Collaboration

The 1 tool that helps remote teams collaborate better

4 min read
Kacy Boone  •  Mar 27, 2020
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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been working at home for at least a week (maybe more) and have mastered the basics on the transition: You’ve scheduled regular Zoom happy hours with colleagues and friends, you’ve created standing team syncs and designated Slack rooms for the occasional questions that arise, and, of course, you’ve been diligently keeping strict office hours so as not to burnout. The only thing you’re waiting on to add to your routine are those new comfy pairs of sweatpants you ordered.

But now that you’ve dealt with the personal transformation, you’re realizing you have a new obstacle: Figuring out how you and your team can remain creative and productive in this new time. While you’ve probably all gathered into a conference room to brainstorm, collect ideas, and share feedback in the past, now that you’re dispersed, you’re finding it hard to bring that mind-meld into this new environment.

As a completely distributed company since day one, we here at InVision know that frustrations around creativity and communication in a remote setting is a common obstacle to productivity. We also know that in order to move past that block, you need a simple yet steadfast tool: That’s why we created Freehand to help our own team collaborate in real-time (even when we’re apart). Think of it as your free digital whiteboard—one that never runs out of space or markers—to co-draw, wireframe, plan, present, and give feedback using simple tools “draw,” “write,” and “comment.” From general communication to specific design techniques, we’ve put together a collection of our favorite ways to use it.

Design exercises

Whether with your team or a client, a good creative ideation session can pay back dividends. And when paired with the right people, video conferencing tool, and vision brief, using Freehand can help create an inclusive environment when doing exercises like “How might we?” “Affinity mapping,” and “Crazy Eights.” Bonus: Instead of having to take photos or save worksheets from an in-person sprint, all your good ideas are automatically digitally saved.

The InVision team uses a Freehand for Crazy Eights.

Journey mapping and ideation

Figuring out your company’s journey—as it relates to your user—is vitally important to understand as it connects customer and business needs. The most common way to do this is hosting mapping sessions, aligning teams on the customer journey. This can easily be done using Freehand, and once it’s time to walk others through what you landed on, you can switch to Presenter mode.

Wireframing

Just like the blueprint of a building, a wireframe describes details clearly and specifically while giving the builders (you, other designers, developers, etc.) an overview of the project. They’re a common language that are complex enough to inform all collaborators but simple enough to not be bogged down by too much detail or design language. While you may be used to creating wireframe using Sharpie and paper, using Freehand saves you the tedious steps of scanning and uploading your hand-drawn wireframes since they’re already saved online and are sharable.

Presentations

From data analysis to user research, Freehand allows you the freedom to present your findings however you’d like. To enter presentation mode, simply press the “play” icon and all viewers’ screens will be synched to yours.

Design reviews

The insights and perspectives from feedback is essential to design, but it’s often easier said than done. Rather than collaborative working sessions, reviews can often turn into defensive pitch sessions or offensive commenting. By holding your design reviews via Freehand, you can add structure that maintains productivity—as well as provide an archival document that can be referred back to as the project progresses.

Technical interviews

You can assess a candidate’s capabilities before you bring them on-site with whiteboard-style questions in Freehand. You can both jump into one Freehand at the same time or keep it async.

Virtual sketching

Need to take your mind off and doodle a bit? Don’t waste your notebook pages—use Freehand to sketch and draw as much as you want.

Mind mapping and diagrams

When working remotely, communication needs to be thoughtful and deliberate. Whether you create orderly flowcharts and flywheels to share with the team, or just use it to illustrate your talking points, Freehand can help you show rather than tell.

Etc. 

Outside of work, we’ve seen people use Freehand to come together in incredibly creative ways. Each time an InVisioner has a birthday, we usually put together a birthday card in Freehand for teammates to send notes or doodle. The team at Automattic, another completely distributed company, hosted their 2018 holiday party on the platform.

And since many schools have gone remote, too, we’ve been holding a stand-up for the children of InVisioners every morning, using Freehand to guide an activity. The staff at Publicis Sapient, too, hosted a happy hour for 38+ of their children using Freehand as a doodle space.

We’re so thrilled to see people using Freehand to connect in such an isolating time. Have your own Freehand innovation you’d like to share? We’d love to see it. Tweet us @InVisionApp.

This book compiles the most important lessons we’ve gleaned from years of scaling InVision into the company we are today: one with 700 employees across 30 countries—and zero offices. We also pull from our experiences building digital collaboration software as a distributed organization and working with remarkable design teams around the world.

Download the book for free