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
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
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.
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.