Running remote workshops and design sprints
There is a reason that we encourage in-person design sprints; we move faster and are able to come together easier as a team. Being in the same location isn't always possible, though, and as a team, we can mitigate some of those challenges to produce successful design sprints.
Put more time into setup and planning
Figure out what tools you are going to use and make sure that all team-members have accounts ahead of time. Nothing worse than waiting for one person to figure out their Trello login. Have a schedule going into the sprint and stick as closely to the schedule as possible. Make sure that all of the team members will have consistent high-speed internet access or will be able to join through the phone and see the progress to contribute through other ways. Make sure that the whole team understands what supplies they need to have on hand and has had time to grab them before you run through a design sprint.
Make sure that everyone will be able to contribute in an equal way
This can be even more challenging on conference calls where it's easier for people to cut off or interrupt. We don't have the same queues to aide us in knowing when someone has finished a thought. As a facilitator, try to make sure everyone has an equal voice. If someone hasn't spoken up or is getting cut off, make sure that they have space to speak by asking them if they have more to speak on the idea or topic.
Clear out distractions
When participating in a design sprint, try to treat it like you're in the room together. Close down Slack and email. Don't check Twitter. Leave your phone in another room. Remain focused on the people on the screen in front of you. To help me with the inevitable distraction, I'll hook up to an external display and place my keyboard and mouse out of reach when they're not needed. This also helps create some space for sketching supplies and handwritten notes.
Plan for longer days
During an in-person design sprint, I like to shorten days because they can be so grueling. When working remotely, I've found that we need the extra time because we'll deal with the occasional hiccup with the internet, or it will take some additional time to post up a storyboard, or some new and unique challenge will pop up. It's better to have planned for longer days and cut them short than need time and not have it.
Limit the team
We typically try to limit the sprint in-person, but that becomes more important when running a remote sprint. The more people that you have in a remote design sprint, the more potential connection issues, the more setup, the more distractions can take ahold. We should limit the number of people in the sprint to 8 or less.
Build in breaks
Just like in-person sprints, establishing regular breaks helps people focus in the time that you are in meetings. Have a few 10-15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon and keep the hour break for lunch.
Make sure the team has supplies needed
Since we're not in the room together, make sure the team has physical supplies that are needed for the design exercises. I'll send everyone a list of things to make sure they have in their home, along with the software that is needed, well before the sprint, so they have time to get them if necessary.
The physical supplies that I ask people to have on hand:
- white printer paper
Replicate the whiteboard online
You'll want to have an online tool to facilitate collaboration. I've used a combo of on another to act as a whiteboard. We've used Google Docs / Slides, MURAL, Miro and Invision Freehand.
I'll still document as much of the sprint in a Trello, and have used the Trello board to help facilitate parts of the sprint as well.
In practice Design Sprint changes
Make sure to have a shared online whiteboard. Use that space like you would the typical whiteboard. Document the problem statement or job story, critical path, and start both a backburner board and an assumptions board. While doing expert interviews, share your screen with the critical path on it. Allow teammates to add HMW directly to the whiteboard out of view.
Make sure that everyone has white printer paper, sharpies, and post-its. If something happens where they don't, try working around it with other drawing material. Have everyone work silently on the call or establish a time to all comeback together.
Ask everyone to post storyboards on the digital whiteboard or in Trello so that we can have a silent vote. Use hand-drawn dots or voting feature in Trello to collect votes. Assumptions/test table could be drawn out in a Google Sheet or drawn on the online whiteboard.
If struggling with the final storyboard with the whiteboard feel free to jump to something that will allow all teammates to view and contribute, like Figma. Since you're already at a computer getting into too much detail is easier, make sure to avoid this as much as possible.
Modern tools, like Figma, Slides, and Keynote, make remote prototyping easier. Make sure you're using tools that everyone prototyping feels confident in.
We've done several remote test days already, so the jump to a fully remote team shouldn't be so large. Make sure to schedule time with the full team at the end of the day to digest and work on next steps.
- MURAL's The definitive guide to facilitating remote workshops
- And just generally the MURAL blog
- From Jake Knapp, the source of all things design sprint: How to Run a Remote Design Sprint Without Going Crazy
- Running a remote sprint
- How to Lead Better User Interviews
- Advice for our user