5 Programs That Can Help You Stay Organized At Work

organized at workNo matter how organized you may be, there comes a point where you get overwhelmed at work. Whether it’s due to growing responsibilities or a surge in clientele, we all get there. Thankfully there are a lot of helpful programs available to stay organized at work. From your evergrowing to-do list to client management, there’s a program for everything. Due to being busy, you may not have the time necessary to see what programs work best for you. This is why we’ve outlined 5 programs that can help you stay organized at work. Take a look at our list below and see if any of these programs will help you stay organized and manage your workload.

Stay Organized at Work with These 5 Programs

1. Trello

Trello is a great way to manage projects and tasks within those projects. Users can set up “boards” to denote projects, so each project is a separate entity. Within each board, users can create “cards” to represent tasks and “lanes” to track progress of tasks. With an easy-to-use interface, almost anyone can use Trello to their advantage. Trello also has an app that can be used on phones or tablets and features a compatible interface. Even more beneficial are the desktop and email notifications users can set up to make sure they don’t miss anything. If you’re feeling like you’re being pulled in too many directions, try Trello. With this helpful program, you’re able to keep all your projects in one place and track their progress.

2. Tomorrow.do

Do It Tomorrow may sound like the procrastinator’s dream, but it’s not quite that. This easy to set up and even easier to use program is a quick signup away and completely free. With Do It Tomorrow, you’re able to consolidate your to-do list in one place (and even set it as the first page to open when you get to work!) The way this program works is quite interesting. First you fill up your to-do list with all your tasks. You can set tasks that need to get done today and tomorrow. Once your tasks are all in place, start marking them off as you complete them. Anything that doesn’t get done automatically gets pushed to the top of the list the next day. It’s a great little program that can really keep you focused on the task at hand and the task ahead.

3. Google Drive

If you’re aware of Gmail then you’re probably aware of Google Drive. However, what a lot of people don’t know is the limits you can push Google Drive to in order to work it to your advantage. With Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, and Gmail, Google Drive really has everything you need to manage your work. And it all stays in one space which can be accessed from any computer, phone, or tablet. One of the best things that Google Drive offers is practically endless storage space. So, if you’re looking for a storage program that you can access from your home, office, or vacation spot and offers a wide variety of functions check out Google Drive. It’s another user-friendly platform that most office workers utilize for at least some sort of organization tool.

4. Dropbox

Dropbox is another great tool for file management and photo storage. This program has been around for quite a while and has a large following, so it’s likely you’ve received a Dropbox link from someone trying to share files or photos with you. While Dropbox is a great platform for sharing documents, photographs, and large files, the platform has memory restrictions. If you find yourself falling in love with Dropbox, you’ll need to be on top of managing what you store in it or ready to upgrade your file storage size.

5. Hootsuite

If you work with social media at all, it can get overwhelming and that can happen quickly. Almost all social media managers use some sort of online program to help stay organized. Hootsuite is one of the most popular programs for just that. Hootsuite is a social media management tool that allows users to schedule social media posts well into the future for publication. With the ability to manage Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more from one place, Hootsuite saves users time and headache. Hootsuite, like most of the programs we’ve covered, also has a user-friendly app that can be used on phones and tablets alike. This allows you to take your social media management with you on the go and never miss a post.

While these are five tools that we’re familiar with, there are tons of other programs to help you stay organized at work available. We recommend looking around and finding the programs that work best for you. Most are free and those that don’t offer a free trial for some amount of time. Try out different programs until you find the right fit for you and your workflow. Being organized at work can help to reduce stress and increase job happiness, so find what works for you and use it to your advantage!

At Number8, we offer onshore and nearshore product development support to companies large and small. Throughout our company, we hold high regard for job happiness and find that being organized at work helps to keep our employees happy. If you are interested in learning more about what we do or getting in touch with us, visit our Contact Us page or give us a call at 502-890-7665.

How Prolonged Screen Time Can Affect Your Health

Prolonged Screen TimeLiving in the 21st Century has a lot of benefits. We live in a world with modern medicine, modern transportation, and the most advanced technology the world has seen. However, like most benefits, there are hindrances that accompany them.

