3 Tried & Tested Ways to Collaborate Effectively in Remote Teams

Organising meetings offline can be a hassle. But when you’re trying to organise one with a 10-person team in different timezones… Yikes.

But don’t despair, it’s far from impossible!

After 5 years of experimenting (cough failing cough) and iterating, we’ve developed an effective strategy that helps our remote team, Melewi, work closely together. Now, we’re able to design kickass products for companies around the world like McDonald’s, Samsung and Visa.

In this article, we’re going to share with you our 3 tried and tested strategies to collaborate effectively in remote teams.

To strategize, think about how you can replicate what you take for granted in real-life collaboration:

“What is it that you don’t consciously think about when you’re next to somebody in a room? Is it being able to tap them on the shoulder? Is it being able to sketch something out? Is it being able to fold something and show that to them?”

Keeping that principle in mind, let’s dive in.

 

1. Create a Space for Open Communication

We’ve found that the best way to overcome miscommunication, as you may have guessed, is to over-communicate by creating an environment that encourages open discussions.

 

Ping Each Other Anytime

Ping each other
Reaching out to Rikke, Melewi’s Senior Designer, for help via Slack

To wrestle timezone challenges, we’ve adopted Jason Fried’s (founder of Basecamp) practice of having a 4-hour overlap with the team. This, combined with our go-to communication channels, such as Slack and Google Hangouts, allow us to ping or call each other anytime. No more collaboration delays, yay!

 

Frequent Video Meetings (and we mean very frequent!)

Skype Call
Tiago (Brazil), Rikke (Denmark) and Melissa (Singapore) on a Skype call discussing a design project

You’ve probably been there: when a co-worker doesn’t get in touch until a small problem has snowballed into a huge obstacle. This is why video meetings are essential for us to clarify, address and fix business problems while they’re still manageable.

We never miss our daily standups – a short 15 minutes where everyone updates the team on what they’ve done the day before, what they’re about to do and what obstacles they’re facing. These daily standups help to nip problems in the bud. Even with just a quarter of an hour, we still have time for a couple of jokes and lots of laughter!

Table of our team’s meeting schedule

We also regularly schedule time for specific catch-ups, such as business strategy sessions, marketing reviews, finance planning meetings, and team 1-on-1s, to keep us on track across the different aspects of the business.

 

 

2. Building Trust and Human Relationships

Another important strategy to encourage the team to work effectively together is by building trust and human relationships.

 

Replicate the Water Cooler Chats

Replicate water cooler chats
Screenshot of our #random channel with a picture of Peach’s adorable daughter, Lili

Team members can build rapport with each other when non-work related conversations are allowed to occur spontaneously. This goes back to our principle of replicating interactions that occur in a physical office space and bringing it online.

We’ve created dedicated non-work related channels on Slack, such as #jukebox where we share the latest hits we love, #travel where we share our lovely travel photos, and #random where we share everything else (like the latest iPhone X memes on Twitter).

The team’s travel adventures around the world

Occasionally, we also goof off before and after our daily standups!

These short and spontaneous chats may seem counterproductive at first, but in the long run, it makes everyone in the team feel like they are united in working together as a team.

 

Structured, Get-to-Know-You Sessions

Screenshot of our 30 minute highs and lows session

The next method is much more intentional and highly effective in giving team members the opportunity to build strong relationships with each other.

Every Monday, we have an internal, short 30-minute call where we share our highs and lows, which may be work-related or personal. By sharing what’s going on in our private lives, we get to know each other on a more personal level and become closer as a team.

Phoenix
“My high this week was catching the Phoenix’s live concert!” – Mary

On top of this, we’ve scheduled 1-on-1s with Melissa (our founder), every 2 months. During these dedicated meetings, we’ll discuss our experience, our goals, how we’ve been and how we can improve our personal and work lives at Melewi.

By addressing any obstacles and working together to align the company’s goals with our career goals, 1-on-1s help to keep us productive, motivated and fulfilled.

“You spend so much time finding great people, it’s worth it to help them grow to be the best they can be.”

– Justin Rosenstein,Co-Founder of Asana

 

3. Keep Everything Organised

Organising everything from our workflow to online documents supports the two strategies mentioned above. With this structure in place, we can keep track of all the design sprints and client projects we’re working on to complete them efficiently.

 

Everything goes in the cal

Everything on cal
Screenshot of some scheduled meetings

Google Calendar is our best friend when it comes to organising our time (Mel: YES!!!). We set recurring meetings internally so that it becomes a routine – we just need to turn up at the same time, on the same day of the week (easy peasy!). This simple trick also holds everyone accountable to turning up.

