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In the current situation, all product design teams need to adjust their processes to a remote-only scenario. Shifting interactive and hands-on product workshops, like Design Sprints, to a solely virtual setting may seem like a hardly possible mission — but having a well-structured agenda and the right set of tools, remote workshops can be as successful as in-person ones.
Below you can find a few tips on how to plan and conduct remote workshops.
Modify the process
When running a remote workshop don’t try to mirror the in-person experience. It’s hard to imagine people sitting 6 or 8 hours straight in front of their laptops — and it’s simply impossible. That’s why it’s important to modify workshops in a way that is the most feasible. You can do it by breaking the workshop into shorter sessions, stretching it out into a couple of days, and transforming some exercises into homework assignments or 1on1 calls. Keep in mind that remote workshops are way more tiring than the in-person ones —don’t try to squeeze too many tasks into one session.
Remote code of conduct
Some of the rules that apply to the in-person workshops are still in force when working remotely, but you will need to adjust them and inform your team members accordingly. Make sure everyone knows what tools you are using, how to use them, what is the workflow, or how to ensure good audio and video quality.
There are plenty of tools that are helpful when it comes to remote workshops. Some example tools that we are using are:
- Miro — it can be used for live collaboration while sketching, voting, gathering feedback, and basically everything that workshop participants need to perform. You can use predefined templates or create custom boards that match your needs.
- Figma — you can use Figma for collaboration while working on sketches or wireframes. Users can create quick digital sketches, or upload photos of actual drawings and share ideas within the team
- Zoom — for hosting the workshop or 1on1 calls. Make sure that participants can have their cameras on during the workshop — it helps to stay engaged and enables participants to pick up on nonverbal aspects of communication as well. Zoom can be also used for usability testing during Design Sprints, and (if you have your participants’ permission) you can record test sessions, which can be very helpful when analyzing the feedback.
- Slack — you can use any communication tool that you’re already used to — for us it’s Slack. Make sure to create a dedicated channel for the workshop to keep the communication in one place.
As you need some preparation before in-person workshops, also in the remote setup there are things you need to take care of in advance. It’s important that, when the workshop kicks off, everyone knows how to use the tools, so make sure to provide guidance. If you’re using Miro, you can prepare a board with a step-by-step guide for participants, which they can use whenever they need it during the workshop.
You can prepare a dedicated, named board where participants will add their notes or screenshots. If you ask the team to use specific shapes or colors for a certain action, i.e. blue post-it notes for feedback — put them in a visible place in a board, so they can easily copy-paste or drag them.
Sample techniques in the remote scenario
Let’s take a look at some techniques that are common for various workshop frameworks, and can be done entirely remotely:
Sketching is a key part of any design workshop. While during the in-person workshop it is mostly done using pen and paper, digital collaboration tools are offering a possibility to fully move this workshop method to online.
You can use tools like Figma or Miro — the important criterion is a live collaboration feature. What you should prepare in advance is a workspace for each participant, so they won’t disturb each other and to be able to easily review all ideas.
Tip: For workshop exercises when there’s more time needed to sketch the idea, like in Solution sketch part in Design Sprints, it’s best to move the exercise offline, set the deadline for participants to send their ideas to the Facilitator, and conduct a review during the next workshop session.
Whether it’s the customer journey, a map in Design Sprint, or user flow, online tools help us to build maps very easily. Miro and Mural are offering a range of pre-defined templates, created specifically for these research techniques.
Tip: Starting mapping exercise as part of the workshop from a blank slate might be a bit too difficult. To maintain participants attention and engagement it is helpful to create a map or flow (or part of it) before the workshop, and during the call go through it with the team — ask them are there any steps missing, what they would like to modify, or ask them to fill the missing parts of the map.
3. Brainstorming and affinity mapping
Generating ideas, forming HMW questions, or sharing feedback is normally performed using colorful sticky notes. We, at intent, for a while now are trying to move all those techniques to online tools, as it’s not only equally easy, but also less wasteful, makes it easier for us to organize, analyze, and archive collected insights.
If you need brainstorming workshop participants to work on a given task in smaller groups, it’s possible to do it using Zoom’s Breakout rooms feature, which lets the host split the meeting into multiple, smaller sessions.
Tip: Use pre-defined templates or create your own and provide participants ready-to-use workspaces with post-it notes to avoid wasting a lot of time on searching and editing all moving objects.
Remote workshops require more effort and discipline from the whole team, but with good processes in place and choosing the right tools they can be successful and foster your product development process. If you would like to know more about remote workshop frameworks that could support your product development process, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash