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Best Practices


New DesignSmart server option

Fast, easy and affordable - Works with Windows PCs and Macs


There are many benefits to "cloud" technology and approximatley 50% of our clients run DesignSmart from one of our cloud servers.  However, there are two important advantages to hosting DesignSmart data in your office rather than in the cloud:

  1. It will be faster. Consequently you will enjoy working with the system more. To understand the speed difference, consider that with a cloud server data and images have to travel 1,000's miles as opposed to 100 feet. Even if you have a super fast internet connection, hosting the data in your own office is going to be faster and day-in and day-out you will greatly appreciate the faster responsiveness.
  2. It will be less expensive in the long run. 

If your firm does not already have what is known as a server, then we recommmend the Apple Mac Mini (starting at $499.00) to host your DesignSmart data. It gets the name mini from the fact it is only 9" x 9" x 2". Even if you only use Windows PCs in your office, your PCs will connect and work seamlessly with the mini. 

Getting setup couldn't be any easier. We will purchase the mini online, install all of the necessary software and configure it to work with your network. When we send it to you all you have to do is plug in the power cord and a network cable. No need to plug in a monitor,  a keyboard, nor a mouse. When we need to make tweaks to your program, we'll simply connect to the mini remotely from our offices.

(Click Continue Reading for FAQs)


Categories: Best Practices


Easy way to safeguard your email

For those who use web based email programs


In January we posted an article about the importance of using a "password manager" software program to store all of your passwords. You can read the article here

In the article the growing threat of BAD people hacking your online email account and literally holding it for ransom was mentioned. This happened to one of our employee's parents. 

If someone hacked your email account and required $500 or $5,000 ransom to release it back to you, would you pay? Hopefully you won't be faced with that decision, and if you follow our recommendation below, then you won't ever have to decide. You could simply tell the BAD person, "Thank you, but no thank you. I have a copy of my email. Have a nice day!"

The recommendation? (click Continue Reading)

Categories: Best Practices


Website for finding a local bookkeeper!

Complete with certifications and references!

Hiring a bookkeeper is not easy, but if you use QuickBooks then the task gets much easier. Why? More than 95% of small businesses use QuickBooks so more bookkeepers know QuickBooks than any other accouting system.

QuickBooks even has a website to you help find bookkeepers (or "Pro Advisors" as QuickBooks calls them) in your local area. 


Keepin in mind that with our QuickBooks Connect module all of the clients, vendors, projects, deposits, purchase orders and invoices that you create in DesignSmart get pushed into QuickBooks with the click of a button. This eliminates double entry and allows your bookkeeper to spend her or his time, and your money, more efficiently.

To learn more about QuickBooks Connect and QuickBooks, please contact us.  [End of article]






Categories: Best Practices


Entering Dimensions Just Got Easier!

dimenRecently a designer suggested to us a better way to enter dimensions. We thought it was a such a good idea that we put it in DesignSmart 5.0

Her  idea was that a rug needs certain dimensional prompts (width and lenght) whereas a lamp needs others (height, shade diameter, base diameter). So why not let design firms set up the dimensional prompts for various items? And while we are at it, go ahead and add an icon to make it a more visual process.

To see a 1 minute video of how it works, please visit our videos section.

Categories: Best Practices


Web Access To DesignSmart Data!

Give your clients more access to the data they need

DesignSmart has newer and better ways for you to share your DesignSmart data with your clients via the Internet. 

How does it work? Your clients will go to YOUR website and click on a "Client Login" button. Then they will be required to enter a login name and password so they will only have access to the data they should be able to view. 

Our optional WebSmart module is a great way for residential design firms to allow their client access to DesignSmart data. Commercial design firms will have unique requirements specific to their workflows.

Last week we finished a custom web application for a commercial design firm because their clients were requiring real time project reports via the web. Previously the design firm had emailed weekly reports, but that was not longer sufficient. Their clients needed all of their staff to be able to look up current and past reports online.

The design firm also needed their clients to be able to enter comments and questions for each project report. These comments were then automatically emailed to the appropriate designer in charge of that project. (Please click Continue Reading)

Categories: Best Practices


Hyper Custom QuickBooks Reports

We know QuickBooks

Our newest client has over thirty designers, project managers and accounting staff who will be using DesignSmart.  One of their critical management reports is a highly custom QuickBooks report. While you can create filters in QuickBooks to generate your own custom reports, QuickBooks is unable to create this specific report.  The reason is that this report requires pulling data from various areas in QuickBooks, manipulating the data, then outputing the data into the final report format.

Six years ago our client contracted with a firm to develop this report.  The report worked reasonably well, but took 15 - 30  minutes to run. And only one person in the firm could run it.

We are going to develop the same report and expect it will take less than two minutes to run. We should have the report completed by the end of this month and I will update this blog with the actual time. However we have developed similar reports and feel confident that two minutes is conservative.

Added bonus:  any staff person will be able to run this report in real time!

Categories: Best Practices, Technology



We have developed our first LEED features!

Recently one of our clients was required to submit specifications that included LEED details, so they contacted us to develop these new features. It essentially came down to developing a a new LEED report and LEED data entry table (see below). We were able to provide all of the required features in less than a day. 