With every project design sprint, we also create a clear timeline with clients and schedule reviews with them in advance.

By putting all these down in the calendar, we can block out chunks of time for important things and get more done.

 

Safe in the Cloud

Apart from scheduling meetings in the calendar, it’s highly important to keep our files organised and easily accessible.

When we’re designing for clients, we make sure to upload everything to Dropbox and name the files according to a particular standard. We’ve created a template for naming files too.

dropbox
Screenshot featuring a guide to how we label our files on Dropbox

For internal documents, we use Google Drive and Dropbox to keep everything in one place, and everyone has access to it.

 

Organised Workflow

In order to manage and work on multiple sprints/projects as a team, we have developed structured workflows for all processes in the company.

When working with clients on a 1-week or 2-weeks sprint, we have at least three checkpoints – (1) sprint planning, (2) mid-sprint review and (3) sprint retrospective & delivery.

Once we’ve discussed the sprint planning with the client, we’ll have an internal meeting to split the tasks. This involves writing all the tasks down, setting clear expectations on when it will be completed and dividing the tasks between team members. This establishes clear ownership for each team member so that we can collaborate effectively together.

The internal catch-ups are then done multiple times until we’ve finished the final sprint retrospective and delivery with the client.

To help us keep track of our progress, we use multiple tech tools like Google Docs, Dropbox, RealtimeBoard and Trello.

Trust is the cornerstone of effective teamwork. Shape your remote team around that. Click To Tweet

 

Not only is effective remote collaboration possible, it’s easy and efficient if the right strategies are used. Remember to experiment with what works best for you and your team, and don’t give up because the end results are definitely worth it!

What are the greatest challenges you face in collaborating in a remote team? Tweet us, we’d love to hear from you!

UX Science: User Personas

persona breakdown

In a previous article, we shared about the basic structure of a scientific approach to UX. The next step in the process is forming a hypothesis. In UX speak, that translates to Personas and User Stories.

 

Getting to Know You… (The Melewi Way)

We’ve been lucky that most of our clients have had a clear idea of their product and target market when they approach us. There is always a buyer profile for us to build on – i.e. a set of characteristics describing existing or potential customers who buy, or will buy the product we are tasked to develop.

This is crucial because business viability is pivotal to the design and development of any product; imaginary customers means imaginary users, means imaginary success.

UX Research helps us to get real about our users and their experiences. Specifically, Personas are hypotheses informed by our research. They capture the partly rational and mostly irrational aspects of the users’ behaviors. The purpose of Personas is to inspire empathy which is the key to understanding irrational responses.

At MELEWI, our aim is to use Personas (and User Stories) to inform all our design decisions – be it at the level of business strategy or visual design.

In fact, to encourage User-centricity from early on in the project, at the start of every project, we hypothesise the Personas in collaboration with our clients during our UX workshop.

 

The MELEWI User Persona Template

All our Personas start life as a template. The template contains a few basic categories that help to turn stats of a broad market into something you can empathize with.

We start with the name and the picture, the cornerstones of personal identity.

 

Goals tell us what our users want to achieve in life – which, in turn, is what motivates them, often inspiring irrational or counter-intuitive behaviors.

Tech-savviness gives us a target learning curve to design for; and Age often indicates what mode of thinking the user might have depending on their current life phase, the generation they fall under, and the cultural and economic climates they have experienced in life.

Sometimes we record personality traits, as these are also the basis for a lot of irrational behaviors.

Frustrations are what we must fix to improve the user experience, and Quotes are what the User would say if asked to describe themselves in a typical situation relevant to the context.

Lastly, Keywords help to provide a quick summary of a user’s standout personality traits, especially aspects that might heavily affect design decisions. Just think about how you #hashtag an Instagram post. If you could #hashtag your users, what are the 3 traits you would put down?

 

Mapping It Out

Although Personas may not be usefully tested on their own, combined with User Stories, they can be used to create models of User Experience which can be tested.

At MELEWI, the lowest-fidelity UX models we create are User Journey Maps. The crests and troughs of these maps, representing the User Experience, are strategically designed to better the User Stories of our Personas.

 

This way, User Personas help us to visualize, predict and validate our assumptions long before we have even made any wireframes.

