Smashing Newsletter #290: Email Productivity and Meetings

From email productivity to better code reviews, consistent color schemes and better scheduling. Issue #290 Tue, March 2, 2021 View in the browser 

Smashing Newsletter

Ahoy Dear Friends,

We all want to be productive in our work. However, with messages streaming our way from every direction, staying focused and well-organized requires effort and commitment. And, frankly, a lot of time. As we found ourselves getting more and more busy in February, we asked ourselves how we can be more productive.

Should we re-organize our email filters and labels? What about time management? What about the frequency and length of meetings? How do we avoid dozens of candidates with weak job ads? And how do we make our remote work better?

Remote Work For Design Teams
From “Remote Work For Design Teams”, fully available as HTML book.

As a result, we’ve discovered a few services, tools and articles that are perhaps less known, but can be quite helpful when used consistently. We feature some of these productivity boosters in this very newsletter — from email productivity to better code reviews and scheduling. You can find more tools in our article on better remote work, so feel free to dive in.

And as a little friendly side note, we also have a couple of online workshops just around front-end/design workflow by Dan Mall and Nathan Curtis coming soon, along with some front-end and UX gems as well, of course. We’d love to see you there.

Let’s boost productivity!
— Vitaly (@smashingmag)

Table of Contents

1. Encoding Code Reviews With Feedback Ladders
2. Making Time For What Really Matters
3. Making Email Better
4. Staying Productive With Online Workshops
5. Sync Color Themes For Your Dev Environment
6. Collecting Feedback From Clients
7. How To Write A Job Ad
8. New On Smashing Job Board
9. Our Current Most Popular Articles

1. Encoding Code Reviews With Feedback Ladders

Code reviews can bring along communication issues if a team doesn’t have established standards. To solve this, Netlify’s UX team developed a shared terminology that adds nuance to the feedback and helps everyone involved to better understand where the feedback fits into the larger picture.

Feedback Ladders

The Feedback Ladder, as Netlify’s approach is called, is based on the idea of living in a house that is still being built: There are different kinds of inconveniences (mountain, boulder, pebble, sand, and dust) and each one has a different level of impact on your day-to-day life in the house. Dust, for example, does not impede life in the house, while a boulder blocking the door needs to be taken care of to not block the work from moving forward. The metaphors are easy to remember and can be used to concisely encode the severity of feedback. Clever! (cm)

2. Making Time For What Really Matters

Some workdays are quite fragmented: First the daily standup with your teammates, then a call here, a meeting there, and the work that would require actual focus time is jammed somewhere in between the scheduled appointments. Clockwise is here to change that. The smart calendar assistant is available as a Chrome extension and frees up blocks of uninterrupted time to help you focus on what matters.


To make the most out of your workday, Clockwise learns your meeting behavior and identifies how your schedule could be improved — based on your preferences, of course: It automatically moves meetings to optimize your calendar, resolves meeting conflicts, and even syncs with your personal calendar to ensure that you don’t miss important personal commitments.

To maximize your team’s productivity, Clockwise can even coordinate meetings across schedules and move them to the least disruptive time. A handy little helper. (cm)

3. Making Email Better

Overflowing inboxes, spam with backlink requests, people emailing you on a Friday afternoon and following up on Monday morning — there are a lot of things that make dealing with email unpleasant. However, since there is no getting around email, there’s only one solution: Let’s improve the situation together. With that in mind, Chris Coyier is running “Email is Good”, a site about email productivity.

Email is Good

“Email is Good” takes a look at things that make emails annoying, tips and ideas on how we can do better, as well as little anecdotes that everyone can relate to. A great opportunity to reflect on how each one of us deals with email and the reactions that our email habits might provoke on the recipient’s side. (cm)

4. Staying Productive With Online Workshops

Investing in your own productivity is worth it — it starts with code editor settings and browser extensions, but can go further with workshops. As it happens, we have some friendly front-end & UX online workshops dedicated to workflow, design systems, and web performance and front-end.

Smashing Online Events

Our workshops are packed with practical examples, video recordings and friendly Q&A sessions. Each and every workshop has been a truly smashing experience with wonderful folks from all over the world. There are still some early-birds left, with a lil’ friendly discount. Perhaps you’d like to join us and recommend to others — just sayin’! ;-)

5. Sync Color Themes For Your Dev Environment

Have you ever wished for a consistent color theme across your entire development environment? One that you feel is pleasant for the eyes and that stays the same when you switch from your code editor to the terminal across to Slack? Themer helps you achieve just that.


Themer takes a set of colors and generates themes for your development environment based on them. You can either start with a pre-built color set or create one from scratch by entering two main shades for background color and foreground text and accent colors for syntax highlighting, errors, warnings, and success messages.

Once you’re happy with the result, you can download the themes you want to generate from the palette — different terminals and text editors are supported, just like Slack, Alfred, Chrome, Prism, and other tools and services. To make the color coordination complete, there are matching wallpapers based on your theme, too. Nice! (cm)

6. Collecting Feedback From Clients

How does your team collect feedback when working on a website? You’re probably wishing there would be fewer emails and notifications involved, right? Well, what if we told you there’s a (free!) little tool that can help you and your team with a frictionless, simple way to gather feedback on any live website?

MarkUp For Chrome

Sound like a dream come true? The MarkUp For Chrome extension lets you collect feedback on any live website from your browser. The entire website becomes a digital canvas where you can leave comments and include screenshots allowing your team to see exactly what you were looking at when you made a comment and provided feedback. Nifty! (il)

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7. How To Write A Job Ad

Browsing through job boards around front-end and UX roles is always an adventure. The expectations are high, the descriptions are vague and lengthy, the roles and titles are obscure, and it’s hard to tell what the company is actually looking for with all the hyped words scattered all over the opening ad. So, what makes a good job description?

Drawing from her recent experiences with Calibre, in “How To Write A Job Ad”, Karolina Szczur highlights some of the useful details to include in a successful job ad. Among them are an exact, specific job title without jargon and buzzwords, an introduction of the organization, must-have requirements, the overview of day-to-day tasks and a list of employee benefits.

Karolina also makes a great point why it’s important to explain how to apply and how the interview process works, along with being inclusive and accommodating. If you need an example, Karolina provided an example of a job ad for a front-end position. A fantastic resource worth keeping nearby. (vf)

8. New On Smashing Job Board

9. Our Current Most Popular Articles

That’s All, Folks!

Thank you so much for reading and for your support in helping us keep the web dev and design community strong with our newsletter. See you next time!

This newsletter issue was written and edited by Cosima Mielke (cm), Vitaly Friedman (vf) and Iris Lješnjanin (il).

Sent to truly smashing readers via Mailchimp.
We sincerely appreciate your kind support. You

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