There are often challenges when it comes to collaborating remotely on design projects and the quality of work produced can suffer. But these challenges can be overcome with a few simple tips.
With remote work becoming more common, particularly for developers and designers, many teams are collaborating on projects from completely different places. For design projects to be completed in good time and successfully, it’s imperative that everyone be on the same page.
When not co-located, teams don’t have the option of quick over-the-shoulder meetings, and so, need a better system to manage their projects. The collaboration gap that opens up in remote scenarios can be mitigated by a combination of efficient processes and tools.
Here are some tips to ensure collaborating remotely on design projects runs smoothly.
Mind the Communication Gap
Designers and developers, intrinsically, have different approaches. Pixel perfection is a big concern for designers. Ensuring that the design is coherent across the entire project, and that the project is responsive.
Developers are more concerned with issues of performance, reliability and scale. This gap in approach leads to conflicting priorities and deadlines. In a situation where teams are working remotely, this can be only avoided if both are aligned in a consistent vision for what has to be achieved on the project.
Having a kick-off meeting with key leaders on both teams that defines the scope, requirements and concerns on the project is good way to avoid any gaps in communication and understanding that could potentially come up later.
Keep a Clear Feedback Loop
Designer developer hand-off is one of the crucial parts of successful collaboration on design projects. One of the issues that arise when designers share design with developers is that of organization of assets. Having a central repository to store all files and a nomenclature system that ensures clarity for all are some of the steps that can be taken to make it a smooth hand-off. The key thing above all, is to keep a short and clear feedback loop for hand-offs.
If developers are kept in the loop from the beginning then they have a considerably easier time collaborating with developers. Basecamp’s team collaborates remotely and follows this practice. They have 2-3 people on a project, but there is always at least one designer and one developer working together on the team.
Starting with a consistent design system where files are clearly organized is a good base to have. Since the design system is accessible to all teams remotely and has the updated versions of all assets, the chances of redundancies are reduced. Tools like Zeplin, Avocode and Sympli provide a dedicated environment for storing everything, right from buttons to UI interactions.
When sharing feedback, both designers and developers need context. Emails aren’t enough when working in different work spaces. Neither is it practical or possible to have a team conference for every issue. Attaching images and information about the environment to complement descriptions of problems saves times for developers when recreating the issue. For this purpose, design collaboration tools like zipBoard and InVision are helpful.
Adopt a User-Centric Process
The most important stakeholder for the project is the end user. If the end user is not happy with the final project then it is all for nothing. For this reason, a user-centric process helps teams prioritize better. When prioritizing features, or deciding on the kind of UI to implement, teams should always look at what will be best for the user.
To move the process in this direction, both developers and designers should review user research. Being aware of the pain points and needs of the end user will help them better understand who the project will cater to, and what is needed to make it a success. Remote teams like Zapier take this a step further by having a team culture where everyone participates in customer support.
Encourage Team Interaction
In the absence of regular face-to-face interaction, teams need to be able to meet whenever possible. A lot of virtual teams organize two or three meetups every year, so that team members have a chance to get together and not only work, but also bond. This helps in creating a one-on-one rapport between them and pays off when they have to work together in crunch times.
In a remote environment, team culture is all the more important, and having people on the same wavelength helps when faced with challenges on projects.
Dream Teams are ‘In Sync’ Teams
Teams in sync are far more productive. Collaboration and communication are the biggest challenges when working remotely. On a design process, having these aspects in order is critical to the success of the project and as remote teams go, it is no different.
A lack of coordination between the design and development team can lead to delivery bottlenecks, especially in the hand-off stage, where it becomes a problem of one team waiting for the other to deliver mock-ups or prototypes. With cross-functional teams where designers and developers are on the same page from the beginning such problems can be avoided.