And in rare circumstances, when we don’t have the opportunity to test our hypotheses with Users, Personas can serve as proxies in Prototype-Testing. But this is not ideal since validation using User Personas as proxy is unreliable. It only achieves to postpone true validation till the model acquires higher fidelity i.e. the User Journey Map is turned to wireframes or a clickable prototype or higher.

 

Keeping It Agile and Lean

We, at MELEWI, strongly believe in keeping things Lean, and business viability is our primary focus. At the same time, our clients look to us to deliver awesome products that offer kickass experiences.

Delivering to such high expectations is achieved by:

  1. Focusing on informing design – When gathering information, we always ask ourselves, “How might the specific context we observed affect my design and business decisions? Therefore what must we capture in the Persona?”
  2. Internalising observations – True creativity, in all lines of work, is the result of insight; and personal observations are the only source of insight. That’s why we stress the importance of designers performing the contextual inquiry. Personas are there to help process information and socialize it, but they will only ever be a shadow compared to the depth of personal observations.
  3. Continuously learning – We never forget that the Personas we develop are our hypotheses, to be updated with each new grain of information we gather from validation and further research. Continuously learning keeps things Agile, Lean and scientific.

 

Need help taking your product to the next level?  Drop us a line at hello@melewi.net, and we’ll help you create an intuitive design guaranteed to keep your users coming back!

 

 

A Definitive List of the Best UX Tools and Why They Are Great

Over the years, the Internet has gone from a tiny gathering of like minded people to an enormous crowd hungry for information that they all want to access instantly.

It is no longer a cliché to say that everybody uses the Internet everywhere around the globe. From business users to average consumers, people are continuously connected to an endless flow of data.

To perfectly enjoy these services, people require user-friendly interfaces – and that’s where UX kicks in.

It is similar to real life experiences: For instance, if you buy cooking equipment and still use the microwave because the oven is too sophisticated or has an unfriendly design. Bad designs can lead to frustrated customers.

UX tools help designers to work faster and easier, to improve interface usability and, thus, transforming Internet’s complexity in a lighter form that anyone can experience. A successful design usually revolves around three steps that each designer should accomplish:

  1. User testing – Designers have to check out how people respond to their product to make future decisions that satisfy their clients
  2. Prototyping – Before starting the code, the design has to be prototyped
  3. Tight Teamwork – Completing the design process should be smooth and simplified

 

1. User Testing Tools

 

Silverback App

silverback UX tools

 

This is an easy-to-use usability testing application released by Clearleft that only requires a Mac computer. It is a low-budget testing tool and it works with basic functions. It uses the Mac’s iSight webcam and microphone to record the facial expressions and voices of the people being tested, as well as screen activity.

 

Usability Studio

usability studio ux tools

 

If you don’t have a Mac, there’s no problem as Usability Studio is a user-testing application that works on Windows. First of all, it is fair to say that the tool itself has a friendly interface, so you don’t have any problems in understanding how it works. Designers can record sessions (video, sounds, and screen activity) and create different tasks for the user to complete. At the end of the session, the application can show you the duration of each completed task, alongside other details.

 

Usabilla

ux tools

This program is a wonderful decoder of users’ thoughts and feelings when they interact with a site. The application relays on close communications between users and designers by the use of feedbacks. Visitors have to click the Live feedback button and start browsing the site. They can leave feedback on everything presented on the site (logo, content, structure, etc.), which allows the designer to quickly collect information and make the proper changes.

 

 

2. Prototyping Tools

 

Pidoco

ux tools

This application is perfect for wireframe, mockups and prototype creation. It can be used for both desktop websites and mobile applications development, and it is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Designers can quickly export and share their creations, as Pidoco is also capable of realizing real-time online collaboration to increase the workflow between team members.

 

Balsamiq

ux tools

With an intuitive interface for designers, this application comes with dozens of pre-customized elements that you can use in your mockup. But the design isn’t just efficient for the designer; it is also convenient for the client as it can render a straightforward idea of how the wireframe will look.

 

MockFlow

ux tools

Unlike other sketchy-like applications, this one helps designers to create realistic mockups that are very close to the actual websites. It also has a team-sharing feature that can significantly improve workflow as you can organize projects in multiple folders and keep mockup editing under control. You can also import images and even get more elements from the MockStore.

 

 

3. Tight Teamwork

 

Murally

ux tools
Not all designer teams have an actual physical office. Murally helps teams recreate the office hustle and bustle that forms around any group creation process by contributing with an online whiteboard to organize ideas. You can drag and drop anything: images, links, sticky-notes, user-testing conclusions, you name it. The changes are tracked in real time. Therefore team members will see the most recent uploaded information.