Thanks to modern medicine we can prevent the spread of dangerous diseases, but we can also choose to not vaccinate our children and risk disease spreading rapidly. With the help of modern transportation, we are able to travel from place to place faster than ever before, but we pollute the planet and harm the environment through most of these modes. And, while technology has brought the entire world closer together, it is also in front of us through one screen or another throughout most of our days. This is especially true when you work in the IT sector and subject yourself to prolonged screen time. It is important to know how prolonged screen time can affect your health and how to prevent further damage.

Before the mass marketing of in-home computers, most people did not spend a lot of time in front of technology. Besides the occasional time spent watching television, at a safe distance from the television itself, people were not subjected to technology like they are today. In the last 30 years, the rise of the digital age has put screens in front of more people for longer amounts of time. Throughout the last decade, studies surrounding how prolonged screen time can affect your health have started to appear.

Multiple studies around screen time discuss the effects that prolonged screen time has on children, teens, and adults. Children can suffer from learning and problem-solving delays when exposed to excessive screen time under the age of 30 months. Too much screen time has also proven to affect children’s language skills, emotional development, sleep schedule, and vision. Teens suffer from a lot of the same effects. However, screen time can also affect a teenager’s self-confidence, social skills, and emotions drastically.

So, how does prolonged screen time affect the health of adults? The answer is — in many ways. Adults who work in the IT sector undoubtedly subject themselves to the most amount of screen time among professions. Anywhere from 8-10 hours of time spent working in front of a screen is only part of it, too. The hours these same adults spend at home on their phones, personal computers, or watching television also factor into how screen time affects their health.

4 Ways Prolonged Screen Time Affects Adults’ Health

1. Vision

Vision is the first thing that people most often think of when contemplating how screen time affects your health. This may be because it is obvious that your eyes will be affected by continuous exposure to light. Or it may be because most people start to feel the negative effects of prolonged screen time in their eyes first. The most common symptoms of the effects prolonged screen time has on vision include fatigue, blurred vision, eye dryness, and headache.

2. Sleep

Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are two additional ways that prolonged screen times can affect your health. The screens themselves stimulate the brain which makes relaxing and falling into a restful sleep hard. This is especially true for those who use their phone in bed at night and turn them off right before they go to sleep. The blue light that radiates from a phone’s screen has been proven to suppress the hormone, melatonin, that promotes sleep. This, in turn, prevents those who use their phones soon before going to bed from falling into a restful sleep and cycling through REM sleep and non-REM sleep.

3. Weight

Numerous studies in the past have linked as few as two hours of television a day to an increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes in adults. While there aren’t many studies that find the same direct correlations between screen time and these risk factors, it is safe to assume there are correlations. They may not be as prevalent because a lot of people are active while on their phones, but prolonged screen time does lead to less time being active and less sleep. These are both factors that contribute to weight gain and weight-related diseases. In addition, prolonged screen time makes people more susceptible to advertisements for unhealthy foods. This exposure leads to unhealthy cravings and eating habits resulting in weight gain, as well.

4. Posture

Proper posture can be hard enough to maintain without prolonged time in front of a computer or excessive phone use. Spending a lot of time in front of a touch device can result in neck and shoulder pain which can lead to scoliosis. Touch devices also have adverse effects on the hands and can cause early-onset carpal tunnel. What a lot of people don’t know is how computer keyboards, mice, and screen heights can also negatively affect posture. Excessive use of keyboards and mice can lead to inflammation in the arms, hands, and wrists. Viewing computer screens that are not at eye level can cause neck pain and issues with proper posture.

While prolonged screen time cannot be prevented for those working in the IT sector, those who do spend a lot of time in front a computer screen can modify their work environment to not be as harmful to their health. Blue light glasses are becoming more popular, especially among younger IT workers, and for good reason. They block the harmful blue light that comes out of screens and causes both vision trouble and disrupted sleep. Altering the height of your computer screens, so they are eye level, can help prevent posture problems from developing.

Being mindful of how often you are on your phone or in front of a computer is the first step. Learning how prolonged screen time can affect your health is the second step to prevention. Overall, taking breaks from your screen usage is the best way to prevent health issues from arising. Experts recommend for every hour you spend looking at a screen, you spend 15 minutes away from a screen. By taking walks during those 15-minute breaks, you can prevent weight gain, eye strain, posture trouble, and more.

