Team Emotion Bots is on a mission to nurture the development of emotional intelligence in children through digital game play. Using a group of friendly aliens who have landed on Earth and need help returning to their home planets, the Master of Digital Media student team is working with MPath Productions to turn each game action into positive feedback that children can easily understand. The team’s project manager, Denis, shared his top tips for developing an agile project team.
Tip #1: Write first, edit second
When you’re creating content, focus on writing down everything that comes to mind. Then, take time to consolidate and edit your work to communicate your message. You can put your copy into a program like Grammarly, which will help you fix your language inconsistencies and make you sound like a real pro. With remote work, it’s essential to find convenient ways to optimize your time. The use of modern tools allows you to push out more content than in the past, without sacrificing (and arguably, increasing) the quality.
Tip #2: Decide when to work Synchronously vs Asynchronously
A phrase you’ll hear every day during remote learning and work: “Should we work sync or async?” Meaning, do you want to work on the same feature together, or develop/design each part separately?
If you are at the start of a project, synchronous work is likely the best fit. As the project progresses, asynchronous work makes more sense as it accommodates time differences and delays in communication that teams in a digital workspace can experience. If you need to schedule a meeting, we found that a 2-hour Zoom meeting is the maximum length a motivated person can handle without it becoming unproductive.
What a typical Miro board looks like for our team
Tip #3: Use the right tools
While it may feel like there are thousands of programs to help your team collaborate remotely, you only need 2 platforms to conduct effective work: Miro and Figma. Use Miro to store every single idea and share it with your team. Use Figma to share every single design or visualization of your idea and share it with your team.
These programs mimic voicing your opinions or random thoughts out loud in a real project room (at least I do it all the time). Your passing thought is likely to inspire ideas from others. Instead of spending time working across multiple documents and platforms, teams can keep ideas and work consolidated to a specific space.
How we organize a Figma board
Tip #4: Visualize literally (not figuratively) everything
The above platforms were created as a substitute for sticky notes. In a traditional face-to-face work environment processes like storyboarding, brainstorming and designing are streamlined because issues can be voiced and then fixed immediately. With digital time delays and lack of sync interactions, the only way to keep everyone in the loop is to always visualize.
This is why it’s vital for the team to create expectations. Whether you are a coder, designer, artist, or any other role in a team, you should visualize your idea in a digestible manner for others. Once you get this step right, the difference in efficiency and quality is like night and day.
5-Day Sprint Structure from the book “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days”
Tip #5: Learn how to use 5-day sprints
Due to the complexity of our project, we had to find a way to do even faster prototyping. So, we adapted our structure based on the 5-Day sprint structure.
Before I go through the processes, I should mention that Monday to Friday isn’t an essential part of the structure. For instance, our team does sprints from Wednesday to Tuesday.
- Map: assign tasks to each team member, create goals for the week in the form of deliverables and estimate the length of each activity to identify if someone has too many or not enough tasks
- Sketch: visualize solutions to your tasks, map out possible solutions and consult teammates for feedback, if required
- Decide: identify the best solution and begin the process of implementing it
- Prototype: finalize the implementation of your solution and conduct testing to identify core points of failure
- Test: identify more points of failure, fix bugs, and perform last-minute improvements
Tip #6: Hone your (remote) team management skills
Are you great at writing messages every hour to “check-up” on everyone’s progress? Well, in a remote setting, constant contact is a great way to demotivate your team and waste time that could be better spent designing or developing. Check-ins in the digital space are similar to real-life interruptions: they break the overall flow of work.
To accomplish something quickly, you need to embrace the concepts of Agile, Scrum, and delegation of activities. You need to adapt to the project needs and focus on the required activities. Working in the digital media space gives you the chance to learn a wide range of skills. Everyone has their specialities, but working on short-term projects with a diverse team means you’ll also have the chance to learn new skills to help your team members - who may need some extra support depending on the stage of development.
Tip #7: Be specific with your feedback
If you tell someone to make icons, they will make icons, but unless you’ve reached symbiotic collective thinking, it is doubtful they will create exactly what you envisioned. Defining exact requirements will help everyone avoid misunderstandings.
“We need five grey buttons for alien interactions to [list of features] that are extremely easy for kids to understand, with the complexity level of Tamagotchi games. They need to have enabled/disabled states and have to fit within the cartoon sci-fi thematic.”
This example from one of our conversations makes it obvious for the designers what needs to be done. Some things may still not be delivered as desired, but it puts the team in the position of iterating on the aesthetics, not trying to explain an idea again.
Want even more tips? Check out the full list here, and see what else the team has been working on.