Lessons from Running Remote Design Workshop

Design things, sketch ideas, discuss issues, all remotely

A few months ago, I had a chance to run our first-ever remote design workshop here at Tetrate. This idea came when we were trying to think through about how a UI should look like, that caters to an ideated new feature for our product. As a product company, of course, we have to iteratively build the product, based on feedback from users, adding new features from time to time to provide value for them.

Since this new feature also involves new thinking from across different roles, we decided that instead of doing a traditional discussion over a meeting, we’d do a design workshop, remotely, since we’re a remote company after all. So, I was tasked to prepare and run the workshop. Even though I’ve done this kind of workshop numerous times in the past, this was my first time doing it remotely. So I was super excited, but anxious at the same time since I knew, my usual tricks of facilitating might be lost in the process because the participants weren’t going to be sitting in the same room.

Fast forward, the workshop went well. It managed to accelerate understanding between us of what this new feature is going to be, how it gives values, and most importantly, as the person who will design the UI and UX of this feature, it gave me a good starting point to do the work. Of course, the workshop itself wasn’t exactly 100% as I wanted it to be, but of course, this can be a lesson for future activities.

So, here are a few things that I learned after doing our remote design workshop

1. Agree on the workshop goal

2. Do extensive preparation prior to the workshop

3. Timebox each activity

In my case, it didn’t exactly go as prepared, we ran for 2 hours, but we missed out 1–2 activities, partly due to the fact that this issue that we’re tackling is still conceptual, thus any verbal discussions that go overtime were expected. In the end, though, I managed to squeeze in a lot of important details that otherwise might be missed. Some note for the future.

4. Separate synchronous and asynchronous activities

If you’re working remotely, asynchronous communication is a vital part.

5. Use online whiteboard

During our workshop, we used Miro, but others did well too with Mural. It’s not just on the tool, but also how we utilize it. In our workshop, I ended up creating several frames, each for its own activity. Thus, it helped me in directing the participants and they would have an initial idea of what to do.

Though, if I were to do this in the future, I’d definitely do more work on this part and create a canvas style template (such as Lean Canvas) for the participants to play with. Further increasing the clarity on what to do.

So there you are, I hope this article helps you in setting up your remote design workshop. As we’re embracing remote work, I’m pretty sure that this kind of activity will become the norm rather than the exception. Feel free to contact me through Twitter at @kotakmakan if you want a deeper conversation about this topic.

Happy workshop!