 

Concept Inbox

ux tools

 

This program is perfect for maintaining team member work relationships, as well as the collaboration between team members and clients. Not only can Concept Inbox help designers create functional prototypes, but it also enables users to give feedback and discuss ideas upon their creative work.

 

StoryBoardThat

ux tools

StoryBoardThat provides six storyline layouts in a comic strip style that can help designers communicate and organize brainstorming ideas. It uses a drag-and-drop interface and has a wide variety of characters, scenes, and images. Thanks to this program, working on a project can be a lot more entertaining and creative.

 

As complex as UX processes may seem, their success stands in simple procedures and a thoroughly structured way of thinking. There is a great deal of programs and techniques that improve web development, but it all begins with a designer’s plan and the way he sees his site growing. Therefore, UX tools are necessary, but knowing how to use them and for which purposes is essential. And of course, it takes a team of great UX designers to make this happen.

 

 

To get more information or if you have any questions about how we work, please contact us. Or if you want to recommend a tool, please feel free to tweet it to us (@melewi)!

 

Remote Working: How to Make A Project Run Smoothly

As Melewi is a remote working team, it takes a unique effort to make projects run smoothly. We’re distributed across multiple parts of the world, and logistics in project management can be dissimilar than that of a traditional team’s. There are timezones to consider, various working hours to take account of, and assorted working styles to get used to.

Mind you; projects don’t always go as planned. You can precisely align your goals, tasks and timeline at the start of every sprint, but some things can still go wrong. Edits at the last second, or you don’t get the information you need at a crucial time, and the project pivots to a different direction that may leave you needing to reassess your game plan.

These things happen, and it’s normal.

What is not normal is when things spiral out of control, and you have to wring a solution out of a mind-boggling email thread that is pages long or an incredibly disjointed and confusing group chat log.

To help you avoid this, we’re letting you in on the system we’ve created and the tools we use to track all the different aspects of each project.

 

1. User-friendly Invoicing

remote working project management

Before every project’s kickoff, it is important to ensure all invoices have been paid. You have to get that out of the way, so you won’t have to think about it later on. Also, you can imagine how uncomfortable it would be to keep reminding the client to make their payment while the sprint is ongoing. Moreover, the handover process of the assets on the last days of the sprint will go on smoothly if all money matters have been taken care of.

The tool we use for invoices is Harvest. It’s a user-friendly and intuitive platform for managing our company cash flow. You can see how much you’ve received from a particular time frame and you can also keep track of invoices that are yet to be paid.

 

2. Seamless Meeting Scheduling

Now that you’ve gotten the issue of payments out of the way, it’s time to plot and lock in all the review schedules, internal meetings, and all other appointments necessary for the sprint.

It’s good form to have everything scheduled before the start of the sprint so the meetings are already in place and you won’t have to worry about everyone’s (teammates and client) availability in the middle of the sprint. Plus, the chances of being subject to everyone’s busy and conflicting schedules is low if they have been finalized beforehand.

To say that the Google suite of applications is used frequently at Melewi is an understatement. We use it for emails, calendar, video calls, documents – the works.

And because we’re a remote team, scheduling can be a tiny bit complicated because of the difference in time zones. It’s a good thing that Google Calendar has a world clock to help us with that!

And of course, we use Google Hangouts for every single call. When we send out calendar invites, it automatically has a link to a Hangouts call that you could just click. Easy peasy.

 

3. Understanding the Client’s Business

Before we begin our design sprints, we usually conduct one week of workshops with the client to further breakdown and understand their design needs and to plan and prioritize the things to work on. We speak with the client via Google Hangouts and collaborate with them via RealTime Board. We already have templates set for the boards, and each one has a particular purpose. We ask them questions about their business, product and users, and we make sure that everything that will be covered in the scope is necessary to the success of the product.

 

4. Frequent Internal Communication

team screenshot

As we are a remote working team and we obviously don’t have the opportunity to talk in person every day, we use Google Hangouts. Communication is critical to the success of the project. Thus, we use Hangouts for frequent internal meetings and standups where we update each other on the project’s status, define goals and solve obstacles as a team. It is important that everyone is on the same page. My job is to make sure that we are.

As for everything else, we use Slack. It serves as a supplement to Google Hangouts. We have different channels for various projects, as well as random ones for entertainment purposes and other team shenanigans. (We have a channel solely for exchanging memes and GIFs. It helps keep us sane!) It is also a good way of updating someone quickly or getting an instant answer to a question.

