How To Organise A Remote Design Sprint

“I might work from home today”. Can you imagine saying that to your colleagues, your boss, or even yourself before the pandemic?  

Freedom to work from anywhere has become one of the new pillars of modern business, with flexible working supporting individual needs like doing the school run, while communication tools have gone so far that working environments can be done anywhere from your comfy sofa to Miami beach.    

But the opportunities for this new paradigm in how we work doesn’t stop at admin and web teams. Product development’s ideation, concept building, prototyping and testing can still all be achieved through the game-changing Sprint methodology, developed by Jake Knapp and his fellow UX specialists formerly of Google Ventures, in a remote setting. 

In this step-by-step guide we hope to show you no matter where your teams are based or the challenges or objectives to meet, Remote Design Sprints can be as good (if not better!) at uniting teams around a common goal as in-person sprints, and importantly, how you should be organising them for optimum results.


Differences between In Person and Remote Sprint Workshops 

To start off with, let’s look at the pros and cons of conducting design sprint workshops in-person and remotely.  

Running Design Sprints In Person vs Remote Pros and Cons List. In Person pros include instant communication; the ability to physically separate groups for ideation, and greater concentration. Cons include limited availability, physical space requirement and additional effort setting up. Remote however has pros including the ability to conduct it anywhere, its likelihood to fit around schedules, and the ability to integrate software. Cons include the considerations around computer literacy, distractions and engagement difficulties.

As shown in the graphic above, there are pros and cons to each workshop format. Whether the workshop is conducted online or physically can be tailored to your individual requirements, e.g. you’re working with a division of your company in another country, therefore, remote may be your best option from an accessibility and cost perspective.  


Organising Remote Design Sprints

Step 0: Pre-Launch Checklist

Before launch make sure you have these key points in mind so you’re on the right path to workshop success!

a. Internet Connection and Speeds:  

Communication and collaboration are key to getting the most out of any sprint. Make sure that all attendees have sufficient connectivity to participate actively. This could mean some users should utilise any office internet connections to join if they don’t feel their home connection can cope with requirements.   

b. Computer Literacy: 

Getting your head around software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms can be intimidating for first time users and those who aren’t as digitally native.  

To make sure you get the maximum engagement, consider your team’s needs. Do you need to supply a guide or run through some of the basic functions at the top of your remote workshop e.g. muting and asking questions. Supporting your teams ability to input is critical.  

Make sure the tools you choose for collaboration are also accessible (see us cover this under ‘Choose You Collaboration Tools’).  

c. Stakeholder Buy-In and Attendance 

We can’t stress enough the need for stakeholders to be invested in the process. Without relevant team input you will not be able to ensure all areas of consideration are accounted for or if you have motivated key decision makers that conclusions made are for the best (think about signing off a huge marketing campaign without approval from finance for budget). 

We encourage relevant team members from various backgrounds are selected so that you not only cover all of your bases, but ensure that all powerful or interested stakeholders are pulling in the same direction.  

Key Point: Distractions

As mentioned earlier, distractions can be harder to avoid when conducting Sprints virtually. Not only are you not all in the same room engaging, but it’s harder to tell if someone is involved in the process and working with the same urgency.

Our top tips for ensuring you minimise distractions are:

  • Make sure cameras/microphones stay on:

Although you may trust your team, having no cameras on can leave the possibility of tab or phone surfing in the air, and may prevent you reaching the desired levels of collaboration. A cameras on policy can help keep Sprinters accountable.

  • Harness real-time collaboration tools:

Real-time collaboration tools (think a shared Figma space or an online Word document) can mean that you can see who’s doing what and when. This can make keeping up with peoples efforts easier and indicate engagement with the task.

  • Everyone sets their out of office:

Before undergoing a Sprint, you should get agreement from all parties to pool your time and efforts into the Sprint exclusively. You can’t do your day job while working on a Sprint. By getting the team to set their out of office, you can prevent distracting follow ups and chaser emails during parts of the Sprint and keep the team on track.

  • Make sure the sense of urgency translates:

Urgency is a good driver to prevent distractions, and that’s one of the core benefits of a Design Sprint, deadlines that force progressive action. Now as you’re not in the same room, this could be anything from having a timer on-screen to giving intermittent updates on time remaining.

  • Allow for regular breaks:

Most importantly, breaks are essential. Having to focus for a long time can be intense and forcing people to not get distracted can be difficult. Having scheduled breaks within the process can give the team some much needed time to re-charge, go to the bathroom and check their devices before the next round.

1. Establish your goal 

Arnold Schwarznegger once said, “If you don’t have a vision where you are going, if you don’t have a goal for where to go, you’ll drift around and you’re not gonna be happy”. The same can be said for everything in both professional and personal context.  

To get the most out of any meeting or collaborative process, the number one rule is to know what you’re looking to achieve. If you haven’t got a goal in mind, e.g. conversion optimisation on a landing page, reduction of bounce rates or creation of a new website/mobile app, you’ll likely need to sit down and acknowledge where you’re at and diagnose any business issues you’ve spotted. 

This goes for both in person and remote in order to optimise your time in a sprint and concentrate your focus on your goals and user experience.  


2. Assemble your team 

Who are the relevant parties to set, deliver and monitor on your objectives? In a remote workshop setting, this is the ideal time to bring together all relevant parties to discuss their views and create ideas to solve common problems. For conversion optimisation for example, this could be that people are accessing the page, but not following through with signing up for your newsletter/demo or other call to action. This may mean you call in your user experience/design, marketing, sales and potentially your development stakeholders. 

The Mendelow Matrix is a great go-to for inspiration for identifying your relevant parties as it can help you map out the stakeholders who have power or interest in the success of your project so you can get them involved at stages of your sprint.  


3. Choose your collaboration tools 

For remote workshops, using the right collaboration tools can make everything run infinitely smoother. We’ve categorised a few of the areas and options you should check out to streamline conversations and turbo-charge ideation. 


Video and Audio 

Zoom: One of the go to names for video conferencing during the pandemic, Zoom offers all the features you need including transcript recording and single sign on options in their latter tiers.  

Microsoft Teams: A key part of the Office365 suite, Teams enables business collaboration through chats and group calls. Whiteboard options and integrations with third party software like Asana make it particularly versatile.  


Virtual Whiteboard 

Miro: An amazing tool for not only creating engagement by multiple participants, but especially great for ideation, simultaneous collaboration and even process mapping. 

Invision: Invision offers great tools for collaboration, enabling the upload of photoshop or other design files (useful for new designs) for active feedback through comments.  


Job Management and Chat 

Atlassian (Trello): Synonymous with the Kanban board, Trello is easy to use, track jobs and manage day to day tasks quickly. It also has a Power Ups library full of additional features to make sure you have all the tools you need. 

Asana: Asana allows for accessing multiple job management formats from the off and has a number of built-in features in opposed to integrations. Asana also lends itself well to communication against projects.  


4. Organise your sprint date, timeframe and parameters 

Once you’ve decided on your goal, team and your tools, it’s time to pencil in the sprint into your teams calendars. Consider your date and time to acknowledge your teams availability and the timeframe you want the sprint to run for (remember, remote sprints have the advantage of being anytime, anywhere). These should all be set out in the communications you send to your team as this will set expectations and help keep your team engaged throughout.  

When this criteria is established, you will now be ready to send out your invites. 


5. Time to sprint!  

You’re now ready to hit the ground running with a remote sprint! For guidance on running your own sprint download our FREE design sprint guide.