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How to absolute remote UX workshops for your team

  • Tech
  • Software developer
  • remote workshop
  • UX design

How to absolute remote UX workshops for your team

Carlos Rosemberg
Story by
Carlos Rosemberg

Update: This commodity was originally appear on the Toptal Design Blog and includes some anachronous examples (RealtimeBoard has rebranded to Miro and with a new UI, Murally now being called Mural).

Today’s best designers are more than creators; they’re facilitators. In an more multidisciplinary, collaborative, and artistic action that includes many participants, they act as conductors who align and affect the team to give their best.

UX workshops are apparently one of the best ways to put this into practice. The rise of ideologies like Design Thinking, Lean UX, and Design Sprints have turned UX workshops into a necessity, and for designers, the adeptness to facilitate a design branch is a highly adorable skill.

A UX branch consists of agreeable your team (other designers, developers, artefact managers, etc.) into a appointment room, putting calm an agenda around a goal (e.g., ancestor a new artefact functionality), and coming up with some collaborative techniques, like brainstorming and sketching. You will accomplish better after-effects by doing this than by trying to manage aggregate yourself—and as an added bonus, breed a more engaged, motivated team.

remote UX workshop

Imagine doing this with remote team associates across a wide geographic area with no contiguous advice in a bearings where abstruse issues are very likely to occur. If administering a design branch with a co-located team (everyone in the same concrete place) is already challenging, its remote adaptation can be a real annoyance and a waste of time if you ignore critical, allegiant abetment techniques.

Let’s look at some time-tested practices that will help make a remote UX branch run smoothly. We’ll also look into what happens before, during, and after, and some of the pitfalls you should look out for.

So, what do you do before the workshop?

Define actor roles and get help

Planning and facilitating a remote design branch requires alertness and collaboration. It’s a good idea to agent some tasks to others. This will help avoid bottlenecks and any abhorrent surprises during the workshop—like having to aggregate notes and explain the next steps simultaneously.

There are two roles that work calm in the active of a remote UX workshop: the  and the :

The branch leader and facilitator

This is the person (most likely you) who, among other things, will “run the show,” manage branch accord and timing, set the pace for the activities, and keep participants engaged. Your primary mission is to help the team be advantageous and keep the branch flowing. Be a servant leader. Depending on the remote branch technique, you can also participate (for instance, you could lead a prototyping affair and sketch at the same time).

The local assistant

Given that the facilitator can only be in one place at a time, each of the remote locations should have a local abettor who can accord along with the rest of the team. It’s important to have accession on the other side to:

  • Take care of acumen (book a appointment room, agenda the branch with the participants, etc.)
  • Arrange the room and set up the remote tech (see below)
  • Get abstracts and food (Sharpies, Post-its, notepads, etc.)
  • Help to run the workshop

A remote UX branch abettor makes things run calmly during a UX workshop.
A remote branch abettor makes things run calmly during a UX workshop.

Set up the room and test the tech in advance

Nothing is more arresting than having a great altercation or idea bearing disconnected by a lost connection, a screen administration glitch, an boundless echo in the room, or the adeptness that you can’t see the capacity of the sketch your aide did on paper and is fruitlessly accession in front of the camera for you to view and give acknowledgment on. This list can be a long one.

Despite the fact that a remote UX workshop’s ultimate achievement abundantly depends on the tech and the room, many of us still take for accepted that it will all work out. This acceptance can be dangerous. While it’s apparently not attainable to run a absolute UX workshop, with a bit of planning and enough testing, you can avoid most of the abrogating surprises. Make sure that you have:

  1. A stable internet affiliation and a backup. In accession to your primary internet connection, secure a mobile arrangement as a backup. Most of the today’s 3G / 4G networks abutment video appointment at adequate levels. Be able to bound switch to your mobile affiliation if needed, and be sure to test it beforehand!
  2. A quiet, comfortable, well-illuminated room. As much as attainable try to avoid things like echo, abeyance from others, hard light (for archetype from open windows which is adverse for cameras), absorption on whiteboards, or too much darkness. If anyone is accommodating from a shared space (like a approved office room or a coworking situation), be sure there are rules for noise and interruptions when a affair is in progress. For example, in my antecedent job, we turned off some of the lights so that anyone aback entering the room knew that a remote affair was taking place.
  3. Appropriate video conferencing equipment. There are tons of specific solutions today that amuse altered needs and budgets. For a one-person setup, a headset with microphone and the HD camera in modern laptops may be enough. For appointment rooms (and desktop computers), check this online tool to find the best video conferencing band-aid for your team.
  4. The right accord software. For remote UX workshops, it’s analytical to have great video conferencing, file administration and screen-sharing software. Several solutions offer aggregate in one place, like Google Hangouts, Slack, and Zoom. My alternative for video conferencing and screen administration is Zoom (by far), mostly due to the alarming video quality, but I acclaim taking a look at some software reviews to decide for yourself.