 

5. Tracking the Project

Ah, my personal favourite. We use Trello to keep track of what’s happening in every phase of the project. At Melewi, we use the famous Scrum framework. We have lists of sprint goals, backlog, in progress, done and approved. We have one board for each client and team members can refer to it at any point in the project to update it.

 

6. Time Management

For time tracking, we use Harvest. We set time budgets for every project to make sure the members of the team don’t go under or beyond the agreed upon set of hours in the sprints. We use it for making certain that we don’t under-deliver, or go way overboard the agreed set of hours.

 

7. File Storage and Virtual Displays

We are a design team, and we need a platform to manage and display our ongoing design projects effectively. For this we use Invision. We use it to upload web/branding/product designs to share with the client. We also use this website to give feedback on each project.

As we aren’t tied to a physical office, we don’t have desktops to store our files. Everything is stored in the cloud via Dropbox. It serves as a central hub for design files, templates and all sorts of documents that we need.

 

So there you have it, a project manager needs an arsenal of tools to make a project run seamlessly. Add in careful planning and proper communication, and you have a recipe for project success.

 

To find out more about how we handle remote working at Melewi why not tweet us (@Melewi) or read a few more of our blog posts.

 

 

 

Introducing HelloX: User Insights From Around The World

Starting a business is daunting. And how you start out can massively factor into whether your business succeeds. So it is best to start out on the right foot. Our remote design company, Melewi has been part of dozens of such journeys, working side-by-side with businesses from around the world. Over the years, we’ve shared and gathered a wealth of insights and processes. It’s now time to pay it forward.

 

 

What do you need to start up a startup?

Well, apart from a cracking business idea and ideally a core of fantastic people to help bring your idea to market – you need a wealth of knowledge and insights about your target audience and where you should launch your product.
Without these insights, you could end up launching in an area that has no serviceable market. You won’t know what type of content or social strategy to put together to sell it, to your desired customer base and you could be walking into a situation that will tie you up in unnecessary bureaucracy.

 

 

The Ultimate Q&A

Introducing HelloX: User Insights From Around The World

In January, we launched AskMelewiAnything – a free service where we give an hour of our time to startups and businesses to share our expertise and give guidance. Startups and established businesses from around the world are using this time to consult with us on everything from product strategy, to design review, to business model. No question is too big, too weird or too small.

And while it’s free, it is not a half-baked service that we have pulled together for good publicity.

This is a maximum effort affair. We genuinely care and want to give back. Without the help and advice, we received from business individuals, mentors and other startups we wouldn’t be where we are today – And now is our chance to pay it forward.

 

The result of AskMelewiAnything

With the popularity and success of AskMelewiAnything, we noticed a trend of questions geared towards how to gain insights into, not only the markets they are currently in but want to be in – As well as, how to understand on a detailed level the users who will hopefully take up their products.

 

 

Introducing HelloX

Introducing HelloX: User Insights From Around The World

 

Now, we’re launching another free service, HelloX: a ready reference of quantitative and qualitative insights from around the world.

Ever wondered “Is there a serviceable market for my product in a particular country?”, “What is it’s size?,” “What is the status of infrastructure in that country?” or “How about the attitudes of the potential buyers?”

Well, now you don’t have to – As we have those answers!!!

HelloX is the result of the MELEWI team having lived and worked in 14 countries (and designed for dozens more). It is our growing repository of insights and tips to help develop enterprises the world over. And we can help your business discover more specific insights about your users.

 

Introducing HelloX: User Insights From Around The World

 

HelloX is the perfect way to make sure you are getting off on the right foot and best of all we are always around to help (should you need a more personalised experience). Be it researching purchasing behaviours in Myanmar, or late-night food consumption behaviours in Singapore, or testing out investing workflows in the US – we can help validate your product with real customers.

 

Introducing HelloX: User Insights From Around The World

 

The best products don’t have to be understood; they understand. Get started uncovering all you need to know about the people who matter most to your business: your users.

And if you have exhausted all the free goodies on the site and want a more personalised experience – For $3.6K, we’ll interview five people in the market(s) you want, and deliver to you actionable insights in 2 weeks.

Want to talk more, or give us some feedback on insights that you would like added to the site? Drop us a line hello@melewi.net

A Startup’s Guide to Designing a Team

How you design your team will have a significant impact on the success, or lack thereof, of your product and business. As founders carefully consider how to build their MVP, plan their product roadmap and strategize their revenue model, they have to, at the beginning of it all, think about how to construct their teams.

