ast year in September, I transitioned to a role that allowed me to work 100% remotely. What does this mean? It means I can work from anywhere in the world with a laptop and great internet connection (Ideal bandwidth → Inbound 3.2 mbps and Outbound 4.0 mbps). I’m sure you’re probably thinking of all the faraway lands and exotic destinations you can visit that’ll fit this requirement. Trust me, I did the same, however; there were some things I failed to think about.
As a remote designer, you miss out on the perks of physically working with a team. You have to think of new ways to collaborate with your team, communicate, brainstorm, bond, and much more. It can be very challenging. Most of your time is spent over-communicating, sitting in tons of meetings, working in isolation and then documenting your thoughts to share with teammates. This isn’t so bad but it would be horrible without the right tools. To aid in this process, I’ve used a few tools that allows me to seamlessly transition from an in-house designer to a 100% remote designer.
Managing a design project plays a huge role in the success of a product. There are tools out there that’ll help you keep track of the project’s timeline, outlining deliverables, due dates, who is working on what, when things are due, and the overall health of the project all at a glance.
Communication is crucial! Email isn’t ideal for constant communication and sometimes you need a tool where you can quickly shoot off a message and get a response. With the tools listed below, you’re able to increase and improve your design workflow, video chat, pair-program or pair-design, make announcements, direct message, share links, share documents, conduct remote user research/interviews and more.
A great calendaring system will take you a long way. It’ll help your team members stay in sync with upcoming meetings, deadlines, and weekly milestones.
Shared writing space is essential to collaboration. You’ll be able to share documents in an organized file structure, you can comment and brainstorm on ideas.
As a designer, whiteboarding collaboratively is something you do constantly. This can be extremely difficult if the team is remote. There are a few asynchronous online solutions allowing you to invite your team members, sketch out ideas, video chat, and brainstorm together as a team in real time.
Just like in development, designers use version control to collaborate on the same file by creating branches, pushing changes, reviewing designs and merging those changes into the final file.
Tools with built-in version control
Plugins for Sketch
Having a home base or source of truth can save you so much time in the future. A design system keeps track of design decisions around color, established patterns, components, guidelines, and etc. Collaboration becomes a breeze and design consistency is seen on the platform no matter which team member contributes.
The hand-off between designers and developer can be so daunting. The designer would throw designs over the wall and cross their fingers. As a remote designer, your design intentions can be up for interpretation without tools to help cultivate design-dev communication. These automated tools take the labor intensive work of redlining, style guide creation, and design asset management out of the designer’s daily schedule!
Tom and David Kelly made a comment at IDEO saying “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a 1000 meetings”. A complex idea can’t be conveyed with just a single still image. A clickable prototype brings life to still images allowing the developer, stackholders, and team to understand design decisions, animations, flow, feel and experience.
Flowcharts, wireframes, mindmaps are great ways to demonstrate the flow of your design ideas early on in the process. Through symbols, graphics and text, this process allows the team to provide their feedback before real design work gets accomplished.
As designers, we miss being able to quickly sketch out ideas and throw them away. Sometimes, the keyboard and mouse can’t keep up with the speed of ideas that fly out of your head. You need to take it back to a writing tool. These tools allow you to sketch out ideas digitally in an environment friendly way.
Being able to open your phone to get a quick coding session in is extremely valuable. I whip these apps out while waiting in a long line, at a doctor's office, or when I'm just sitting around leisurely.