Remote Design Sprints?

over 7 years ago from , Product Designer at Treehouse

How the hell do you manage these?

Any tips or tricks on managing a remote design team that is working agile-ish in general?


  • Ronan Flynn-CurranRonan Flynn-Curran, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Regular open communication. This is easier said that done - no piece of software will solve this for you. It comes from a healthy team culture.

    Using chat and tracker tools like Slack, Jira, etc are of course helpful, but it's still easy for designers to get out of whack as they split up problems and tasks over the course of a sprint.

    Have formal and informal design show & tells - framing the problem and asking questions and for input from each other on how to solve it together.


    The ever-changing loop Make sure everyone is aware of what the other folks are doing; that everyone understands how the parts will be coming together as the sprint progresses.

    When a problem arises or a spec has to change (e.g. API doesn't work that way - Feature B will be pushed to a later phase) make sure everyone is in the loop about it, even if it doesn't really seem like it will affect them.

    Agile processes can be difficult for designers - we often look at things in a very different way from developers. Designers want to understand the end goal, to have a picture of what the result is going to be and what it means for the user. Anything that alters that result can severely impact on a designer's process, in ways that other members of an agile sprint team might not fully see - constant sharing is crucial, regardless of the tool or medium you use.


    Don't dismiss the big picture to achieve the small one It's easy to fall into a pattern of focusing all discussion entirely on the sprint, but I think it's very important for designers to take some time to talk about things that fall outside of it - the bits that come up during researching and questioning at the start, but that you don't have the time to address within the sprint.

    Make sure to allow some time to step back, discuss the holistic aspects of what you're doing; and meticulously file away the things that surface from such discussions. Present a simple summary of these smaller 'housekeeping' design issues at the end of a sprint, so that they get scheduled properly into the next sprint.

    Otherwise, designers will struggle to get the time to realign and refocus the little details that often get loosened up and shaken about during the frantic parts of an agile sprint. If you don't allow for these, you'll find yourself sitting awake at night remembering a million tiny things that you have sitting in a notebook or trello board.

    13 points
  • Wes O'HaireWes O'Haire, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    This is what I've tried at Hudl. It's a condensed(1 day) version, but it can easily be extracted over the course of a week.

    Problem Definition: 30 minutes via Appear.in. Discuss the history of the product + any and all user research done. This gets everyone on the same page.

    Group Sketching: 30 minutes via Appear.in , 5 people max. We do this via video as well(paper+iPevo cam or iPad+Paper app). This gets the ideas going and allows everyone to get solutions on the table.

    Split-up: A few hours on our own. We then go back to 'heads down' mode for a portion of the day. This is when we all do a second iteration on our earlier sketch or come up w/ something new.

    Group presentation: 15 minutes, Appear.in. We reconvene and present and critique our second iteration

    Dogfooding: This is the end of the day. We start testing internally w/ people in our HQ office. We utilize Lookback.io so that we can all see the recording.

    Don't want to get too 'pitchy' but you can see some BTS video of the process here: https://vimeo.com/136830676

    3 points
  • Nick SloggettNick Sloggett, over 7 years ago

    Lot's of communication. Use tools. Use video calls. Use Screenhero. Drink more coffee.

    3 points
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    1 point
  • Ayush Jain, almost 6 years ago

    You can use tools like https://realtimeboard.com/ to collaborate with the remote team and conduct an online design sprint. Just make sure to prepare your board and other required documents beforehand.

    We recently hosted a webinar on design sprints where we also talked about conducting remote design sprints. Here's the recording for your reference : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZ0GRlEGjnY

    Happy to connect and share ideas :)

    0 points
  • lynn ann15, 6 years ago

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    0 points
  • Dave HawkinsDave Hawkins, over 7 years ago

    Looooads of video calls. Usually we work on hangouts with our screens shared for 6+ hours a day. We will also break off once every week to figure out a problem on our own and come back.

    2 man remote design company here.

    0 points
    • Keaton Taylor, over 7 years ago

      That's awesome, I work for a 3 person design/dev studio and we are working on refining our process for product work when it comes in and making sure design, dev and biz all have a voice in what's happening so that we're solving the right problems from the get go. sharing screens on hangouts is a great idea.

      0 points
      • Dave HawkinsDave Hawkins, over 7 years ago

        I'd also look into https://www.sqwiggle.com/, we are considering it once there is more than 2 of us working at the same time, remote isolation is a big thing we want to get around. I don't want people to feel left alone or as if they are working in a silo all day. The benefits of an office without the noise, whats better than that? :)

        0 points
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    0 points
  • CTodd LombardoCTodd Lombardo, over 7 years ago

    Very interested in this discussion.

    We didn't put anything about remote design sprints in the book since none of the authors, nor any of the 2 dozen folks we interviewed had experience with them. Would love to interview those who have done them and get learnings for the second edition. If interested ping me: hi at ctodd dot com.

    0 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I've used Jira myself with a team doing remote based sprints. We use the agile view and have a list of items to be done, items we are working on, and items in verification. As work progresses each issue is assigned to the appropriate party for either feedback or verification.

    Before any of this takes place we typically use Go To Meeting to kick of the necessary needs and requirements. Sometimes if it's a complex problem these meetings are also great times to brainstorm ideas.

    While I don't think Jira is the best solution out there we found a way to make it work.

    0 points
  • Samuel AlonsoSamuel Alonso, over 7 years ago

    With jira.

    0 points
    • Keaton Taylor, over 7 years ago

      you use Jira for review, discussion and planning? I've used Jira a little bit and can see the benefits for agile development but specifically for seeing a design sprint through in the beginning parts of a new project, I'm not sure a project management system is going to take care of all of the facilitation, etc.

      The main part that concerns me is how to do a review afterwards, assess feedback and have each team member talk through their design decisions with the entire team while showing work. If we were all in the same place we would sit at a table, do the sprints and then hang everything on a wall and talk through it, it's a little more complex with a remote team

      0 points