“No leader can make a team perform well but all leaders can create conditions that increase the likelihood that it will.” – Richard Hackman (Social Psychologist), 2002

A team is a very complex setting that consists of people with different backgrounds, culture, attitudes, opinions, experiences and relationships between each other. How then, with all these attributes to consider, do we ensure we create a successful team? How do we get individuals to work as one to achieve the goals and implement the overall vision of the company?

At Melewi, our differences are more pronounced because we work and are from several parts of the world. With a closer look, however, we’ve found a way to use our differences to our advantage. However, this is not something we only think about when an issue arises. We’re intentional about how we want our team to be right from the hiring process.

Even a great team leader cannot touch every moment of interaction within a team. It’s impossible for them to be present for all conversations between the staff, so recruitment should be focused on finding people aligned with the culture and vision of the company. By doing this, it enables the team to stay on track even if the team leader is not present.

Here are six valuable lessons we’ve learned along the way on how to design your team:

 

1. Create your objectives.

startup

Know what you want. Whether you’re looking for a co-founder or adding the 125th person to join your team, you have to lay out clear objectives for what you and the new member want to achieve. As with anything else, goals clarify which road to take when you’re at a crossroad. So if you can’t decide between the Ivy League candidate or the one with 15 years of experience, look at your objectives and think about which one can help you reach them better.

Hiring for attitude versus skills is another thing to consider. Skills can be easy to determine and even a lot easier to hone. Attitude, on the other hand, is tricky and has proven to be a feat to change.

For example,  look at the case of a husband and wife, who, if they want to stay together, have to change for each other – This solution to marital problems is not always successful and is probably a contributing factor to why divorce rates are so high. It’s no different when it comes to teams. What we do instead, together with our goals, is to identify what sort of attitude is right for the role.

With objectives and attitudes clearly identified, we don’t guarantee the outcome, but we increase the chance of success.

 

2. Communicate your vision.

a startup's guide to designing a team

We’ve had many ups and downs as a team, but what kept us going was having a laser focus on our goal. We make sure that everyone knows where the company is heading and that we stay aligned with regular catch ups so that we are always moving forward in the same direction together.

Letting your team members know that they all have the capacity to contribute to pushing the team forward brings about an organic initiative.

At any given moment, the vision is clear. When it’s not, we communicate.

 

3. Embrace diversity for complex tasks.

When creating a team, an important decision has to be made. Take a look at the tasks at hand and see if diversity will work for your team or not. More complex tasks require diverse insights. Simpler tasks, on the other hand, will only become complicated with diversity.

Also, similarity-attraction is very common in work teams because people are inclined to work with people similar to them. It also lessens communication difficulties and dipping productivity.

However, having similar people work on a complex project that requires a lot of creativity and problem-solving skills, will not produce the best outcome. Working and communication styles affect outcomes which can be a big advantage if tasks need to have a broader base of information and more creative solutions for problems.

Lastly, establishing company culture creates a common ground and mutual respect for a diverse set of people so make sure you have this sorted right from the start.

 

4. Clarify team boundaries.

For a team to succeed, you need to have a point person, especially one that knows how to lead people without ruling. A formal team leader has to be recognised to avoid confusion from within and outside the team. Click To Tweet

Responsibilities should be clear for every member of the team, and the team leader should always be able to promote ownership.

 

5. Promote collective effort.

startup

Outperforming other team members is okay, but results are much more valuable if we outperform the outside world as a team. Doing this is especially beneficial for small teams.

 

6. Learn together.

As with anything else that relates to work, everyone gets better with experience. In a team setting, learning together proves to be one of the most important drivers of success.

Having regular team learning sessions promote team spirit along with valuable insights from different members of the team performing different roles. Collaboration becomes natural when the team moves on to work on client projects.

In teams, things don’t just happen. Intentional effort to make it work is needed. We highlight strengths and help each other overcome weaknesses and think that we can always do better.

 

A successful team is one that is carefully cultivated. It can’t just be thrown together. Click To Tweet The recipe for what works differs per company. But if you work to objectives and keep the lines of communication open and hire people who fit your culture and are aligned with your vision there is not much space to go wrong.

Here at Melewi, we’ve created an awesome team that enables us to successfully complete projects with our talents and methodology.

 

 

Want to find out more about how we work or find out about how to work with us? Drop us a line at hello@melewi.net or come and say hi on Twitter (@melewi).

