Version 6 - New and Improved

New features added monthly

Since we released Version 6 six months ago, the following new features have been added:

obs BLOG POST new improved1 01

  1. Adding predefined PO notes based on the category of the item being ordered
  2. New ability to set the order for rooms so they appear that way on reports
  3. A new more efficient way to replicate room distributions (for the SmartHospitality clients)
  4. Ability for designers to setup their email signatures for outgoing emails
  5. Improvements to the Finish module for replicating finishes
  6. More control over how specifications are generated and what they include
  7. New task entry and task tracking module
  8. The ability for users to create custom reports
  9. The ability to add notes to proposals
  10. Hyperlinks for shipper tracking numbers

What is in the works?

  1. Ability to look up sales tax rates by address
  2. A more efficient way to enter vendor deposits in QuickBooks

If you would like to see these new features or discuss a feature you think your firm might need, please contact us!

Categories: Best Practices


Hey WOO. Yes, I'm talking to WOO!

WOO Commerce is a software module used to create online retail stores mostly for non-retail websites. For example, if an interior design firm has a website promoting its services, and it also sells a few products online, then chances are good it uses WOO Commerce to sell the online items. It is used on thousands, if not millions, of websites because it is versatile and affordable. You've probably made many purchases on sites using WOO Commerce. 

Recently a DesignSmart client who has thousands of products in DesignSmart decided to offer these products for sell on their website which uses WOO Commerce. One option was for the staff to manually key into WOO all the product information that is in DesignSmart. This would take days of work and be prone to typos. And anytime a new product was added to DesignSmart, it would have to be added again in WOO. Or if a price changed it would have to be updated in both DesignSmart and WOO. You get the picture: days of manual data entry with a high probability of WOO not having the correct information.

The solution to this nightmare was for the programmers at The Smart Designer to develop the code to electronically transfer all the products in DesignSmart directly into WOO Commerce. No dual entry, no delays, and no chance of WOO not having the most up-to-date and accurate data from DesignSmart. 

If your firm sells products both via your design projects and via your online store, and you'd like to be more efficient in the way you keep everything in sync, then give us a call. We'd like to talk with woo. 




Categories: Add-ons


There are only two tools in the world

What are they?

Recently I was tasked with opening dozens of old messy paint cans that had accumulated in our basement over the years and filling them paint can openerwith cat litter. The litter absorbs the paint and solidifies it so the cans can be thrown out with the trash. 

The first tool I grabbed to open the cans was a regular screwdriver. It took some prying and finagling, but with some effort I managed to open the first lid. The second lid took more effort, more twisting, and more prying but it eventually yielded. Looking at the dozens of remaining cans before me, it seemed like surely there was a better way to open them.

And fortunately there was and it was called a "Paint Can Opener" (queue sound of hand hitting forehead). Most paint stores give them away because they are very simple pieces of metal with a small "J" hook. With this device you simply need to pry and because of the way it is designed, lids come off easily. 

This experience reminded me of what an old farmer asked me years ago, "Son, there are only two tools in the world. What are they?" As usual, I was clueless, so he explained, "The wrong tool and the right tool." 

Our philosophy about software is that any serious design firm will be unique and they will require that their software work the way they need it to work. We customize our software for all of our clients because when you are going to use a software program day in and day out, and the program is critical to the operation of your company,  having the "right tool" can make all the difference in the world. 



Categories: Best Practices


Easy way to safeguard your web based email

A reposting of a 2015 blog post that is worth reading


Recently a  bright person who keeps up with these kinds of things explained that he had switched his email account from Gmail to a free email service called Protonmail. He was concerned about the overall dominance of Google and who had access to his emails. Prontonmail is based out of Switzerland and encrypts all emails so theoritically no one can read his emails. 

Maybe I should be more concerned about who can read my emails, but honestly it is very hard to imagine anyone wanting to read them. So our firm will continue using the Google suite of business applications, Gmail being one of them.

What does freighten me much more than someone reading my emails, is someone hacking my email account and holding it for ransom.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago and the issue has not gone away. The good news is that there is a fairly simple way to protect yourself.

Click the "Continue Reading" button to view the archive blog posting and to learn the solution!

Categories: Best Practices


Custom Modules

Our clients can be very clever

creative IdeaOur clients are constantly surprising us with interesting new ideas for DesignSmart that will help make their firms more efficient and profitable. While we can't go into the specifics, the two below are indicative of the kinds of bright ideas that clients come to us with:

1. CRM / Dashboard module

A new client was initially leaning toward a well known CRM program for their sales team, when they recognized the benefits of having custom built CRM features within DesignSmart. This would make their sales and quote generating processes seamless. And sales staff would only need to learn one program. Sales management could track sales activities and sales goals in the same program. And when quotes result in sales, the sale details will be pushed to QuickBooks electronically.