There are some situations where prolonged screen time is unavoidable. So, it is important to balance screen time with non-screen time. Pay attention to how much time you’re spending in front of screens and how your body is reacting. With the right measures, you can continue your IT-based job and not suffer from health issues that can arise from too much exposure to technology.

My Xamarin Experience

xamarinDifferent Options

When developing software, whether it’s for a fun project or a formal business project, a requirement can be met by many different options and technologies. After a while of looking at many, it is natural to think which is the best option for the requirement.

Let us consider the options for building a mobile application.

Sometimes the best option is determined by the compatibility of the implications of the option and the technical strengths of the development team. (I’ll cover implications a little later)  The first option to consider when building a mobile application are native applications, but it immediately raises a warning – when the code for a platform is done, the code will need to be transcribed to another platform.  Second, every native technology has its own implications. So to have a successful mobile experience in all native platforms, a developer for each platform is needed.

Even if there was a developer for each platform, is it worthwhile to develop a native mobile application for each platform instead of modifying a web page so it can be viewed in any device?  This is an important question to consider so here is a comparison chart for key characteristics.

CharacteristicNative ApplicationWeb Page
InternetAfter downloading the app, it can work in offline or online modeOnly works with internet connectivity
PerformanceNative components are lightweight and fastPages tend to be heavy and work somewhat slower
Push NotificationsCan send push notificationsCan’t send push notifications
Hardware AccessAccess to camera, speaker, flash, etc.Does not have access to hardware
AccessibilityOpening the app with a clickOpening browse and typing URL
User ExperienceNatural feels and smoothUnnatural and, in some cases, slow

Based on this comparison, it appears that a native application offers a wider range for creativity and service options. If the development team handles all the implications for every platform then it might be a good idea to develop a mobile app natively for each platform, considering that native applications have the best performance and assuming the business is willing to pay a higher cost.

Let’s talk more about those “implications”.


Implications

When dealing with software frameworks and APIs, each framework works naturally with the programmer at least interacting with (in others mastering) certain technologies or programming languages. This comes naturally if the framework is an extension for another technology.

For example, consider Node.js, a JavaScript runtime. When using Node.js, being a JavaScript runtime, the code will naturally be programmed in JavaScript language. Therefore, working with Node.js framework implies the programmer knows, or can at least interact with, JavaScript language. We’ll call these framework dependency implications.

Following are some implications for some mobile application frameworks.

Mobile Application TechnologyImplications
Native Android Mobile App• Java
Native iOS Mobile App• Objective-C or Swift programming language
Xamarin• .Net (C# programming language) • Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)
Appcelerator• JavaScript • Titanium SDK
Phonegap• Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) • JavaScript Language • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Language
Ionic• Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) • JavaScript Language • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Language • AngularJS
React Native• Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) • JavaScript Language (ES6 Syntax) • JavaScript XML (JSX) • Document Object Model (DOM)
Sencha Touch• Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) • JavaScript Language • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Language • Sencha SDK • MVC Architecture

There is another cost that is not visible at first glance.  Even though the different platform projects have the same core and logic, ultimately they are individual projects. Each project has a different language and application lifecycle and SDKs, so each project will also need its specialized maintenance. This can all add up.  If creating the application natively appears to be too expensive or the development team does not handle all the implications, another strategy can be used.

Using a cross-platform technology has become very popular as a hybrid solution for mobile development, so you can write one set of code that can be used on multiple platforms and can give the user a native experience. There are many cross-platform mobile app technologies, each with it’s own implications. The strategy is to pick technology that has an implication that the development team masters, plus another consideration. Since this is cross-platform, it is important to choose a solution that has a large percentage of transcribing code; the code that can be written once and run natively across the platforms.


xamarin developerMy Experience

When I decided I wanted to develop mobile apps, my first thought was “What native technologies do I know?”

I had used Objective-C for an iOS application.  If I wanted to make a native android or windows phone application, I’d have to learn about project structure and app lifecycle and hope I could program in the language they used. Since I only knew one native technology (iOS) I decided it was better to invest time learning a cross platform technology.

I then thought “Now if I’m going to use a cross platform technology, what implications can I handle the best?”.  Xamarin was a natural choice for me, thanks to the language and application structure.  C# is one of the languages I handle the best, plus the structure was intuitive. An .xml page with its back end code, the application lifecycle was also C-like. I managed to learn XAML and the app structure and lifecycle quickly.

