This article is intended to be a two-part series. In Planning And Running an Ideation Workshop — Part 1, I discussed basic best practices in planning and facilitating workshops for anyone getting started in this format. In Part 2, I will explore some of the deeper challenges we faced in planning and running a remote design workshops with our client Medius.
Medius is a leading global provider of cloud-based spend management solutions, helping organisations drive their business forward by enabling best-in-class process efficiency, cost saving opportunities and greater financial control. In November 2019 Medius acquired Wax Digital to become a true power-house in source-to-pay solutions.
In the two-day remote design studio, PRWD ran 7 workshops where we generated solutions for different parts of the Medius website. The whole team was split between London, Manchester, Stockholm, and New York.
We send out a public agenda to the participants as part of a calendar invite. On the back end, we created our own agenda which planned out every ten minutes of the workshop and we built out a Mural board.
We have created a custom Mural template that helped them organize and gather the assets in one spot. (If you haven’t used Mural yet, it is a virtual tool that enables innovative teams to collaborate visually and brainstorm solutions to their problems or challenges).
What are the main challenges of remote workshops?
Some challenges come from taking a workshop from the physical to the digital realm. We lose a lot when we start interacting with computers instead of face-to-face with humans.
- Limited access to body language. When you are looking through a video camera, it is difficult to see if people are engaged, confused, or are disagreeing with what is happening in the workshop.
- Difficult to build trust. Whenever you take the physical element away, it is much more challenging to build trust with people. Therefore, remote workshop participants might feel less comfortable with activities, such as sketching.
- Limited access to physical tools. When we did an in-person workshop, we brought sharpies, stickies, large pads of paper, and a physical timer. We were looking for space with a lot of walls for physical collaboration. In a remote setting, you have to best replicate these tools.
- So many distractions. There is no shortage of distractions during a remote workshop, whether they be for you or the participants. Slack, email, dogs, cats, kids, partners, and the refrigerator can all aid in suboptimal participation. You can ask people to put away distractors, but it is a lot harder to control in a remote setting.
I relied on Mural boards to achieve the remote equivalent, but we also asked participants to bring some of their own tools to complement the workshop:
Set-up and tools
The workshops required the following hardware/software to work:
- Internet Connection
- MURAL (we sent an invitation email to the participants to join the design studios)
-Paper A3 or A4
-Black felt-tip pen
-Turn on “Do Not Disturb” for Slack
Facilitator — Responsible for guiding the team through each step in the workshop
Team- A cross-functional team comprised of 2 representatives from PRWD and 4 representatives from Medius/WaxDigital
Mute Distractions — Avoid devices, Slack, email, etc.
Cameras On — This should feel like we’re all in the same room
Have Fun — We all are aiming at the same goal — not perfection
1 Hour Design Studio Agenda
• 5mins — we shared top-level research insights & “how might we?” statement
• 5mins — sketching round 1
• 2mins for each participant — presentation of ideas and upload the sketches on the Mural board
• 2mins — voting
• 5mins — sketching round 2 (goal: Work as a group to take the strongest elements of the different ideas and combine them into one new “super” idea)
• 2mins for each participant — presentation of ideas
• 2mins — voting
• 7mins — final discussion (group discussion to establish what features and characteristics a final joint solution would look like, and what the key takeaways are).
Ready to start!
The first day we started with a one-hour Zoom session with the Medius team where we went through the executive summary from the research. We then set up the first remote design studio!
There were 6 people for each design studio as it’ s better to hold multiple sessions with small teams rather than have a big one — more ideas will be generated and it will avoid production blocking issues.
We kept each round of sketches short five minutes max. The reason being is so that we were forced to come up with the first solution that comes to mind.
We wrapped up the two-day remote design workshop with a presentation on Zoom recapping on the popular sketches from the sessions and we also shared the next steps for the design process.
User-Centered Design Process
- Develop the user journeys and new information architecture
- Begin designing the 1st version of the core templates for the new website
- Following feedback, designs will be progressed, working towards having a clickable prototype of the core template areas and pages of the website. This new prototype will be used to carry out some further user research sessions, including with some people from the initial round of research.
- In between the research sessions, refinements will be made to the prototype
- Following the research, the design templates will be finalised ready for handover to the developers.
- Despite uncertainties about whether it would be successful, it went particularly well. We achieved what we wanted out of the exercise to come up with as many ideas as we could.
- It’s really important to be inclusive to those that are remote, those that may be more introverted, to minorities. There was a person from a team without paper and pen but she had the opportunity to share her ideas.
- The second day we decided to remove the second round session of sketches and we found a discussion was more productive so we encouraged people to share their views on what they liked and why.