Collaboration is an essential element of design. But what happens when your team suddenly has to work remotely? This phenomenon is nothing new, but it’s met with some trepidation. Even those businesses that relish the idea of harnessing global talent, aren’t crazy about the idea of not seeing the team face to face every day.
That’s particularly the case for design teams, where interaction is at the root of creativity. But remote work is nothing to fear. On the contrary, with the right planning and technology, your team’s remote workflow can have the same level of efficiency and innovation as its in-person counterpart.
Remember the Pitfalls of Remote Teamwork
That’s not to say remote work doesn’t have its quirks. In order to have a smooth transition, remember to avoid some common mistakes made by remote design teams. The biggest may be to assume that what works in the office translates well to the online world. After all, with video and a mic, it’s all the same — right?
In fact, things your design team may take for granted — like brainstorming sessions and spontaneous feedback — are messy and unproductive when filtered through some remote work technology. Speaking to someone in a stage whisper like you would in a conference room can’t happen over video conferencing. Neither can stopping by someone’s office for a quick chat.
As a result, remote team members often rely on pinging each other over text or messaging, unaware they are causing a disturbance. Small differences like that can add up to large annoyances that detract from productivity and morale. So start by acknowledging that remote work is its own thing, and you may need new workflows to accommodate it.
Outline Your Offline Workflow
Your existing design workflow shows you what needs to be done, and how your team is already managing. Although your remote workflow is its own entity, looking closely at how things currently work helps you to develop a game plan for fully remote collaboration.
Map out your current processes. Dive down to the underlying objective at each stage. For example, a group discussion on a wireframe has as its purpose collaborative insight into the user experience. Initial meetings to discuss a new project are to identify an overall strategy and to clarify client goals. Once you know not just the processes, but the objectives, you can turn those objectives into an effective remote working task.
Identify Your Existing Resources
Take stock of what you have, in terms of technology and human resources. You may have several team members who contribute individually to design on their personal computers, then share it as a presentation to a group. What may be more effective online is a cloud-based, accessible team design tool, which allows for presentation and editing.
A tool like UXPin lets teams analyze a particular prototype and try out design options without having to rely on one individual to make changes and present it to the group. This combined with the team’s existing hardware in their home offices, as well as network access distributed among members, makes for a functional virtual environment. Start by looking at what you have and identify what you need to add to optimize the remote office.
Model an Ideal Remote Workflow
Map out the workflow for your design team, assuming an entirely virtual environment. You can keep in mind these best practices for remote teams. After all, the best design teams don’t just have the capacity to share and edit prototypes. They have to know when and how to communicate; balance autonomy and accountability, and share the values and culture of the organization.
Your workflow doesn’t necessarily have to include team bonding sessions. But you should develop it with the pitfalls of virtual workplaces — like the endless pinging for non-urgent messages — in mind, so these can be avoided. Always return to the objectives of each stage in the design process to make sure those are met, whether it’s through a modified offline task, or a strategy unique to the digital environment.
Implement the Best Technology for Design Collaboration
Remote teams rely on technology. For that reason, some platforms are better than others for design collaboration. Your virtual meeting software should allow for screen sharing and the right level of interactivity. Your design software should have a robust set of features that not only allow you to produce extraordinary websites, but to do so whether you’re working with a colleague across the world, or across the room.
UXPin is an all-in-one tool that allows teams to go from wireframe to prototype at a rapid pace. It is cloud-based, which means all team members can join in on a project and access files, even if one individual is having internet issues on a particular day. It’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to designing your team’s remote workflow: making sure they have the best tools to produce excellent results.