July 29, 2016 | 4min read
Remote Communication Tips for Designers
No reason to beat around the bush: remote communication is no piece of cake! It can come with some advantages but also disadvantages. Being in our private or professional life, it is nothing close to physical meeting in real time. The remote communication disadvantages may include using e-mails or chats which can often cause misunderstandings. Indeed, in our today’s real time connected world, Skype, Google hangout and many more, sometimes make us forget the difference. We just can’t share all emotions and meaning using a bunch of emoticons. Also, important information can be misread or forgotten in a lengthy message or/and thanks to Slack/Skype and other chat platform it is not rare to miss an inbox notification. Finally - the lack of prompt and accurate answering from your interlocutor can be really overwhelming (especially when we work in the different time zones and we need answer right now!). In this blog post I give you 4 tips to overcome those daily communication problems that designer often encounter with clients (or their team).
I-From the very beginning, make the design process clear for your client
Having a remote collaboration obliges us more than ever to take care of clear explanation at each step of the design process. You should go through every detail with your client from the very beginning. It will pay off at every stage of your project - it eliminates most of the confusion from all sides. Always double check if everything is clear for your clients - that you have the equal set of goals, expectation and understandings for the project. Remember that we, designers, have the responsibility to make ourselves understood, not the other way around. Try to put yourself in your client’s shoes (as a designer you must be empathic don’t you?) - they can be totally foreign to the IT world. Often Facebook or Twitter can be the only app your client is using! So remember not to be concise in your explanations.
II-To convince them, express yourself with talkative examples -from your past experiences (or other study cases)
Clients want to know they have some space for taking decisions. They are simply paying you for improving their ideas. But you also want to bring them your way. You are a designer, and client should trust your ideas. However, most of them will be reluctant to the ones that are too far from their initial idea. In order to convince them you will have to earn their trust. The best way is to convince them with past experiences (it doesn’t have to be yours), that your expertise is trustworthy. Point at previous proof of success you have encountered while using a certain methodology, or design. Examples and graspable proofs have a great persuasive power. Give well known examples, even if they can appear really mainstream and overused for you, it probably is not the case for your clients. Don’t be afraid of showing your personal opinion. You remain the expert in the room! So don’t loose your self-confidence as a designer and explain your clients what’s good, bad, and on what you should put your focus to make it even better.
In the case of remote communication, face to face meetings are out of range, therefore regular skype calls are the best answer to develop top-notch designs projects. Not only are they less time consuming than emailing, but face to face discussions (even remote) rule the world! Thanks to them you can avoid misinterpretations of messages sent by e-mail or via Slack. What’s more about writing…nobody loves to read a long text with a “lot of wisdom” and snooty sentences. Do not get me wrong, obviously e-mailing is necessary in order to have the main issues written in black and white. Apart from this, we have to remember that one graphical communication can convey better an idea than words. People are visual learners and we are designers. General fact is that drawing comes to us much easier than writing. So do it simple! Visualise what you want to discuss and just discuss it! And remember that it’s not showtime, you do not need to make art! Just focus on effective communication as presented below.
Quick wireframes correction and changes
Sharing your passion with your client should sound a little bit better than educating them about design rules. It will give you more meaning to your explanatory sessions, and let’s not lie to ourselves: design is awesome! Try to involve your clients in the design process. Be open for their feedback - even if they are unpredictable, sometimes irrelevant and even hurtful. Encourage your client to take a part in discussions with you and the rest of the team. Remember that you have similar goals. They might also have access to material that will make your design better (end user’s surveys, market studies etc..). By giving responsible tasks to your clients you boost their involvement in a project. It will then be harder for them to criticize your/their work. Moreover, it gives a more rewarding experience to the clients. They will feel more part of the process, hence the end product will be their baby too.
Working during a Skype call on shared Google Slides to discuss the application flows.
Often, our customers have more opportunities to conduct important duties for a project. That happened when we needed to carry out user-testing observation in Ghana. An employee of the company we worked for was currently in the country and surveyed the end-users for us. I asked him to conduct observations for me - how users handle our application and to then report to me. I prepared a special presentation for him where I explained how to perform the task. He did a really great job and the results of his work were really helpful for the application we were designing.
Remote collaboration is not easy for sure, but it’s something that is only starting to boom and we should all find good practice to make it smoother. But such problematic are what designers love most. One more challenge to tackle and experience to improve at. What is your experience of remote collaboration? What are your solutions to make it smoother? Let us know and share your knowledge and examples.