Finally, once you’ve arrested the above items on your list, be sure to test aggregate well before the workshop. Then, test again if you can.

Be astute when facilitating a UX workshop

Plan ahead with your local abettor and decide which branch techniques and tools you will use for the after-effects you want to achieve.

  1. Explain and convenance the techniques with the local abettor beforehand, so that you are in sync during the workshop.
  2. It’s important to account the time for each task accurately—don’t be too optimistic when ciphering action durations. Err on the side of acceptance too much time.
  3. Schedule breaks so that participants can refocus their energies.
  4. Finally, plan some time for fixing abeyant abstruse problems and other issues that may come up during the branch (5 account per task is fine). They  happen.

remote UX workshops can be very challenging

Now, what should you do during the workshop?

Balance agenda and concrete tools

One of the most difficult challenges when active a remote UX branch is to find an ideal mix of agenda and concrete tools. It’s a aerial balance, as both have their advantages and disadvantages; one needs to choose wisely.

The goal is to keep the branch abounding while calmly processing the data stream (content) it generates. You want the team to accomplish ideas quickly, but you also want to get the most out of those ideas by processing them in a way that achieves best abundance (grouping, merging, splitting, prioritizing, etc.). Here are two altered strategies for this combination:

Workshop access 1: Mostly non-digital artifacts

This access applies when creating most artifacts “analogically” by using pen paper and digitizing it later by scanning or taking photos. This access is most adapted when:

  1. Most of the team is in one area (only a few participants are remote)
  2. You want to take advantage of the speed and abandon of agreeable that is generated by hand (sketches, Post-its, etc.)
  3. The cost of digitizing and allocation the advice captured is low, i.e., you don’t have to modify or action the agreeable generated antithesis (summarize, rewrite, etc.)

For example, in a branch abstraction called “design studio,” affair participants can bound sketch by hand, abduction images with their mobile and share via Dropbox or Slack. Addition archetype is a short anticipation affair where you have just a few Post-its to accent (less than 20), and accession can bound type the Post-it notes into a spreadsheet for easier allocation and prioritization.

Sketching and administration using messaging apps in remote UX workshops
Sketching and administration using messaging apps (Slack) in remote UX workshops.

Naturally, there are some drawbacks to this approach:

  1. The risk of losing access to things you don’t digitize. Brainstorm that weeks or months later you need to revisit the subject—you bethink it was discussed, but can’t find any scans or photos. Unless you took the time to store the post-its, keep them organized and accessible, this is not a adorable scenario.
  2. With digitized artifacts, one doesn’t have the adeptness to “copy, paste, undo, duplicate, sort,” etc. easily, which hinders productivity.

Workshop access 2: Mostly agenda artifacts

Use this access when using agenda tools to create and manage branch generated agreeable (like basic boards and online spreadsheets). This access is most adapted when:

  1. You want to keep aggregate that was created (findings, ideas, sketches, etc.) easily accessible
  2. You want to edit and accommodate agreeable bound (copy paste, duplicate, filter, sort, number, prioritize, e.g., as in a spreadsheet format)
  3. The team is mostly remote

A good archetype for using this branch access is when the team is creating affection diagrams, affection maps, or user journeys using basic boards.

Digital tools such as basic boards help UX branch efficiency
Online basic boards (Realtimeboard, Muraly or Sketchboard) help UX branch efficiency

Another book that works with this access is when you need to aggregate ideas in anticipation sessions. Instead of Post-its on the board (physical or virtual), you can use a shared online spreadsheet where each actor types their ideas into the spreadsheet’s cells (see below).

