Working On A Remote Team
Made By Munsters is a remote design and development group. Joey is based in Indianapolis, Ind., and I live just outside Chicago, Ill.
We get asked a lot, “How does this work?”
It all comes down to our well-defined process. Over the years, both Joey and I have had the pleasure of working for — and with — great companies. These experiences have helped us to develop the process we use today.
I want to share a little bit of that process with you. If you don’t read this entire post — even though it’s really not that long — here are the bullet points:
- Inception workshops / kickoff meetings
- Transparent and continuous communication
- Taking on just the right amount of work
It’s really this easy for us. We feel if we focus on doing these things really well, our company will continue to thrive, our clients will be happy, and the fun times will roll on.
Our inception workshops are made up of five small activities. We ask our clients bring individuals who have a stake in the product and also if they can bring a few sample users who might use the application that’s even better.
Our first activity is an overview. This task seems redundant sure. However, from the time we get off the phone with our client to the time we get in the same room with them and their stakeholders, the product has changed. Typically more than once.
In this step, we have our clients pitch their products. We ask questions such as: What is it they really want us to build, what problems are they trying to solve, who has already done this and how are they going to do it differently or more effectively?
We have found over the years that by asking these questions we can eliminate features that don’t make sense to build or design, at least in the first version. Additionally, it helps everyone in the room get on the same page.
Next, we examine the users who will be using the product. Often referred to as user personas, this activity helps us understand the problems, technology limitations and features the product should contain.
These personas help us define our user stories or features. While these user stories are very high-level and will need further internal development, they allow the team to focus on what product is being built.
Next, we put these user stories into motion with task flows. By developing task flows we can quickly trace how the application will work, how users will get from point A to B, and find holes or missing features. Lastly, we sketch out the first few views of the application. We love to see what our clients’ are thinking. You don’t have to be a designer to explain an idea. You just need a pen and piece of paper.
This is the first part of our process. It gives us the ammunition to start the design and development of our clients’ products.
Transparent and continuous communication
Communication is one of the most important parts of remote work. We want our clients to know what we are working on and when. We use a variety of tools to accomplish this task.
The first tool is Slack. We create a private group for our clients in our team channel. This allows us to keep an open dialogue during the duration of the project. Questions get answered faster. Status updates are added, as well as, sharing of documents, ideas and other project communication.
Additionally, we send a weekly round-up email to all of our clients. This gives them a look at what we did during the week, how many hours we dedicated to a feature, and what we will be working on next.
We enjoy keeping our clients informed and a part of the project during each phase. Being open and honest about the project is the best way to keep both sides happy. Even if the news is bad.
Taking on the right amount of work
The last and most important part of our process is work load. As a young company it seems natural to take every job that is passed our way. We don’t feel this way.
We evaluate each job as an opportunity. We weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that is best for not just Made By Munsters, but our client as well.
If we don’t feel both parties will walk away happy at the end of the project, we pass and help the this client find another team who is better suited.
Our process is fairly straight forward. It’s not complex and it’s not new. But, this process has helped us to run a successful company from two different locations.
Kurt Cunningham is a co-founder of Made by Munsters. He specializes in UX/UI design and front-end development.