The Guide to Remote Design Sprints

Remote design sprints have become increasingly popular as more people collaborate from different locations around cities and across the world. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the move to remote work, but the trend started long before 2020 as companies discovered that they could build stronger teams by hiring employees and freelancers according to their talents instead of their locations.

As more companies turn to remote work, they need to update their approaches to design springs. The following guide will help ensure that your remote design sprints go smoothly, giving you terrific results with as little pain as possible.

Create (and confirm!) a team for your remote design sprint

A couple of weeks before your design sprint, you should reach out to people to make sure they can participate. Creating a team requires more than putting together a group of people with the right skills. If they can’t fully commit to the project because they have something else planned for that time—watching their children, attending other remote events, etc.—it makes sense to recruit someone else.

Although the people working on your remote design sprint will vary from project to project, some of the roles you usually need to fill include:

  • Facilitators (at least one)
  • Graphic designers
  • Illustrators
  • Animators
  • Developers with coding experience

Make sure everyone has the tools they need to participate

When everyone works on-site, you can easily make sure they have the tools that they need to succeed in a design sprint. You don’t have as much control during a remote design sprint. Connect with participants a couple of weeks before the sprint to confirm that they have everything required for the project.

You will get the best results by setting specific standards. Remote collaboration doesn’t work well when members of your team use different tools. At the very least, you can expect that situation to cause formatting problems.

Note-taking

Note-taking apps will make it easier for members of your team to keep up with everyone’s ideas and the final decisions made by your facilitator. Some favorite note-taking apps include:

Whiteboarding

Your team members need a way to brainstorm remotely. Plenty of online tools can give you virtual spaces to share ideas quickly. Favorites include:

Teleconferencing

Teams tend to get the best results when everyone has their cameras turned on—more on that below in the “establish rules” section. By now, you probably already have a favorite teleconferencing app. If not, consider:

Collaborative prototyping

There are plenty of design apps that let teams collaborate remotely. You need more than a designing app for an effective sprint, though. You need a tool with seamless collaboration for cross-functional teams. That way, everyone from your coder to your animator can work together in real-time within the same platform.

UXPin stands out as the best option for real-time prototype collaboration. It has all of the features members of your team need. Plus, you can send project links to clients and other people outside of the design sprint. They can view your work and leave feedback without starting UXPin accounts. That way, you give them easy access without any barriers.

Have a short practice session before the design sprint

Does everyone on your team know how to use the required tools? Iron out any kinks by hosting a short practice session a day or two before your sprint. It’s much better to discover issues now instead of during the design sprint.

You never know what will happen during a practice session, but pay close attention to:

  • Slow internet speeds that make real-time collaboration difficult.
  • Old operating system or software that doesn’t cooperate with updated versions.
  • Camera and microphone issues.
  • Whether everyone can sign on to the required tools.

If you run into anything that worries you, bring up the issue as soon as possible. Finding a solution might involve nothing more than giving someone access to a piece of software. It doesn’t harm anything during the practice, but it could create a serious disruption during the remote design sprint.

Set a schedule unique to each remote design sprint

Each remote design sprint needs a unique schedule tailored for the project. Creating a schedule takes more than setting a beginning and end time for your sprint, though. Everyone involved should know exactly what they will be doing throughout every minute of the spring.

You can follow any schedule that makes sense to your team and goals. Some teams find that 25-minute repeating sprints based on the Pomodoro Method work well. According to this approach:

  • Everyone starts working on the sprint at the same time.
  • Everyone ends after 25 minutes of work (no excuses or extensions!).
  • Five-minute breaks between sprints with longer breaks scheduled as needed.

During the first few rounds, your team probably won’t come up with anything revolutionary. It doesn’t take long before the best ideas become obvious, though. As you progress, members of the team can focus on the concepts that work best for the product.

You can’t expect your team to only take five-minute breaks between short sprints. Place longer breaks where they make sense in the schedule. For example, you might give everyone a 45-minute break at noon so they can have lunch.

Establish rules the team must follow during the remote design sprint

Design sprints only work as well as the rules that govern them. You know that rules play an important part during in-person sprints. They become even more crucial during remote design sprints.

Don’t assume that your approach to in-person sessions will work during remote projects. A lot of project managers mistakenly assume that their offline techniques will get positive results during remote sprints. Some of the techniques that you rely on in person are unlikely to work in a virtual environment.

Your sprint’s rules will vary depending on your team’s weaknesses and strengths. In general, you should use the following rules to stay on track and get great results.

  • Only one person can speak at a time. You get chaos when multiple people speak at once online.
  • Assign a facilitator who can acknowledge people who want to speak and enforce rules.
  • Always stay on video to create the impression that you’re working together and hold team members responsible for following the schedule.
  • Everyone must use a split-screen or multiple screens. No one gets to toggle between the video and design apps while working.
  • Forbid all multitasking so people must focus on the current step. No skipping ahead or going back to work on previous steps in the sprint.

Start your free UXPin trial to see how it can make your remote design sprints successful

UXPin was developed as a collaborative designing and prototyping tool that meets the needs of today’s teams. As you start to rely more on remote design sprints, you need a platform like UXPin that lets teams create fully functional prototypes in real-time.

Start your free trial with UXPin today so you can see how much easier your sprints become when you have a tool with features created for how today’s designers work.

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