Spending time with our clients in person has always been a cornerstone of how we work at FIVE. Because of the Coronavirus outbreak, we had to adjust our usual strategies to keep our clients, ourselves, and our community safe. Running our business and social distancing has its challenges, but we’re able to overcome them and continue projects as planned — with no sign of slowing down. Even though we’ve dispersed to our offices at home, we stick to our schedule and continue to deliver world-class products to our clients.

If you want to learn more about our newly kicked-off product discovery workshop, what changes we’ve implemented to our usual workflow, and the entire process behind them, keep reading.

This is what our Product Discovery workshops used to look like

Standard On-Site Workshops

Two of the fundamental values we provide for our clients are Product Discovery and Product Strategy. In the early phase of a project, we typically organize on-site workshops with stakeholders, where we learn from them and develop ideas together that will be validated later by prototyping and user testing.

As a company, we’ve gone through this project phase over 40 times, and every time it includes significant time in person with our clients.

Until now…

The Bird App

Our latest project is for Princeton University Press. Previously, this client had published an app that can detect a bird species based on the call the bird makes, as well as another based on their award-winning Warbler Guide. This latest app is even more ambitious, with the goal of helping both experienced and new birdwatchers identify any bird in the wild in real-time.

Before kicking the project off with the client, we spent an extensive amount of time immersing ourselves in birdwatching. We went bird watching, read several books, studied field guides, tested out competitor apps, and tried our best to identify the birds in our backyards.

Adjusting our Strategy

For projects like this — a highly visual product with custom user experiences — we find that our time on-site with the client is incredibly valuable for developing ideas. Because of COVID-19, ensuing travel limitations, and required social distancing measures, we had to adjust our approach.

From the beginning, the client was on board with our approach of trying our remote, in-person strategy. We would go through the same exercises as we normally would, but with remote tools instead. Our plan included birdwatching together, so we could learn from the experts at Princeton, a group competitive analysis session, sketching and presenting ideas, a business goal setting session, as well as feature prioritization for the app itself. Using the digital tools at our disposal, we were able to accomplish all of our goals.

Birdwatching workshop slack

Social Distance Birdwatching

Our primary goal of birdwatching with the client was to learn how they identify birds in the wild, which often are obscured, flying, far away, and generally “don’t look like the picture in the book.” Even with working remotely, we were able to gain this knowledge, and even able to put it to use in our own backyards while staying far away from all other humans. 

With a dedicated Slack channel for sharing pictures of birds we spotted in nature, we could discuss how someone would identify them, what’s unique about them, and how an app could facilitate identification. Instead of comparing species in their natural habitats, we looked them up on Google and had a screen sharing session to mimic how someone would match what they see in the wild with a bird in a book. We learned how birders work off of unique features per bird, how they are able to narrow down what they see very quickly based on a small set of factors, and how to ultimately get a positive identification.

Along with remote birdwatching, we also used Figma boards to look at screenshots of competitor products, and a Google Hangout room with the client to walk through what we found was successful and unsuccessful in each. We will be using this as a catalyst to explore potential product features for the upcoming app that we are designing.

Sketching & Sharing Concepts

A key exercise we use for developing product concepts is to have everyone in the workshop sketch possible solutions for particular user challenges. Generally, this includes having all participants draw concepts and user flows on paper, and then hanging them on a wall together to share and discuss.

With no shared wall to hang pictures on, we accomplished this remotely, with each person sketching, taking pictures, sending them through Slack, and then using Figma as a virtual whiteboard for discussions. For this particular project, we worked through ways a user could be guided through the process of identifying a bird they see in the wild. This remote session was just as successful as any in-person one, and because of it, we gained plenty of exciting ideas to base our upcoming design exploration on.

Birdwatching workshop sketch
sketches birdwatching

Driving towards Project Success

Every project we do at FIVE has specific measurable goals, such as a particular user retention rate, or a certain revenue figure. Generally, we develop these project goals in person, but again we met remotely over Google Hangouts to discuss and determine specific metrics to drive towards this app. Because of the tools we had, the structured methods we have developed over time, and of course the flexibility of the client to work remotely, we were able to gain everything we needed from these sessions.

With this remote workshop, we managed to accomplish all of our information-share and concept-development goals. We can now continue to develop our concepts, moving towards prototypes, iteration through user testing, and eventually complete designs, all aimed at accomplishing our client’s business goals.

Once things return to normal, we’ll get back to our on-site workshops and face-to-face collaboration. These allow us to develop a close relationship with our clients and gain an even better understanding of their knowledge, expertise, and goals. Working remotely is working for now, allowing us to sustain our work on our projects at FIVE, but like everyone else in lockdown, we are looking forward to spending more time together in person!