3 Things You Need for a Remote Software Design Workshop

Airship is a remote-first company with clients and crew members across the country (13 states and 4 time zones!). Our first engagement with our clients typically comes in the form of a software design workshop (we call this service Mapping). 

Software design workshops are used to help teams and innovators plan, wireframe, and design (either with high-fidelity mockups or a simple prototype) a product or application. This also provides a detailed technical scope, timeline, and a firm estimate on how much it would cost to launch an MVP (minimum viable product) version of their application.

Mappings, or any software design workshop, involve understanding business requirements, gaining knowledge, creating consensus on plans and priorities, and generating ideas. We run these in-person when we can, but sometimes this just isn’t possible due to location, timing, etc. So when COVID-19 required that we stay at home, we were ready to spring into action since we’ve had a lot of practice doing this already.

Technology allows us to brainstorm and collaborate pretty seamlessly, so here are our must-haves for a successful remote application design workshops.

Remote Software Design Workshop #1: Internet

You don’t have to have state-of-the-art internet speed to participate in our mappings, but at a minimum, internet that allows for streaming capabilities is all you’ll need to join in the fun.

I know it seems obvious, but it’s important to not phone-in product design meetings or it will come back to haunt you later. These meetings aren’t designed to be voice-only conference calls you take while driving. Or even video calls you take while sitting at loud coffee shop filled with distractions.

Your full attention (and bandwidth) are required for productive discovery meetings where we unearth solutions and opportunities for your innovation.

Remote Software Design Workshop #2: Collaboration Tools

You’ll need a video conferencing tool like Zoom. We love being able to share our screens as we wireframe, see our client’s faces and gauge their reactions as we work, so this is a perfect fit for our needs.

We use Whimsical for most of our brainstorming activities, which allows us to replace our much beloved Post-it notes with a digital version. Whimsical is a browser-based tool that allows for real-time collaboration as well as commenting, so it’s the perfect tool for creating concepts quickly and getting feedback instantly. We also use it for creating flowcharts, wireframes and wireflows.

For Airship, our Mappings include two days of discovery meetings, where we get as many details as we share our Whimsical boards so our clients can process what we’ve created asynchronously. This also allows the client to see our progress over the coming weeks or ask for changes if needed.

Once we move into the mockup stage of the mapping, we use Figma for high fidelity designs. Figma is also browser-based, so our clients can see changes in real-time & provide feedback. We also create clickable prototypes for usability testing, which we can also perform remotely.

Remote Software Design Workshop Need #3: A Plan

I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t something I can buy with a subscription, order on Amazon, or a plug-in I can use in my browser. But believe me when I tell you, a plan the single most important part of a Mapping. You cannot have a successful mapping without a plan. You cannot understand business requirements without a plan.

You cannot:

  • Gain understanding about a business or your users without it
  • Gain consensus from stakeholders without it
  • Prioritize a project without it
  • Plan a project without it

Here’s a sample agenda of our “discovery” days to help you get started.

The plan outlines the How. How will we ask the right question/run the right activity/solve the right problem/delight the right user? Tools will not always solve the problem, but our mapping team has the expertise and experience to create a plan to do just that.

Conclusion

What we’ve learned during COVID-19 is that the tools are just that – tools. Hiring the right team to create a plan and execute your idea cannot be bought off the shelf. We’ve spent years honing our skills and expertise in our domain, and we are passionate about building custom software the right way.