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4 Tools and Tips for Distributed UX Teams

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Businesses have faced unprecedented challenges when dealing with the impacts of COVID-19; many teams have been forced to abruptly transition to remote work for the first time. There are many complications that arise with remote work, even when it has been carefully planned. Communication, company culture, social interactions—all of these change significantly without a physical office environment.

By leveraging technology and using some tools to aid in remote work, you can offset the negative impact that your business might have otherwise felt, and help provide your employees with a semblance of normalcy. Here are four tools and tips to help distributed user experience (UX) teams overcome some of the challenges of remote work.

Communication

Reliable communication is an extremely important part of teamwork in UX, and needs to be handled properly. Communication has been thrust even further into the spotlight since many companies started instituting remote work policies. A Gartner study revealed that “88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home, regardless of whether or not they showed coronavirus-related symptoms.” Ensuring that you have accessible and secure lines of communication available for all of your team members is crucial to keeping things running smoothly.

It helps to have several methods of communication, mainly broken down into chat-based and video conferencing tools, which help to foster team connectivity and engagement. It is critical that UX teams are able to collaborate and discuss client concerns, visions, wireframes, user testing and much more. Communications channels allow for quick and easy questions to be answered swiftly, and more in-depth conversations to be held when necessary. It’s important to offer both of these aspects in order to ensure that questions are being answered thoroughly, but at the same time, not taking up too much unnecessary time. Slack has become the go-to tool for many organizations and serves as a quick messaging platform for more simple questions and answers.

Zoom or Google Hangouts are great examples of video conferencing platforms that can help in case of longer discussions and provide the closest alternatives to in-person conversations. It’s important when using these tools to make sure that you are connected to a secure network, especially when sensitive information is involved. There are several network security tools that can be used to help ensure the security of your information, seeing as remote teams are often accessing information from different networks.

User Testing Tools

Design teams must continue to uphold usability testing standards while remote. User testing is an essential method to gain more information about your site, and how people are actually using it, as that can sometimes differ from how it was designed or intended. Often, people who are too close to the project are unable to see where areas of improvement might be required, or are unaware of how a site or feature may actually be used. Therefore, executing testing with the proper tools can make or break the design process.

User-based testing is important for successful UX tests for many different reasons, from uncovering problems that people were not previously aware of, to identifying areas of improvement or growth. User experience is an more important factor, with many search engines taking it into account for rankings, so it’s important to emphasize user testing to make sure that your team is developing the best UX solutions possible before presenting them to a client. Loop11 offers great user testing features along with a wide variety of testing types to help companies of all kinds ensure that their users are getting the best experience possible.

Visual Collaboration

From simple pictures to more engaging videos, visual learning is something that can greatly benefit clients and designers alike and helps increase productivity and understanding. From an article on Inc, approximately 65% of the population are “visual learners,” meaning that they need to see pictures, videos, or some visual stimulus to best comprehend information. This means that “whiteboard, projecting maps and images, or showing photos of your ideas work best.” Many times, the best presentations have a balance of written and visual aspects, each to help reinforce the other. Such presentations will benefit clients by allowing them to see their vision come to life. Designers can “wow” clients by using a variety of design tools to lay out visual concepts and solutions, even while remote.

Mural is a great tool to help people visualize your work and allow you to better customize your layouts and ideas. This can be especially helpful for UX teams, allowing them to better envision aspects of their work, and share it in real-time with other team members. Mural provides a digital whiteboard for team collaboration and has many features such as sticky notes, images and GIFs, freehand drawing, and more. When used properly, it’s a useful tool to help visualize and plan future projects, and can help keep remote teams on the same page.

Project and Time Management

Efficient project and time management is critical for the success of any UX team, and it is especially important that remote teams have the proper techniques in place to manage workloads, prevent burnout, and foster work-life balance. While remote, it can be challenging to practice time management.

Designers can consider using the “Pomodoro Technique,” which is a method of work that attempts to reduce distractions and increase productivity. Focus on one task after setting a timer for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break after the timer expires. This process is repeated, and a longer 15–30 minute break is taken after four more sessions.

Alternatively, some teams may prefer a more application-based fix, with project management tools helping them organize their projects and track their time. These tools help UX teams create overall goals, and break them down into individual tasks. Users can assign their time to certain tasks, which can help inform future decisions and better help organize projects.

Regardless of how your organization chooses to handle project management, it’s important to note that while time and project management should be a high priority; changes and alternative methods shouldn’t actively interfere with an employee’s ability to complete their work.

Although distributed teams may never quite feel the same as working side by side with coworkers in a physical office space, taking advantage of some of the tools and techniques available to remote workers can help the adjustment process. UX teams are often working with processes and projects that require a lot of visual aspects, so it’s crucial to find a way that works for your team to be able to visualize things properly, and make sure all team members are on the same page. By using some of these tools and tips, you can help your distributed UX team remain as successful and efficient as possible.

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