "Statistics" which will give several information about people visiting your blog.

The last but not the least is the Google Apps service (not to be mistaken with Google App Engine), which provide you GMail, Google Calendar and Google Docs for the price of 0$ and you can set up to 50 users.  This is of course if you take the Standard edition, they are also a premium edition at 50$/year/per user if you need more storage and more users, but as an indie I don't think this will be needed.

Its also possible to run Google Apps and point it to your domain name, as in our case since we already had registered via Blogger it was quite easy to setup.  This will provide you with a login to the different services with the name of your domain, for example for us we have,, etc... 

The service that will probably be the most useful to start with is of course EMail which is essentially your usual GMail that will receive your email from your customer.  And its quite easy to setup different email account for different purposes, you could create,, and so on.  Each of those account will have the typical 7gb storage limits which should be quite enough for a while.

Once you have finish to deal with all your numerous emails (inbox 0), its time to schedule your time/activities.  How about setting some entry in your agenda so you don't forget to write your #iDevBlogADay post with a reminder?  Well this is what Calendar is there for!

It can get simpler than that, this is not a very sophisticated agenda but it does the jobs well, which let you schedule some task/activity and you can specify whom should be invited/notified too.  Maybe one of the task you put in your agenda was to wrote some document for your next meeting, well you can do this with the other functionallity of Google Apps which is Google Docs.

You can create 5 types of document, the one you probably going to use the most is Documents which is your typical text document.  You can also create Presentation, Spreadsheets, Forms and Drawing. All those documents can be shared and people can collaborate inside those documents, they are also an history of the different version of the document so you can compare what has been changed between versions.

Beside those 3 main tools in Google Apps you can also create Sites (web page), have some Chat sessions (also used to have Google Wave, but its kinda RIP now).  If you think this is not enough, don't worry you can also install additional apps available from the marketplace.  Like for us we decided to install Manymoon which let you create and assign tasks/projects.  Most of those additional apps aren't free and usually have some monthly fees.  But it might be worth to check out if you need for example a project management solution that integrate with the rest of Google Apps.

There you have it, your first basic Indie Web Toolbox!  They are many other tools available around, maybe your toolbox look different then mine (feel free to give your suggestions).  Don't worry if the tools you use isn't the most fancy or expensive one, you can always change them later once you have more budget.  As the most important thing to remember is using the right tools for the job at hand and what you feel comfortable with.

This post is part of iDevBlogADay, a group of indie iPhone development blogs featuring two posts per day. You can keep up with iDevBlogADay through the web site, RSS feed, or Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. To add one more useful service to the list, I've recently been using to host all my Mercurial version control repositories. They also have integrated issue/defect management via Trac. I am trying to use Trac as my project "to do" list now.

    The price is only $6/month for 2GB of storage and unlimited users. I had investigated Kiln at first (Joel Spolsky's Mercurial hosting site), but their rates were just ridiculously high ($25/month per person as I recall) compared with the competition.

    I even get to upload my company logo and customize the color scheme.

    Mind Juice Media