The Zero Post-It Journey Map

Our first official purchase as a company

Ah, Post-It notes, one of the world’s greatest accidental inventions. Think of all the multicolored scraps of paper consumed by forward-thinking product designers the world over. But there’s one problem with Post-Its — they don’t play well in a video conference.

After many workshop experiences where the remote team members were relegated to emailing or chatting their responses to a designated in-person transcriber, I finally was in a situation where I had to run a FULLY remote design workshop. We needed to do journey mapping — but how? Point a webcam at the wall and write really big?

I’d been unsatisfied with the collaborative whiteboarding software I’d encountered before (lag issues, paid subscriptions, lack of enthusiasm from all but the most tech-savvy team members, etc. etc.), so it was back to the drawing board.

I put my head down, did some serious thinking and successfully came up with a way to run a remote journey mapping workshop in a fluid and successful manner. Best of all, a way to do it with free tools you and your team already use (or can easily learn) — Trello and Slack.

Here’s how I did it:

1. Make sure everyone can use Trello and Slack

Create a new Trello board, add all your team members, and make a “To Do” column. In that column, every participant should add a card with their name on it and apply at least one label (do one yourself so people have a model). Create a #workshop channel in Slack and invite everyone to that too.

Can’t I skip this step? 
Not advised! You need to make sure that everyone a) can access the board/channel and b) knows how to add a card and label it. Do this ahead of time so you can troubleshoot one-on-one instead of killing momentum and putting your workshop in the Remote Meeting Death Spiral.

2. Set up your Trello board (prior to the workshop!)

Once everyone has checked in, archive the “To do” list. Open a card and define your labels as Actions, Questions, Pain Points, and Delighters (delete other labels). Create a “legend” column describing each label and set up placeholder columns for the steps of the journey.

3. Start the workshop

Follow the best principles for running a remote meeting. Define the problem, state your assumptions and constraints, do personas — essentially all the groundwork that hasn’t been done already. For any activity that you would normally use Post-Its, use Slack instead. As people post their responses, you can summarize them in your text editor of choice (to eliminate duplicates and capture spoken-word additions), then copy-paste them into Slack as a summary.

For situations you need to vote on — like “What hypothesis should we test first?”, copy-paste each option as its own message and have the team use Slack’s emoticon feature to vote.

4. Identify a scenario to map

I use a “Mad Libs” template for writing user scenarios, feel free to steal it:

Have everyone write at least one scenario into Slack, everyone votes on their favorites (usually 3 votes each), then the winning scenario will be mapped. At this point, drop a link to the Trello board and switch over there.

5. Journey Mapping part 1 — model how to do it

Screenshare and talk people through the various stages of the user journey, filling in each stage as you go. Once those are defined, go through adding actions. It’s important to screenshare and talk people through if they haven’t done a mapping exercise before. This also reinforces how to use Trello’s features.

6. Journey Mapping part 2 — have the team finish the exercise

Once you’ve taken a first pass at actions, have the team jump in and focus on filling in any missing actions and also adding questions. I usually put 5–7 minutes on the clock so people get focused on Questions. Following that, I review the Actions and Questions, give people a chance to comment, then set another 5 minutes to do Pain Points and Delighters.

If you do this with a real team, you’ll have more cards than this

7. There you have it!

A full-color glorious journey map, done with a remote team, and without depleting your precious precious Post-It note supply. You can go through and organize the cards manually, or use Trello’s filter controls to focus down on a specific set of cards. You can share the link so people can continue working post-workshop, or turn on voting for the board and have participants vote for what they see as the most important cards.

Try it out next time you’re trying to conduct a high-engagement and valuable workshop with a remote team.

If you like this article, drop me a line and let me know your best tips and tricks for good remote design exercises!

If you made it this far, please recommend so others can see it as well. You can see more about how we do things at purposeux.com, email me directly at erik@purposeux.com, or follow me on twitter, where I’m much less verbose.