Awesome Design Resources: Free Stock Images

There’s a saying that goes ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, and as cliché, as it may sound, this is true.

Photography plays an important part in any design work. A well-constructed image is more effective than a single line of copy. Photographic images instantly grab the attention of the users and help enhance their overall experience.

But where to find good images? Some of the stock photography sites on the internet offer the tackiest of pictures at sky-high prices. But worry no more, there are now a number of websites out there that provide beautiful images perfect for a vast array of uses and THEY ARE ALL FOR FREE.*

OH YES! 

*Most of the websites listed below have their stock images free from copyright restrictions or are licensed under Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. Some require attribution for their images. Please do a further reading to make sure if the images need attribution or not.

 

1. Unsplash

Unsplash is my go-to website for when I need images because it is well curated and you can easily download their images without going to a new page. It also has a great library of high-resolution pictures and you can make your own collection of photos.

free stock images unsplash

 

 

2. StockSnap

StockSnap is also one of my favourite stock website because it offers wide range of photos from people, nature, technology, places, and objects. It’s a very popular website for anyone looking for niche photos. You can use their search bar to help you narrow down the results to the topic of your choice.

free stock images

 

 

3. Magdeleine

Whenever I need a range of landscape photos that focus on nature, city, and architecture, Magdeleine is my choice of website. It has a collection of very emotional photos that would blend well with your designs.

*Some images offered by Magdeleine need attribution. Be sure to check if a photo needs one!

free stock images

 

 

4. Pexels

Pexels is like StockSnap, it has a huge library of photos with different themes. It also has a search option to make finding images easy.

free stock images

 

 

5. Death to Stock

Death to Stock sends you beautiful photos straight to your inbox. All you need is to sign up to their mailing list. They also offer a premium version where you can access all the photos from their library. Death to Stock uses their own license which you can read here.

free stock images

 

 

6. Negative Space

Negative Space posts 20 new photos every week. They offer a wide variety of images that are searchable and can be filtered by colour and copy space position.

free stock images

 

 

7. Jay Mantri

Jay Mantri is a photographer that shares images with different themes on his site that everyone can use for free.

free stock images

 

 

8. Super Famous

Super Famous Studios is run by an LA-based designer. The website offers stunning nature photographs.

free stock images

 

 

9. Gratisography

Gratistography has a huge library of high-resolution images (often a bit crazy or abstract) that you can use for your personal and commercial projects. All photographs are captured by Ryan McGuire.

free stock images

 

 

10. Albumarium

Want albums of dogs, cats, and babies? Albumarium has it! They grouped their photos by album to help users browse photos. Photographs are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0, so an attribution is required.

free stock images

 

 

11. IMFree

IM Free is a curated collection of free website resources all for commercial use. They offer photographs, icons, and templates.

free stock images

 

 

12. Life of Pix

Life of Pix offers free high-resolution photos free of restriction. New photos are added weekly.

free stock images

 

 

13. Foodies Feed

Who doesn’t love food? Foodies Feed has a library full of realistic food photography. Perfect for any food blogger looking for some extra pics.

free stock images

 

 

14. SkitterPhoto

SkitterPhoto has a wide variety of high-resolution images. Each photo also has a description of how it was taken.

free stock images

 

 

15. PicJumbo

PicJumbo offers a wide range of photos with different themes such as nature, people, technology, business, and objects. New photos are added daily on the site.

free stock images

 

 

16. MMT

MMT is a website by Jeffrey Betts that features nature photography (mostly plants).

free stock images

 

 

17. Pixabay

Pixabay has 840,000 free stock photos, vectors, and art illustration. It’s like Shutterstock without paying a huge amount of money.

free stock images

 

 

18. Epicantus

Epicantus has free to use photography by Daria. You can use the photos for your landing pages, blog posts, and designs.

free stock images

 

 

19. Fancy Crave

Fancy Crave has high-resolution images that are authentic, emotionally-driven, and tell a story. Two photos are added every day. Sign-up to their mailing list to receive 14 photos every week.

free stock images

 

 

20. GoodFreePhotos

GoodFreePhotos is a large public domain photo repository that mostly features travel photography.

free stock images

 

Using the right image will make a huge impact with your clients. And if you can do that without the cost, you have nothing to lose.

We hope this article helps in your hunt for the perfect picture – And if you want more awesome free resources and helpful tips why not subscribe to our newsletter or have a read through the rest of the blog. To find out more about how to use stock images, check out this cheat sheet by FirstSiteGuide.

