Inês Silva | July 30, 2020

Remote Design Sprints - Making it easy

Last year we shared some thoughts about growing ideas with Design Sprints, during Subvisual's Summer Camp. This year, due to the pandemic circumstances, Summer Camp is 100% remote, but we decided to embrace the challenge of making a remote Design Sprint anyway. None of us mentors had experience running it like this, but we wanted to make sure our mentees would learn, enjoy, and understand the framework and its benefits, since our focus is the process over outcomes.

Where to start?

Structuring, planning and not complicating what we know. There's no need to reinvent the process. Our team has well-established remote working processes, so we decided to use everything we already do on our daily routines. Make it simple. If your company is struggling with remote working, we recommend reading Twist Remote Work Guides.

Preparation

There are several things we need to take into consideration one to two weeks before, especially being remote.

  • Give the team some reading materials about the Design Sprint framework, especially if they aren't familiar with the process.
  • Decide the exercises per day, choosing what fits better within the constraints and needs of the project. Keep in mind that people get tired quicker during video calls than they do in-person, so make the schedule shorter than usual. Quality over quantity.
  • Write a summary with the instructions for each day.
  • Write the instructions for each exercise with small steps, and provide examples that could be useful (images or documents from other Design Sprint).
  • Share everything with the team so they can have the time to read and get familiar with the schedule before the sprint starts.
Design Sprint preparation
Design Sprint preparation

Tools

Keep the tools at the minimum and don't try new stuff at this point. Everyone should be comfortable and familiar with what they'll be using.

We use Basecamp as project management and internal communication tool, so the schedule and instructions for the Design Sprint are available there, accessible to everyone.

For video conferencing, we use Meet. Stay with the video on when working together so that the team is aware of each other's presence. It will help with moving faster. We also use Slack for more informal conversations and link sharings when we aren't video conferencing.

Miro helps us maintain our ideas in order. It works as a giant whiteboard where we place all the outcomes of the exercises of the first three days, allowing everyone to collaborate at the same time. Design Sprint Templates are available, which makes it easier to adapt and helps save time.

Pen and paper it's also crucial. Some exercises require drawing, so we ask people to do their thing and then take a photo and place it in Miro to share with everyone.

These are the tools we use during the first three days (Understand, Diverge and Converge), which are the ones that require more team collaboration and sync work.

Design Sprint Setup
Design Sprint Setup

In the last two days (Prototype and Test), we usually use Docs to write the script and interviews, Figma to make the prototype, and Meet to record the usability tests. These tools allow everyone to see what each other is doing in real-time, which is very important since these two days require more async work.

Benefits and conclusions

Although we enjoy everything that involves an in-person Design Sprint, like more organic team discussions, post-it flying around, and drawing in the walls, we realised that doing it remotely also wins in some things:

  • It's easier to keep information and share it with anyone.
  • Everything moves faster because there's no need to stick papers and jump into the board one by one.
  • There's a lot less paper waste.

As a first time doing it remotely, I would say it went pretty smoothly. Our Summer Camp team did a great job, and we are very curious to see where this is going to lead them throughout the ten weeks of the program. We keep believing that the process it's more important than the final result, and we want to make sure they learn everything they can along the journey.

I learned to try doing something before worrying if I can actually do it.

João Correia, mentee at Subvisual Summer Camp

The most important thing about Design Sprints is the accountability it gives to everyone. All opinions matter. All ideas are valid. All the mess is necessary. Surely, there will be moments where people will feel a bit lost and frustrated, but mostly they'll have fun and be comfortable with the uncomfortable.