How to Master Online Design Thinking Workshops? Tips for Remote Teams

How to Master Online Design Thinking Workshops? Tips for Remote Teams

As a product manager, product owner, or simply a team leader responsible for the app’s growth, you likely want this project to benefit the company as much as possible.

But challenges are inevitable, and some problems are hard to foresee. Even if you know that changes are necessary, it isn’t easy to find solutions. Design thinking workshops may help you out.

Find out why they’re worth your time, and learn how to prepare for them when they’re organized in an online form.


  • A design thinking workshop is an approach to problem-solving that focuses on putting users at the center.
  • It consists of five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
  • The workshop involves participants with expertise in various fields who collaborate and brainstorm potential solutions.
  • It is best to consider a design thinking workshop when facing challenges that require a bigger perspective and cannot be quickly resolved within one department. For example, when users’ behavior is unexpected or when market shifts affect the product’s appeal.
  • Remote workshops have become more popular due to the advantages they offer. They save time by eliminating the need for commuting and allow participants to quickly move on to other tasks. Geographical limits are also removed, enabling companies from different countries to collaborate easily.
  • Online tools ensure that all information generated during the workshop is saved and easily accessible. Overall, design thinking workshops provide an effective way to overcome business challenges and make users’ lives easier.

What is a design thinking workshop?

Design thinking is an approach to solving problems that puts users in the center. Participants of the design thinking workshop come up with solutions that help them overcome business challenges and make users’ lives easier.

What makes design thinking special is the iterative process that usually consists of five stages.

  1. Empathize – we spend our time on user research and collect the info about the target audience to better understand their problems, needs, and motivations.
  2. Define – the participants formulate what problem we need to focus on to change the situation for the better.
  3. Ideate – the team works on solutions to defined problems and exchanges their ideas.
  4. Prototype – we create a prototype (digital or paper) with essential elements that can be used to test our solutions.
  5. Test – we check how the group of potential users find our ideas. Their feedback helps us identify aspects that need improvement.

Who takes part in a design thinking workshop?

An important factor that contributes to the workshops’ success is collaboration among participants who have expertise in various fields.

They share their insights with others and then brainstorm the potential solutions together. As a result, everyone looks at the problem from different perspectives. This allows us to come up with better and more innovative ideas and avoid issues that are obvious to some specialists.

For example, if you’re a CEO or a product manager, you probably know quite a lot about the initial vision of the product and business goals. Software developers are technology experts, and customer support officers or marketing specialists can tell us much about users’ problems.

As an app development company, we usually engage mobile app developers and a UI designer in a workshop. The list of participants can be longer, but you get the gist – we need to involve different experts to get a bigger picture.

When is it best to consider a design thinking workshop?

Take part in a workshop when you face a challenge that cannot be quickly resolved within one department and requires a bigger perspective.

For instance, when users don’t behave in an expected way or market shifts make your product look less appealing. Design thinking tools also come in handy when you have just an initial concept of a product and need to figure out the details.

From a technological perspective, a workshop with software developers helps you choose the best solutions to build an app.

These are only some examples of challenges that can be discussed during the design thinking workshop. Contact us if you want to make sure that your problem can be solved this way.

The benefits of a remote workshop

In the past, a standardized way was to run workshops on-site. But in recent years, teams have started to see the advantages only online workshops can provide.

Time savings

You don’t need to commute to the office or any other place to take part in a workshop. Thus, you save a lot of time. It’s especially important for those participants who join the team only for one activity. They often have to run for other tasks and responsibilities after their part is over.

With an online workshop, all it takes is to join a call on Zoom or Google Meet. Participants can quickly move on to another remote meeting when their job ends.

No geographical limits

Everyone can join the workshop without leaving their home or offices. It allows companies to cooperate in favorable conditions no matter what countries they are located in. The only difficulty can be different time zones, but usually, it can be easily solved. For example, when our team from Poland connects with a client from the US, we choose morning American hours and afternoon European hours to keep everyone happy.

Another benefit is that gathering specialists from many departments in one online meeting is much easier than making them all come to the office.

Updated info is always at hand

During the workshop, the team creates a lot of sticky notes, writes down many new ideas, and even prepares drafts and drawings. After the on-site session, we must take photos of all these materials. Luckily, it’s not necessary with online tools.

Many platforms for online cooperation autosave the content, so no information gets lost (like with paper post-it notes that tend to unstick).

What’s more, everyone has access to it even after the workshop. We can also copy virtual post-its and graphics, which makes work easier.

Better future collaboration

An online workshop helps you see how remote project cooperation could look if you agree to work with this team. When you develop the app, online meetings are your daily bread. You constantly contact the team to check the progress, solve problems, or discuss the tasks. So, it’s best to ensure that the chosen agency is the right fit for your business.

