Running remote UX workshops

Product stakeholders spread around the globe? That’s fine.

Karol Woźniak
Feb 7 · 9 min read

It’s easier than you think.

When your product or company grows at a rapid pace it can sometimes be difficult to keep control of the direction it is taking. Another difficulty is to have your team aligned and making sure everyone is on the same page. These problems can disappear with the help of a workshop where everyone can meet and jointly work solutions out. You can read why getting stakeholders together could be a great idea in my previous article.

What are the challenges?

Carrying out a workshop can be a difficult job even when all participants are gathered in one place. However, it gets even harder when trying to keep your meeting on track when multiple members are contributing from behind their screens, connected by the internet. I have listed some of the most important challenges below, to think about when making a decision about a remote workshop:

Communication quality

One of the biggest drawbacks of running remote meetings is the lack of face to face communication. Speaking to a microphone can make you doubtful about how well you are heard and understood by other participants (especially when you can’t see their facial expressions and body posture). If the sound is unclear and foggy it may further disrupt the flow of the conversation. Another threat related to communication is that remote workshop members are more likely to lose their focus of the topic and start doing or thinking about something unrelated to the workshop. This is less likely to happen when they are present in the same room as the others. It is usually much easier to engage with participants who are physically gathered in one place than it is when they are remote.

Technical and logistical constraints

Remote workshops rely not only on good preparation and organisation but also on a number of important technicalities. You don’t want your workshop to be constantly interrupted by a weak internet connection or poor quality of a camera’s image. Furthermore, choosing the right time for a remote meeting might be demanding when your stakeholders are dispersed globally. You shouldn’t ask anyone to participate in the meeting when it’s night-time in their country.

Tools limitations

Whiteboard, paper, sticky notes and marker pens are great tools that let you visualise and manage the input from a group of people meeting in one room. Though, in a situation when members are separated by long distances, it is usually necessary to leverage some of the online tools available.

Content organisation and processing.

Unless you go for an advanced tool offering a digital canvas for everyone to work on simultaneously, it gets quite tedious and time-consuming to collect content from workshop participants, organise it and manage it later on. Asking everyone to scan or take a picture of their sketches, for example, can be quite frustrating when you try to maintain a seamless workshop flow.

Are there any advantages then?

Despite certain limitations, remote workshops can have a few advantages over non-remote ones in some situations. To give an example, some people struggle to focus and give their best in busy, crowded environments, especially when they do not know other members. Working from their home or another work setup they are familiar with can favour productivity and creativity during the meeting.

Photo by Jud Mackrill on Unsplash

How to prepare for remote workshops?

Good preparation is key if you want to run a successful workshop, no matter what kind of workshop it is. Given that remote workshops are usually more difficult to take care of, you might need to go the extra mile to be well-prepared for them. I have listed a few tips you might find helpful when getting ready for your own remote workshop:

Consider the workshop type.

Do your stakeholders struggle with figuring out their product’s persona and user goals? Do you need to establish the product strategy that aligns both design and business goals? Or, maybe they have a website or a mobile app already but it suffers from a low conversion rate? No matter the problem, it is your responsibility to understand your client’s problems and aim to structure the workshop in a way that will match the product development phase and address any issues.

Choose collaboration techniques and make an agenda.

Since the agenda will form a skeleton for the meeting, you need to make sure it is well-thought-out. The agenda should include a list of participants, so you need to think about who will best contribute to working on the problems you will address during the workshop.

Decide on the setup.

Once you’ve decided what techniques will work best for you, it’s time to decide which tools will make them possible to execute. You should think about it in the context of previously established workshop type.

Prepare and test your arrangement.

I recommend taking some time before the start of a workshop to ensure that all of your tools will be ready for you at the meeting kick-off and you won’t have to waste everyone’s time setting things up. This includes, for example, preparing all templates you want to use (e.g. persona canvas). I attached a checklist you can go through next time you prepare for a remote workshop.

Let stakeholders prepare too.

Going online with your workshop requires not only you but also other people involved in the project to be well-prepared. Remember to share the agenda beforehand so everyone can better understand the structure and goals of the meeting. Participants might want to prepare notes and research they gathered over time which they will want to share during the workshop.

Which tools could be used?

When the workshop day comes it means you’ve completed the hard work of getting everyone together, thinking about problems, goals and organising the activities. Well done. Now it is time to reap the benefits of this meticulous preparation. Below, I made a list of different types of digital tools that might come handy for running your next remote workshop:

Online text editor (Google Docs or similar). Use it to:

  • Collect stakeholders knowledge, requirements, business goals etc.
  • Summarise any research data gathered up to this point
  • Let everyone share their observations and thoughts
  • Write summaries for each part of the meeting

Online spreadsheet (Google Sheets or similar). Use it to:

  • Add and group user/client requirements
  • Share and organise the participant’s ideas
  • Vote for ideas (following a brainstorming exercise, for example)
  • Outline the project scope and prioritise things
  • Create a project roadmap
Using Google Sheets to define a project’s roadmap remotely with workshop participants.
Using Google Sheets to define a project’s roadmap remotely with workshop participants.
Using Google Sheets and its template to define a project’s roadmap remotely during a stakeholder workshop.

Online collaboration canvas. Use it to:

  • Map user flows or journey
  • Create personas
  • Conduct empathy mapping
  • Brainstorm solutions (by adding digital post-its or sketching)
  • Sketch wireframes for your ideas
  • Share non-digital sketches and notes (so everyone can see it)
  • Define MVP scope (with the help of an MVP matrix)
  • Discuss and define Information Architecture
Using Miro app and its template to remotely collaborate on product’s personas.
Defining product’s MVP scope remotely using Miro app.

Summary

When you are in the process of making a decision about running a workshop but worry about geographical constraints, keep in mind that running a remote workshop can be a great alternative. Once it’s agreed, you will have to think about what type of workshop will address the project’s problems you are facing. UX designers who facilitate the workshop should try their best to be the client’s guide in this matter (this is true for both remote and non-remote workshops).

Appnroll Publication

Venture builder. Having fun building scalable businesses. www.appnroll.com

Karol Woźniak

Written by

Appnroll Publication

Venture builder. Having fun building scalable businesses. www.appnroll.com

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