About a year ago, millions of people’s working arrangements were thrown upside down. Instructed to stay at home if we could, employers and employees have had to adapt to a remote working environment in extreme circumstances. We had already been making arrangements to go remote-first for a few months in the run-up to the pandemic, whilst it has not been easy, fortunately, we were more prepared than most.
Our day-to-day work involves bringing people together to ideate, build consensus through visualisations, plan, design, and develop web and mobile apps. Working remotely has posed challenges to how we work, but also created opportunities to be more effective. Software is not going to solve the remote work challenges on its own, however, it can be an enabler for a different approach to work.
In this short post, we’re going to share the tools we find useful in getting our work done remotely. You may have similar challenges, or be interested in what it’s like to work with us. Either way, this is how we do it.
Miro for ideation, collaboration, and workshops.
Miro is the versatile cornerstone of remote collaboration. An infinite whiteboard that’s perfect to bring people together at the ideation or divergent stage of a project where we need a place to contribute ideas without any restrictions on how we do it.
Avion for Story Mapping.
We are huge fans of Story Mapping. It’s our go-to method for discussing and documenting what a product could be. Miro has a framework for this, which can work as a starting point, but a user story map is a working document and the experience in Miro degrades quite quickly. Avion is solely designed around user story maps and provides structure and integration into other workflows. The secret sauce for us is we can push stories into Trello for our Kanban workflow & track progress from both tools.
Trello for Kanban.
We use Trello as a Kanban board to visualise our work in progress. The integration with Avion allows us to automatically maintain a relationship between the product story map as described in Avion and the current work as described in Trello. Their recent Team Table has helped with one of the biggest challenges of managing multiple boards and there is a swath of new capabilities coming soon. This makes it easier for us to opt into the functionality that actually helps us rather than adopt a behemoth one-size-fits-all JIRA’esque’ solution.
Visual Studio Live Share for pair programming.
We value pair programming, it improves our code quality and is the most effective way of distributing knowledge of a codebase. Working remotely has broken the old approach of two people sitting at one computer, and naturally falls foul of any social distancing rules. We’ve been early adopters of Visual Studio Live Share for a few years now and it’s fully come into its own as an effective method of collaborating on a single code base. It even rolls with its own voice chat to avoid having to organise any conferencing.
Figma for design, prototyping, and user testing.
Whilst we’re anything but alone in our industry in advocating for Figma as our design tool of choice, it’s still getting a mention for having real-time collaborative editing and easy sharing of design ideas and prototypes via the browser.
Around for better video calls.
We’ve been using Zoom for years but are quite excited about Around’s approach to video collaboration. Around achieves a few big wins over Zoom in our eyes. First, the floating video mode brings people closer to what’s being collaborated on rather than a big grid of faces on a second screen. Face tracking and background clipping help anyone who might be stressed about what might be behind them on a call. The dedicated rooms (with an option for audio only) are also a nice feature to make dropping in and of conversations easier.
We’re experimenting with…
One of the benefits of being a small team is we have the flexibility to try out alternative tools as they emerge to see if they provide any additional benefit to the way we work.
Docket for sharing meeting agendas.
Running an effective meeting can be challenging at the best of times. A well-designed meeting aims to accommodate the needs of those attending and work towards an agreed outcome. Docket looks to help here by providing a way for us to collaborate on an agenda prior to a meeting internally and with clients and easily share follow-ups after the event. It also has an integration with Zoom to keep the agenda visible which can ease facilitation.
Quill for when we ever have to use threads in Slack.
Slack meets Discord meets Twist. Quill is a newcomer which we’ve not dipped our toes into but we’re keeping our eyes on. Promising to improve some of the shortcomings with real-time chat collaborating and focusing more on asynchronous communication, a theme which will only become more prominent as the working world adjusts to remote work.
Loom for when we’re not all around.
The need for effective asynchronous communication was even more important during the pandemic due to additional pressures, such as childcare, making real-time availability less predictable. Loom is be a great tool for recording your input on a particular topic and sharing it in a quick but rich and engaging way vs a 200 word email.
If you’re looking for tools to help with the same remote challenges we face we hope this article has given you some pointers. And if you’re an entrepreneur or organisation that needs a web or mobile app building and wants confidence your technology partner is geared up to work with you remotely, look no further! firstname.lastname@example.org.