They came to use with very specific requirements of what they wanted in their CRM module and after a few rounds of mockups and conference calls, we collectively came up with a dashboard layout and features that will work well for their unique workflow. And the cost was only nominally higher for the hybrid version of DesignSmart and CRM module, than the stand-alone CRM program they had been considering.

2. WooCommerce Integration

While it is unlikely you have heard of  "WooCommerce", you've been to websites that use it because it is the most popular "web-store" module for WordPress websites. With the new DesignSmart Products module, it is easy to set up the products you want to sell through your website and through your designers. A client recently asked us to develop a module that will integrate DesignSmart's products with a WooCommerce web-store in real time. What this means is that as soon as a product is added or updated in DesignSmart, it is instantly added or updated on the website. And when orders are entered on the client's website, DesignSmart will pull them down from Woo, mark them for review, then with a click of a button they are processed into QuickBooks.

 Do you have an idea for a module or feature that you can envision adding to DesignSmart that will take your firm to the next level? If so, then give us a call. We enjoy hearing new, creative ideas.

Categories: Best Practices


Gantt Charts

Show your progress to clients!

DesignSmart Project StatusGantt charts are one of those things that most of us have heard of before, but if asked we'd be hard pressed to explain what it is.  Then when we see one, we have one of those, "Aha. That is what I thought it was" moments.

The easiest way to describe a Gantt is that it allows you to list all the tasks in a project and their duration. Then you can indicate which tasks are dependent on others. For example, the painting has to be completed before the wallpaper hanging can start. The end result is an effective graphic that helps one better understand the scope of a project.

For many people, one powerful feature of a Gantt is that if a task takes longer than planned, when you update i's new end date, any tasks that are linked to that task are automatically pushed out as well. 

You can enter the tasks in DesignSmart or online directly into the Gantt chart. You can set up user definable fields of information to be included on the Gantt. Once you have all the tasks and their dates entered, you can share with a web link with your client so they can view the Gantt chart as well. Clients can save the Gantt as a PDF, PNG, JPG or export to Excel.

Categories: Add-ons


Version 6 is released and unlimited training is free!

freeWe are pleased to announce the release of DesignSmart Version 6. It is by far our best version yet and not only because it works on the web. It has more features, more speed and is overall a better project management tool.

Ready to jump in and take it for a spin? Then sign up for the free trial and register for the free training. Each day we cover a different aspect of the system. By the end of the week you will be a DesignSmart guru!

Categories: Best Practices


New Version of DesignSmart!

More features. More speed. Web based.

We are very excited to be releasing a new version of DesignSmart in the next few weeks. newVersion 6.0 will include the following improvements:

  • Generating specifications is 80% faster and can be done in the background so your computer is not tied up
  • Access DesignSmart via desktop software or a web browser
  • The new products feature makes it easy to use the same product in various projets. No more copying items from one project to another.
  • Set up up to four ship to addresses per project
  • Send out "Request for Pricing" emails to multiple vendors with the click of a button
  • Easily create Gantt charts and provide your clients with a weblink for viewing them
  • Item pricing has been simplified especially for firms that include component pricing with the primary item

BUY NOW. SAVE NOW. Purchase Version 6.0 before it is officially released and pay only Version 5.0 pricing!

Categories: Company Updates


QuickBooks Pro Versus QuickBooks Online

Which one is better for designers?

Our optional QuickBooks Connector module passes data seamlessly back and forth between DesignSmart and QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Enterprise. Most design firms will find that QuickBooks Pro has all of the functionality they need, but larger firms will migrate to the more flexible QuickBooks Enterprise. Both Pro and Enterprise operate on computers running the Windows operating system, have been around for many years, and enjoy a well deserved reputation for being solid and feature rich.

Each year we research if the online version of QuickBooks, imaginatively named QuickBooks Online (QBO), has matured to the point that we should modify our QuickBooks Connector module to work with it. If you haven't seen QBO, you might be surprised how it can almost make accounting software look cool and fun to use. It has an attractive and simplified user interface, some snazzy little dashboard widgets, and it can be accessed on mobile devices. If you go to the QuickBooks website, you get the impression that QBO is the best thing since sliced bread since the website promotes it almost to the exclusion of QuickBooks Pro. In fact you have to be fairly determined and dig around a bit to even get to the webpages about QuickBook Pro.

So is QBO better than QuickBooks Pro? Unfortunately, we have concluded yet again that while QBO continues to improve, it still is not as suitable for most interior designer firms as QuickBooks Pro. And this conclusion is shared by most, though not all, design firms that we have spoken with.

The primary advantage of QBO is that it is accessible from anywhere. Well here is a little surprise: so is QuickBooks Pro if you put it in the cloud like we do and many of our clients do. For more information about hosting QuickBooks Pro in the cloud click here.