Later, I discovered that Xamarin generated native apps that shared 95% of the common code. I also got to an acceptable level of understanding in android and iOS native applications. Then I decided to test Xamarin’s generated native projects. It seemed that the native applications were greatly structured and coded. I thought “Wow. In theory, it is possible for someone to develop a full native Android app without knowing Java or the android app structure or even having the Android Studio”. Another plus for cross-platform technologies comes from the abstraction layer.  When using Xamarin, the code handles mobile events (like Swipe) in Xamarin’s way.

I can code once and use these events without even knowing how to do it the native way.

I decided it was a good idea to take full advantage of these generated projects and tried making everything in Xamarin, because some things are not implemented on the framework. For example, Xamarin has no radio button tag for iOS applications. Instead of modifying the generated iOS application and using Apple’s radio button, I decided to implement my own radio button in Xamarin, which rendered natively in iOS. This seemed like a good choice that would become an advantage, but I also found a disadvantage, when making a minimum change on a Xamarin project, it must be recompiled to see the changes on the device. This can be time consuming if one wants to test various changes.


Conclusions

I decided to use Xamarin to build mobile apps because it was cross-platform. So most code would only have to be written once. And the projects generated by Xamarin were native. This is not the case on every cross-platform technology. The fact that the final projects are native is an advantage since mobile characteristics can be used.

Still, I studied native projects for Android and iOS to be able to modify the generated projects if something can’t really be done on Xamarin (I realized Xamarin does not support everything for every platform). Again, this can be done because Xamarin generates native projects.

In other words, I take advantage of Xamarin to reutilize code and generate fully native platforms to the extent it permits me, but I also know how to do it without Xamarin in case I really need to modify a native project. Xamarin’s implications are my strengths in programming. This is how I determined Xamarin was the best option for me when it comes to developing mobile applications.

It is important to note that the best option is a balance between the technical strengths of the development team and the implications of the technology. Xamarin with native platforms background was the best option for me, but I have a C# background.  Another developer could have worked faster with Ionic if, say, the developer is a master in AngularJS.

UX Design Tips Any Business Person Should Know

UX design tips User Experience design, or UX, is the process of programming websites to better fit the needs of its users. Or otherwise adapting websites to ensure they are user-friendly. A goal for many business owners is to have the format of their website go unnoticed. This may seem counter-intuitive, but more often than not, the general public won’t think about the way in which a website is built unless it is structured poorly. A website should be well organized and function smoothly. When everything works well, the user isn’t thinking about the website itself, rather the content within it. And that should be the goal of any business person; for their customers to focus on the product.

Below, we’ve gathered some helpful tips about UX design and how you can use it to elevate your business and better engage with customers.

User Experience Design Tips   

Organize based on importance:

Users are most likely to focus on the content that comes first. Have your core mission and goal as a company up front and easily accessible. Your customer should be able to get the majority of necessary information just from spending a couple minutes on your page. 

Keep it simple:

Make sure the page length is reasonable. No one wants to scroll through a never ending page of content. UX should be about making the experience enjoyable and efficient. You don’t want to make your customers work. One way to simplify is with links. Make them clear and obvious. A user shouldn’t have to click on a link to figure out where it leads. The text should tell them.

Be consistent:

Your website should have an overarching theme that is easy to follow. Use similar color schemes on each page and make sure the design doesn’t overpower the content.

Think mobile: 

Today more than ever it is essential to design websites that can be seamlessly translated to mobile devices. When you are working on creating a site, or relaunching, keep in mind how the website will convert to a mobile version.

Be quick: 

Above all, keep load times low. Potential clients will leave your site if the information they’re looking for takes too long to load. 

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel:

All websites, no matter the content, have similarities in design. Users expect aspects such as the search field to always be located in the top right corner of the landing page. They also expect a FAQ page, or a general information page. Don’t stray too far from what people are accustomed to. They might be more resistant to consuming the information if it is presented in a strange way. 

Think from an outsider’s perspective:

Keep in mind what you would like to see on a website if you were the consumer. 

Take criticism: 

After all, it is about the user’s experience. Even if you may believe that you have the best website, if users are complaining, then it is time for some updates.

 

To learn more about UX, or have other tech related questions, give us a call at (502) 890-7665 today!