Sometimes budget, time and distance constraints prevent from traveling to a specific destination to run stakeholder or user interviews. Conducting the sessions via phone or video calls is a good solution, even if engaging the participants in deep and complex conversations is not always easy, especially without all the supportive materials that usually help during face-to-face sessions.
One strategy to overcome the distance is to use simple cloud-based tools as support to collaboratively work on something while talking on phone or video call. A simple document in Google slides could be used to both reinforce the questions/conversation topics, and to set the ground for some quick collaborative exercises (e.g. prioritizing the functionalities of a product or drawing together the information architecture of a website).
Enriching remote conversations with collaborative tools facilitates both the participant and the researcher by providing a constant visual reference, and communicates in real-time the dialogue evolving into a tangible vision. The generated output helps make sure that the researcher is interpreting what the participant is sharing in the right way, which may not be the case when talking on the phone.
In terms of tools that can be used during remote interviews and co-design sessions, there is a large variety of options, often optimized for specific types of activities (post-it walls, mind mapping, etc.). We noticed that relying on simple tools, such as those in the Google Suite, can lower the barriers in terms of accessibility and allow the ability to begin straight away, even when internet quality and connection devices are not so great.
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