The best online tools for remote working and collaboration25/25/2020 | Insights, News
At Evident, with offices in Bath and Cornwall, we have fine tuned working collaboratively across multiple locations for some time. As we all begin to adjust to a 100% remote working setup due to COVID19, we wanted to share some of the tools which help us feel like a unified team on a daily basis.
As a team of design engineers, our iterative process requires feedback and ideas from each and every one of our team members. Our ideas and concepts are then produced, discussed and optimised to reach a desirable central goal – and even though we are not in the same room as each other, the quality and pace of our output remains unaffected and is the same as if we were.
As we all begin to adjust to a remote working setup due to COVID19, we wanted to share some of the tools which help us feel like a unified team on a daily basis.
Best for: Team communication
Favourite feature: Streamlined project channels
Slack is one of the most widely used tools by remote teams. Remote-first companies like Buffer consider Slack their “virtual office”, a place where employees can get instant feedback and connect with their colleagues, both one-on-one and in groups. Even companies as large as Airbnb have moved their internal communications away from emails and seen an increase in productivity with using Slack.
We use ‘channels’ to communicate about specific projects in groups, direct messages for one to one conversations, uploading and sharing documents, video conferencing calls, setting reminders and integrating other products such as Google Drive and Trello.
Best for: Video conferencing
Favourite feature: Consistently works well for conducting virtual meetings with large groups of people
If you’ve ever tried to communicate remotely, chances are you have unpleasant memories of using unreliable, frustrating video conferencing tools, with poor quality sound or video with frequent interruptions. Thankfully Zoom have rectified this and produced a reliable, decent tool, evidenced by its exponential growth in the past 3 years, which has seen users rise by 2233%.
Zoom is brilliant for connecting with our wider team for regular catch ups and hosting remote meetings with external clients. Zoom has been especially important for us to host our remote user testing sessions with our target audience when conducting usability testing. The share screen functionality is especially important as this allows us to observe users and record sessions to analysis and collate insightful feedback.
Best for: Project management
Favourite feature: Option to add add additional functionality from ‘power ups’
Trello has stood out to us for its simplicity. We’ve trialled a number of management tools, from heavy duty systems to intense agile development platforms, however we’ve always felt that they’ve hindered productivity and instead of allowing us to work quickly and efficiently, they’ve drained time. Trello is flexible and lightweight, but robust enough to enable management of multiple projects, tasks and team members.
Our frequently used power ups include:
- Card Size by Screenful which allows you to set ‘weights’ for your cards (i.e. time allocations) and see totals by card assignee, list or label.
- Card Numbers by Reenhanced for easy referencing of cards, as the number gives them a unique identifier.
- Calendar which displays cards on a calendar based on due date
- The Invision integration power up, which allows us to preview our design prototypes in the Trello card, quickly access comments and attach the prototype screen as an image.
Best for: Design collaboration
Favourite feature: Interactive whiteboards for sketching concept ideas
As designers, we prioritise the presentation of our work, as it really makes a difference, both in how our clients perceive the value of what we are delivering, and the quality of feedback they can then provide. Poorly presented designs can lead to misunderstandings, underwhelming feedback and an administrative nightmare with sharing large design files. Invision offers us a simple and easy way to create clickable design prototypes, which look and feel very similar to clicking around a website or app and can be shared to clients simply using a unique URL link.
Alongside Invision’s prototyping functionality, we frequently use Freehand boards, which work similarly to having an online whiteboard, that everyone in the team can see and work on at the same time. It allows us to sketch, draw, wireframe and get instant feedback on work in progress designs. This has been especially useful during lockdown and working from home without the ability to use our in-office whiteboards.
Best for: File management
Favourite feature: Online documents and sheets that save in real time and can be accessed by multiple people at the same time
Version control and file management can be two of those most strenuous tasks when working as a team on one project. Google Drive and Google Docs alleviates both. Google Drive allows you to store your files online and access them from anywhere. Set up user permissions for files to ensure your documents are safe, and feel confident that you will be able to get exactly what you need from wherever you are working. Google Docs work so similarly to Microsoft Word or Excel, except they are run online meaning that they can be worked on in realtime by multiple people at once. Automatic saving means you can be confident your edits are not lost, there is no need to download and upload document versions, you can tag your colleagues in comments on a document to draw their attention to exactly what you need and you can even set documents to ‘off-line’ mode if you are having internet access issues and changes will automatically sync backup when you are back online.
As we all navigate through this uncertain and isolated time, we are more reliant on the importance of communication even more so than ever before. Whilst we’ve been using these tools for some time, we’ve felt that they have kept our communication on point and ensured our wider team has an aligned expectation with regard to working from home, helping us to continue moving forward as a team.