Using spreadsheets enables remote UX branch productivity
Participants in a brainstorming affair can type their ideas into an online spreadsheet.

You can also speed up the action of selecting and prioritizing ideas during brainstorming sessions with the use of automated adding and sort features. In the archetype below, the team needed to choose the best ideas from more than 40 they had brainstormed previously. The spreadsheet accustomed voting for the best ideas and automatically sorted the list by the number of votes. The whole action took less than 8 minutes.

Digital tools such as spreadsheets boost UX branch productivity

Workshop participants voted for ideas (column B) by entering points on a scale of 5 to 1 in their assigned columns (columns C to L). The spreadsheet then affected the total points (votes) for each idea acceptance the facilitator to sort the after-effects bound (column M).

Typical disadvantages of this action are:

  1. Workshop techniques that crave cartoon (like sketching) and other free-hand tasks (post-its) may be disadvantaged unless there’s a great agenda abduction tool available
  2. Some people on the team will not have access to the agenda tools called (software, proper hardware, etc.). Some online basic boards limit the number of free users and adding the adapted number of participants is not achievable due to budget constraints

A applied example

We discussed two UX branch approaches (1: mostly physical, and 2: mostly digital); in the “real” world, you can use a hybrid access and mix aspects of both. Let’s brainstorm a one-day design branch for which we could apply the afterward method (considering aggregate is done via video conference):

Be sure to have aggregate ready-to-use when the branch starts: templates, pre-filled documents, basic boards, etc. Adapt agilely and don’t waste everyone’s time by ambience up in front of them.Speed up the work with templates

Templates will help boost remote UX branch productivity
Boost your remote UX branch abundance with templates.

Here’s what to do after the workshop:

Get feedback, evaluate, and improve

It’s a good idea to get acknowledgment from your team after the branch and analyze areas that could be improved. The best time to do this is right after it is over because aggregate will still be fresh. For instance, as a result of the all-encompassing use of technology in the case of a mostly agenda approach, many pitfalls and abeyant glitches consistently surface—discussing why they occurred and how to avoid it accident again is of great account to any team.

Before the workshop, adapt a short bearding online survey and send the link to participants right after the workshop. Be sure to track each aspect as a abstracted area (equipment and techniques used, communications, remote tech, software, branch duration, etc.) and let the team leave comments, not just rate or check boxes.

There are many other ways to get post-workshop feedback—like asking the team to put post-its on a wall with comments (physical or virtual), or doing one-on-one interviews. Choose the one that suits you best but don’t lose the opportunity.

Take care of your agenda artifacts

The assets generated during the branch are useful not only while it is in advance but can be used for added altercation or as a starting point for other workshops.

In a adequate (or mostly non-digital) approach, it is very likely you will end up with piles of post-its, handwritten notes, and sketches. If this is the case, a good convenance is to keep at least the most important artifacts until you are sure you can let them go. You also have the option to digitize them (take pictures, blueprint to spreadsheets, etc).

In a mostly agenda approach, you won’t have as much paper to deal with, but the agenda artifacts generated will still need to be organized, sorted, and filed away in some kind of a system. It’s best not to leave a messy list of incomplete, alone files that will cause headaches in the future—invest some time right after the branch to adapt them. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Create a centralized, organized athenaeum for the workshop. For instance, a shared master folder with subfolders for each address that was used during the workshop. Make sure to accommodate links to basic boards and any other alien source/tool.
  2. Make sure that core artifacts are complete (sketches, spreadsheets, basic boards, etc.). When it isn’t attainable to finish them during the workshop, if you think they can be useful in the future, do it as soon as attainable once it is over. Don’t rely on your memory—months later, an amateurish sketch or spreadsheet may not make any sense to you.

Wrap-up

Using altered techniques and tools, remote UX workshops can bear the same after-effects as co-located workshops. If done right, the abundance allowances additional by agenda accord tools offsets the lack of contiguous discussion.

Planning and active a remote UX design branch isn’t rocket science, but the many circuitous capacity and abeyant pitfalls demand attention. Despite accurate preparation, it is absurd you’ll get aggregate right on the first try. The best thing to do is to chill out, have fun with your team, and remember—every branch represents an befalling for learning, and the next time is always an improvement!

Appear July 23, 2020 — 06:30 UTC

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