Do you have a site that you’d like to recommend that has awesome free resources for designers?  Tweet them to us @melewi! We might just feature them in our next resource roundup.

5 Things to Know Before Hiring A Design Team

So you have this fantastic idea or a great product that you want to bring to life – and you want to hire a design team who can visually communicate it, but you don’t know where to start? How do you make sure you hire the right designers?  Below are some things you should consider before you make that decision who to hire.

 

1. Not Every Design Team is the Right Design Team

We grew up knowing that every person in this world is unique, so one of the things you need to remember is that no two designers are the same. Each one has their own style and method of working. Some designers are very minimalist and are more comfortable with lighter more subtle colours. And some are bold and loud and love the craziest visual styles. Some are flexible with their work, and some are rigid.

Protip: Look around for designers. Check portfolios so that you can assess if their style fits your aesthetic and reach out to ask questions. Doing this will ensure you hire a design team that will fulfill your needs.

 

2. Have a Budget and Know the Rates

“This will just take a few minutes to make, can you do this for free?”

No, designers will not do it for free! No one should do work for free. Know that there’s value to a designer’s work. Be prepared and have a budget.

Money talk is quite scary but don’t be shy about it. The internet will help come up with an idea about rates so you can set aside a budget. Also, know that designers price their work differently. Some might create a custom quote for you, others may have fixed project rates, while some might charge by the hour.

Protip: Talk about money with your designer early in the process. Be upfront about your budget. And if it doesn’t fit, negotiate with them (nicely, of course!).

 

3. Know Your Goals

Nothing is more frustrating than wasting time and money. To avoid this, you should always know your goals and how the design will achieve them.

You can discuss your expectations with the designer when you agree on the details of the project. By doing this up front, you will save yourself a lot of time and cost because if for any reason your goals are not viable or if the design teams turn out not to be a good match for you – you will find this out at the very beginning.  

It is vital that you do your research and ask the designer what their approach will be to your project. If they don’t have a clear methodology of how they are going to work and if they can’t deliver consistently and on budget it doesn’t matter how amazing they are it is likely that your project will run over time and cost more than you planned.

Protip: Always ask how they work and if that makes the most sense for your business. If there is no method to the madness, the project will surely descend into madness – dragging you along into it!

 

4. Have an idea of what you want

5 Things to think about before you hire a UI Designer 2

The right designers get excited when people who reach out to them already have an idea of what they need and like. The design team’s goal is to turn the best of these ideas into reality through layout, image, type, and colours, so take some time to look for references that inspire you. Decide on the things that engage you the most, as well as the things you want to avoid so the designer you would like to hire can deliver the right things.

Protip: Visit sites like Dribbble, Pinterest, Behance, or Site Inspire for inspiration. Invision, Moodboard and Dropbox Paper (find out the difference between Google Docs and Paper here) all let you easily compile your references into a moodboard. And remember, use these are inspiration, not to blatantly copy someone else’s hard work!

 

5. Give Good & Well-Explained Feedback Consistently

Know that the design team you hired have the education and experience to get the job done. However, you should always feel welcome to make suggestions or point out things that you think might not work for your brand. It is vital that the lines of communication between both you and the design team is always open and honest.

When giving a feedback to your designers make sure to:  

  • Communicate your decisions and why you want to do things a certain way – If they don’t know what you want, they won’t be able to make it happen.
  • Give feedback early and often – If you don’t provide essential feedback early enough, you’re wasting both time and cash.
  • Make sure that your designers have an understanding of your business end goal – If the design team don’t understand why you want it, you may not get the end result you were hoping for.

Protip:  Understand that doing edits take time so take that into consideration when you hand out feedback. Also, keep track of those feedback so you are giving so you’re not running the designers around and wasting time and money!

 

Hiring a designer doesn’t have to be a complicated process. If you are upfront about your budget and clear on your expectations and needs, you will be in an excellent position to find one that can do amazing things with you for your business!

 

To chat with us more about what to look for in a designer or if you think we’d be a good fit for your design needs – drop us a line at hello@melewi.net. We can help!

And if you hadn’t already heard, to celebrate the very welcome arrival of 2017, we’re offering $1,000 off your first 2 design sprints (Was $5,400 > Now SGD 4.4k per sprint).

*This offer only applies to $5,400 sprints and above. Valid until Feb 10, 2017, and is subject to team availability – so quick, get in touch!