Tools for Successful Remote Collaboration for Creative Projects: Our Conclusion at the End of 2020.

In most creative projects many people are involved. There are stakeholders who want to be kept in the loop on the development of the project. There are project managers, designers, researchers, content creators and developers, who are all involved in the project and (ideally) working on it in tight collaboration.

Over the last 2.5 years, the PUX team has tried out many different tools for creative collaboration. Now, the circumstances where all-remote work is the new standard, have amplified the need to successfully collaborate remotely. At the end of 2020, here’s a short overview of the conclusions about creative tools the PUX team arrived at.

Conceptualising, Brainstorming and Coordinating

The first phase of a project includes conceptualisation, collecting information, and working together with stakeholders and within the project team. When working with many stakeholders, it is key that the tool is easily accessible for everyone and allows for a lot of flexibility, while keeping important information present and accurate. Since meetings are now remote, it also needs to support a remote setting, with everyone working on things at the same time in the same virtual space. There are particularly three tools that have proven for us to provide the functions we need and we now use them on a daily basis: Miro, Mural and Whimsical. Each of them has their own strengths and depending on the format of the meeting, we choose our tool. Mural helps us run remote workshops, collect user research insights and do content planning. Miro is the tool of our choice when external stakeholders are involved, because collaborators don’t need to create an account for it. For prototyping, our design team prefers Whimsical. With this tool, several stakeholders can work at the same time on a prototype and see in real time changes e.g. made in wireframes. 

Remote User Research

For remote UX research, GoToMeeting and Lookback are very competent tools to talk to users in their homes. There is even a positive side effect to remote interviews: We get a glimpse at the natural space the user’s feel comfortable in…. 

Design with Figma

The main challenge is for several designers to be able to work on the same design remotely and at different times. Stakeholders often want to be able to follow the latest state and be able to leave feedback easily. Taking screenshots and sending feedback via mail or Slack can quickly get out of hand. The tool that fits this work mode perfectly is Figma. It works in the browser, supports multiple people to design in the same file at the same time and does not require any file management as most other tools do. It allowed us to do remote feedback sessions while working right in the design and sharing it with stakeholders.

Building Websites with Webflow

It is important for designers and stakeholders to be able to follow progress closely and to give feedback easily, making it quickly adaptable to new insights. Since we are in an era of no-code tools it is now possible for designers to be part of the building process or even build without the help of a developer. Webflow enables just that. There is no need for complex setups and tools. A browser is all you need. We have already found it to be a great time-saver. It left us with more time to focus on crucial steps in creating a website, like user research, and to consider the actual content that will fill the website in much more detail. And these are things that no computer can replace - with or without code.

Documenting Results and Updates

The PUX team works with Notion as the documentation and shared collaboration tool. The first setup is time consuming, but as soon the structure is established, it is very easily updated and adapted by all team members. By documenting everything in this tool, not only within each chapter (Design, Research) the team members can bring themselves very quickly up to speed if necessary but also the cross team collaboration is made a lot easier. We have set it up for some clients as well, where we have established for example research databases that allow keyword searches on all results gained in the company. We know from other clients that they work with the team workspace Confluence. For us, this tool was too expensive and Notion proved to be more easily customized to our needs.

Our Learnings

  1. Remote collaboration is possible, even with everyone working from home. State-of-the-art tools that work in the browser enable a smooth process with no hiccups and are easy to use by everyone.
  2. Time-cost saving: These tools are readily set up, so you can start working straight away. Also, they are free or cost very little (less than CHF 50 per month). With Webflow, no developer resources are required and maintenance costs are minimal, thanks to a low barrier of learning.  
  3. User feedback is much more actionable if easily accessible. A nice side-effect of having everything in one place is that everyone can see the feedback from remote user testing real-time, making it easy to adapt design and content straight away.

Tool overview used  in 2020 by the PUX Team:

Workshops, Brainstorming, Prototyping: 

Mural.co

Miro.com

Whimsical.com

Remote User Research:

GoToMeeting.com

Lookback.io

Design Collaboration:

Figma.com

Building Websites: 

Webflow.com

Documentation:

Notion.so

Confluence

 

In the monthly Product and UX letter the PUX team shares insights about projects, interviews with product gurus and personal anecdotes inside and outside the TX group:

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