Their client, the developer of the property, even had specific categories that the design firm was required to use.  Since the developer's categories were not the same as the ones the design firm use on their other projects, we came up with a solution for that as well.

If you have LEED projects and would like to have LEED features added to your version of DesignSmart, then please contact us.


LEED image


Categories: Best Practices


Two Monitors Versus One?

Is less more?

Would you and your staff be more efficient if you started using a second computer monitor? With a second monitor you can run one program on monitor A and another program on monitor B. When you move your mouse it will float across both monitors as if they were one big monitor. 

Most people would assume that they would be more efficient. A white paper from Dell supports supports this theory (article here) as does this academic paper (article here). External monitors have become so affordable that you can purchase a quality one for less than $200.

However, an interesting article in the New York Times last year (article here) argues that two monitors can provide more distractions and ultimately lower overall productivity. Having used multiple monitors for many years, I cab identify with many of the author's points against a second monitor. 


Categories: Best Practices


Be proactive and protect your computer

You'll be glad you did

A recent article in the New York Times about computer hackers was so frightening it gave me the "he-be-ge-bees" and made me immediately take certain precautions to better protect my computer data.  

The article (read it here) explains how hackers can gain access to your computer, encrypt your files so you cannot open them, then require that you pay them a ransom (in Bitcoins of course) in order for them to provide you with the key to decrypt your files. And these ransoms can be in the thousands of dollars. What a nightmare that would be.

I mentioned this article to my co-worker Robert and he responded that his mother's email account had been hacked this way. We are talking scary stuff here. The good news is that


Categories: Best Practices


How efficient is your firm?

Suffering from too many staff meetings?

Recently a client requested that we develop a new report that we thought was interesting. First some background. This client is an architectural firm with interior design and procurement divisions. For the past few years they have been using DesignSmart's time tracking feature to track all of the staff's hours. These times are pushed into QuickBook twice a month.

While DesignSmart has reports that show the hours spent by staff on projects, what is interesting about the report the client requested is that they want it to indicate what percent of the work week each employee is being productive. 

For firms with larger salaried staff and/or departments this type of report can be a 

Categories: Best Practices


Vendor Bookshelf (New!)

All of your vendor catalogs at your fingertips

The new "Vendor Bookshelf" is a great new addtion to the DesignSmart Library. Simply drag & drop the PDF, Excel or Word files that your vendors supply and just that quickly all your staff have access to these documents. Regarless of the type of doucment you enter, DesignSmart converts the contents into searchable text. This means you can type in a search term like "Winslow table" and all the documents with this term will appear! (Click Continue Reading for more information)

Categories: Best Practices


Making DesignSmart Your Own

Choose your colors, fonts and more

This week we were working with a client who had customized various layouts and reports in DesignSmart more than we had ever seen before. It was really impressive! When assigned to the "Administrator" security level in DesignSmart, you can modify the look and feel of every layout and report. That means you can rearrange where things are positioned, change font and colors. Most of our clients are too busy to do this so they have us make changes for them.

While we are always happy to make changes, we generally recommend that clients consider taking the time to learn 


Categories: Best Practices


Reflections on Commissions

Not for the faint hearted

Lately our firm has been developing customized versions of our SmartCommissions module for firms that have commissioned sales reps, and it has been interesting to learn how much commission processes can vary.

While some firms have a simple process of paying the designer a fixed commission rate for each item they sell, usually the process is quite complex. For example, some firms will pay commissions on client deposits, while others don't. Some firms will require that an invoice be paid in full before paying a commission.  When design teams are involved, then another layer of complexity ensues as the commission has to be split among the team. Bonuses make matters even more daunting. For some firms, calculating commissions require several days because the process is so complex.


Categories: Best Practices, Inventory


Easy way to make life simpler

And safer

The vast majority of people use the same password for all the sites they visit which is similar to leaving your front door wide open, your lights on and a blinking neon sign in the front yard indicating, "Come On In!". Sure you can get away with this for awhile, but eventually you are going to get burned. Big time.

There is a simple solution - get a password manager. There are a dozen out there and they

Categories: Best Practices, Technology


Storing client credit card numbers

So you can charge them multiple times

Goal: Store your client's credit card numbers safely so you can charge them for multiple invoices.

Challenge: How can a small design firm do this safely when firms as large as Target are unable to? 

Solution:  Don't store the actual credit numbers, but "tokenize" them.

Background: When your clients provide you with their credit card number, it is important to store it in the safest way possible. Millions of businesses do this by using a technology called "tokenization". The way it works is that you enter the credit card number into your software program. The number is sent to something known as a payment gateway provider. This provider will store the actual card number and send back to the software program a "token" which is string of letters and/or numbers. The software program stores this token. When it is time to charge the client's credit card, the software program uses this token rather than the actual card number. The charge transaction works exactly the same as if the credit card number was sent. 

The main benefit of tokenization is that it means that you are not storing actual credit card numbers. If your computer is stolen, or you have a dishonest employee, the tokens are meaningless.

Sound scary and complicated? It can be, but it doesn't need to be. Here are some important bottom lines: 

Categories: Best Practices, Design

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