So you might be wondering why the parent company, Intuit, that develops and markets QuickBooks is promoting QBO so aggressively. One word: profits. Most companies that purchase QuickBooks Pro will use that copy for two or three years since there is rarely any reason to upgrade. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that even though the monthly fee for QBO seems "cheap", after two or three years those "cheap" monthly payments add up to be several times more expensive than a license of QuickBooks Pro that you don't upgrade every year.

We will look at QBO again next year, but for now we consider QuickBooks Pro to be the better option for most design firms.



Speery Chalet


This post is not about project management or design. Rather, it is to share with you a wonderful park in hopes that you might consider going there yourself.

The park is called Glacier National Park and it is located in Montana. I'd heard of the park for years, but was overwhelmed by the park's indescribable natural beauty when I visited it last month. We hiked the Gunsight Pass trial to Speery Chalet.

Speery is one of those special places in the world that is in such high demand that you have to take your chances with a lottery every January to determine if you can get in. Our lottery number was 856. We started trying to book when the website went live at 10:00 AM, but it was so swamped that we had to keep trying till our request for lodging finally got through at 10:30 AM. By that time 855 other people had had better luck and registered before us. With such a high number, we didn't think we would have a chance to being assigned a night, but perhaps because we gave a wide date range that we could be there, we were assigned two nights!


Categories: Best Practices


Slanted Foreheads

ernie2There is an old joke that goes something like this: "Do you know why computer programmers have slumped shoulders and slanted foreheads? If you ask them a question the shrug their shoulders and say, 'I don't know'. And when you tell them the answer they slap their foreheads".

My forehead became more inclined last week when I finally got around to replacing the hard drive in my middle aged laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD). For years I had read that replacing the mechanical type of drive that comes with most computers with a SSD drive makes the computer run much faster. (Solid state drives have no moving parts and are pure, fast, electronic memory.) But for one reason or another I put off upgrading. Then last week when I could no longer ignore that it was taking my Windows 10 computer forever to boot, a decision was required: either take up knitting or get a new drive. So I...


Categories: Best Practices


DesignSmart Is Going To Russia!

russian federationOur firm normally steers away from taking on international clients, but when the firm is large, well managed, and has a clear vision of what it wants to accomplish, then we will take them on.

This week we signed a contract with a firm in Russia.We will be developing new features that will allow multiple currencies on invoices and purchase orders. We will also be adding a new invoicing feature for shipping since international shipping is an major aspect of their projects.

 ( End of article ) 

Categories: Company Updates


What Does QuickBooks Offer Interior Design Firms?

QB IntuitLogo Horiz RGB

The QuickBooks family of accounting software is used by over 90% of small businesses in America. This brings up three questions: 

  1. Why is QuickBooks so popular?
  2. Is it a good option for your interior design firm?
  3. How do QuickBooks and DesignSmart work together?

Why is QuickBooks used by 90% of all small businesses?

  • Because of its dominance, most accountants and bookkeepers know it and can support it
  • It is segmented for different size businesses:
    • QuickBooks Online for startup and very small businesses
    • QuickBooks Pro for firms with basic accounting needs
    • QuickBooks Enterprise for large firms with inventories or advanced accounting needs
  • It can be customized to work the way a design firm needs it to work and has excellent reporting capabilities
  • It is the most cost effective accounting software available

Is QuickBooks a good option for an interior design firm?


Doing what you do best

Maximizing designer's productivity

32081164 s

One of the first questions we ask prospective clients is who in their firm is responsible for creating purchase orders. The answer usually boils down to either the designers or the back office staff like a bookkeeper. Or in the case of larger firms, the purchasing department.

In general, we find that the more efficient firms strive to limit the amount of paperwork designers have to handle so they can maximize the time deisgners have for design. For this reason, in DesignSmart there is a system for designers to simply "flag" the items that are ready to ordered. Then the back office staff can see all the items that need to be ordered and push the corresponding purchase orders into QuickBooks.

It is a simple process that ensures that items are not ordered until the designer is certain that the details are correct and, in the case of commercial projects,  all required approvals have been satisfied.

The main benefit is that this process frees up the designer's time for more productive work.

(End of article)

Categories: Best Practices


Getting to Yes

34484156 sBecause no two design firms are alike, we customize DesignSmart for each client. Recently a new client asked us to develop an interesting feature.

To ensure control over purchasing, this firm requires that a Purchasing Manager, a Project Manager and a Senior Manager approve every purchase order before it is released to the vendor. If a manager was away from the office and could not view the printed copy of the PO, the approval process would bog down. And there was the issue of the occasional purchase order being denied and having to inform the design team of what needed to be changed in order for the PO to be approved.

The solution? Allow managers to view the POs awaiting their approval in DesignSmart for iPad so they can view and approve them from anywhere. And the issue with letting designers know why a PO is denied? Managers simply enter a note on the iPad, and the design team is automatically sent an email with the manager’s note.

Does your firm have a work flow process that might be made more efficient by DesignSmart? Call us today so we can discuss possible solutions with you.

(End of article)

Categories: Best Practices

[12 3  >>