Other benefits

With all these benefits come the advantages every design thinking workshop offers – offline and online. You get a clear product vision that solves users’ problems and helps you achieve business goals. This way, you also reduce the risk that your idea won’t succeed because you’ve analyzed it from different angles and tested it with users.

A to-do list before the workshop

1. Provide as much info as possible

The agency will probably ask you to fill out a brief for the workshop. It’s very important, so we suggest spending a fair amount of time on it. You don’t have to answer every question, but it’s our primary data source, so every bit of information is valuable. It helps us understand your expectations and plan the detailed agenda accordingly.

What will you find in the brief? It depends on the project, but there are usually questions about your products or services, initial product vision, competition, and target groups with user personas.

2. Carefully state your goals for the app

Knowing what results you need to obtain after the app release is essential. Think of factors that will allow you to call this project a success. Then, choose metrics that you will use to check the app’s performance. For example, maybe you run an eCommerce store and want to increase user engagement by 10%? Or should your average cart value go up by 15%?

Such information will tell us what elements are significant to you and what workshop objectives we should focus on. You can also consider how soon you need to see these results. For instance, how fast should user engagement grow during the first and second quarters? We may need to plan some steps ahead to implement solutions that would enable this.

3. Consider the risks related to the project

Some risks will be related to changing trends in the market, others to a business model, users’ behavior, or technology. We recommend analyzing the risks individually first, before the session, to ensure nothing is lost.

During the workshop, everyone on the team will share their view on the matter. As a result, we will be able to recommend better possible solutions that should satisfy every end user.

4. Take part in a meeting before the workshop

After you send us the brief filled with information, we will probably have some follow-up questions for you. You will likely want to discuss some aspects with us, too. For such reasons, we often invite someone from the client’s team for a short pre-workshop call.

It’s an excellent occasion to explain every unclear matter regarding the workshop agenda or settlement conditions.

5. Get to know the tools

We use online tools such as Miro, Mural, or FigJam to make the work more effective. If you have no experience with them, watch the tutorial we sent before the workshop. It explains all the basics you need to know about the tool we will use.

We know your time is precious, so we want to focus on challenges, users, and your business in the design thinking process. The tutorial will save us some time during the workshop so that we can start the analysis and ideation part faster.

Best practices

Get to know a few ground rules that will make the design thinking workshop more efficient.

Place the smartphone out of sight

We all know it – you’re supposed to stay focused, but the urge to check out photos, posts, and messages is stronger. When you don’t have your smartphone at hand, it’s easier to ignore it and focus on creative problem-solving activities. It also shows other workshop participants that you respect them and care about their opinions.

Mute notifications

Sometimes, you get a notification about a new mail or a message on a communication platform in the middle of a meeting. Even if you decide not to open it, it’s the only thing you can think about for the rest of the call. Is it a good message? What do they want me to do? To avoid such thoughts, turn the notification on your computer off.

Keep an open mind

It’s natural to be skeptical about design thinking workshops and ideation techniques when you’re used to discussing problems with your small group of co-workers. However, it may not work out every time, especially when it comes to decisions that significantly impact the company’s budget.

Remember that all workshop participants want your app to grow. Design thinking exercises, such as empathy maps, a product vision board, or a user journey map, allow you to carefully analyze the problem and generate ideas adjusted to your business and target audience.

It increases your chance of success, but you need to focus on the session, cooperate with others, and keep your mind open.

Show yourself

It’s best when all team members have their cameras on. It makes cooperation easier when we see each other, and we can check the expression on others’ faces when exchanging ideas. This way, we can also see if everyone is focused on their tasks or rather checking their phone, for example.

We also encourage participants to create an account on the workshop platform (like FigJam or Miro) before the meeting and add their profile photos.

Speak up and participate actively

Don’t be afraid to say something when you have a different opinion. As organizers, we do our best to make every team member comfortable when sharing their views, even if they’re unpopular.

After all, a workshop is a great place to analyze such ideas because it’s rare to gather so many different specialists in one place.

Take care of organizational matters

Last but not least, before the workshop, check the internet connection and make sure your surroundings will enable you to focus and participate in the design thinking activities. It may sound obvious, but it’s very important to have proper conditions for work.

What happens after the design thinking workshops?

After a successful design thinking workshop, we design the user interface (UI) with the human-centered approach in mind, and then we move on to user testing. It’s an optional but recommended step. At this point, the representatives of target groups perform tasks on the app’s prototype. It’s an excellent way to gather feedback and plan changes that improve the project.

When this part is done, software developers write code, which we regularly test. You can read more about our app development process on the blog, and if you have any questions about applying design thinking principles to projects, go ahead and write to us.

Justyna Zielonka

Content Marketing Manager

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