2017’s buzzwords are all too familiar today. We’ve heard about VR, AR, AI, chatbots, driverless cars, but also a fair bit about design sprints – that’s what we’re keen on talking about today! At Thiga, we’ve been working with this design framework for the past year and a half. We’ve sprinted, suffered, learned, debriefed and pivoted a crazy amount of times.
We’d like to share some of our experience on the topic with you in this post, as well as a few more posts that will be coming to this blog down the line. Firstly, in this post, we’ll go over the essentials: what are design sprints, and what are they good for? The next post will be about what we’ve learned from running sprints since we began running them over a year ago, and the final post in the series will be about how to get started running your own sprints. So stay tuned to the blog! Design sprints are all about moving from idea to user feedback as fast as possible – which means skipping the build and launches phases that are usually required.
What’re design sprints all about?
Thought up by the team at Google Ventures in 2014, and explained in the book Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, design sprints are an interesting mix of design thinking and lean startup principles mixed with a healthy dose of business strategy.
The objective of a design sprint is to create a user experience in five days. The experience can be a redesign of something you’ve already built, a totally new feature, an adaptation of a product for a new medium, or even a whole new product.
The main takeaway is that a design sprint will help you and your team move from an idea to user feedback within five days. Identifying your problem, thinking up a solution, building a prototype and running tests with real users seems like a lot of work to get through in five days. Let’s get started.
To run a sprint, you’ll need a team of 4-7 people. Ideally, you need a team composed of people who do different types of work in your organisation:
Business Owners: Business owners should know your business inside out. They’re the ones who’ll be able to express the problem the product or feature you’re going to design is trying to solve. They’ll sometimes need to be able to drive decision making during the sprint.
Sprint Master: The sprint master’s job is to make sure the sprint runs as smoothly as possible. From pre-sprint organisation to logistics, the sprint master will run and facilitate the week-long workshop.
Engineers: Having a technical perspective can be very enriching. It’s important these team members understand that they’re not invited because others need to understand how complex something may be to build – but that their technical perspective is welcome and necessary to the success of the sprint.
Designers: At the intersection of all the above parties, the designers are needed to contribute ideas and drive the creation of mockups and prototypes required throughout the sprint.
It’s important that everyone participates in each step of the design sprint, even if they feel they might not be needed.
A five-day workshop
A design sprint lasts five days – no more, no less! We recommend running it from Monday to Friday to ensure everyone stays focused on the task at hand.
Every day has a precise objective and deliverable, and is composed of a series of timeboxed sessions and workshops.
Day 1: Understanding
Objective: Set a problem that your sprint will aim to solve. Have the business owners explain the nitty gritty of the business, current products as well as past successes and failures in the space.
Workshops: Presentations by business owners, Q&A, journey mapping of the typical user or customer journey, creation of the user persona that will be used throughout the sprint.
Day 2: Solutions
Objective: Day 2 is all about diverging, that is to say that the goal is to find as many different solutions to the problem presented in day one as possible – try to forget about feasibility and think outside the box.
Workshops: 5 why’s, idea wall, needs / wants / desires, crazy 8s, one big idea
Day 3: Decisions
Objective: Decide which solutions are best suited to helping your users overcome the problems explained on day 1 and build a storyboard.
Workshops: Zen voting, storyboarding, first Tweet
Day 4: Prototype
Objective: Build the prototype that will be used for users tests the next day.
Workshops: Creation of the prototypes. Try to keep this as collaborative as possible – don’t let the technical tools dampen your co-creativity.
Day 5: Test
Objective: Test your solution with real users, validate or invalidate your hypotheses, and make a decision on whether to execute, iterate or kill your prototype and underlying ideas.
Workshops: user testing (face to face is best), test debriefing sessions.
GV’s Sprint Process in 90 Seconds
A sprint may last five days, but a successful design sprint needs to be prepared in advance. The sprint master needs to make sure he or she:
Onboards the sprint team: finds the right business owners, contacts them and clears up their schedule for the full five days. Don’t forget to send invites to make things official.
Prepares the first day: before the first day the sprint master needs to work with business owners in order to ensure their presentation of the business context is efficient. Make sure they have everything needed to present the personas, competitors, issues that users are having, previous experience with launched products…
Prepares the war room: the five-day sprint will be held in one room. This is mainly important because you will be redecorating the room with hundreds of post-its, so changing rooms between days is a hassle. Make sure you have whiteboards, paper, markers, various post-its, a large TV screen or projector, coffee… A detailed list of ideas can be found here.
Recruits testers: once the sprint’s dates are fixed in stone and you have an idea of your testing persona, the sprint master needs to organise 6-8 testers for the fifth day of the sprint. Make sure you begin recruiting ahead of time. Depending on your organisation you may have access to different groups of potential testers. Testers can be friends, family, current users of your software. Don’t hesitate to incentivise them with some goodies if you’re having trouble recruiting.
Great! That’s everything you need to run the sprint. What do you do once you’ve finished?
Decide on your next step(s): once your user tests are over, you should have a collection of quality data. Using this data, you need to decide what to do next. Either:
- Users generally liked and understood the experience that they tested, even if they may have had feedback about certain details of the mockup or journey. → You should consider building a more detailed prototype to continue testing, or begin developing an MVP.
- Users kind of liked and partially understood the experience. It seems to you that the underlying concept is worth pursuing, but that details and design need to be revisited. → You should iterate on your simple prototype, run more tests and see if your results improve.
- Users did not like or understand the experience you tested with them. Don’t see this is a failure – it only took you one week to discount a potential product or feature that might have been very costly to develop. → Drop your prototype and move on to another idea.
Communicate your results: don’t forget that your participants poured a lot of time and effort into the sprint. Be sure to communicate the results with everyone who was involved. You can “snapshot” the sprint by gathering prototypes, photos and highlights of some of the workshops and sharing them with the team.
After reading this post, we hope you understand the point of running design sprints! Granted, it’s an approach that requires more investment than some design workshops you may already be using. However, when ran correctly, design sprints can really pay off: whether that’s by helping you discover your next big feature, or by letting you know your idea isn’t that great after all.
In our next article, we’ll talk about our experiences running design sprints for a large insurance player in the European market – so stick around!
Author: Julien Michaux