What is a design sprint?

Design sprints are a 5 day process for designing, prototyping, and testing ideas. Developed at Google Ventures, the framework aims to improve your odds of creating something people want.

Why do we use design sprints?

I'm sure we've all worked in companies that have problems making decisions. The endless-debating and countless meetings slow down progress. The design sprint, with its 5 day process, removes this wastage and lets us focus on solving problems.Building stuff is super expensive. Getting it wrong, even more so.This is one of the reasons product development can be slow. The risk of getting it wrong is high, and going slowly gives us a sense of safety. Teams can spend significant amounts of time on research and feedback. This data becomes our safety net, and when the product fails? We can blame the data.The design sprint removes uncertainty from the process. By the end of the sprint, you'll have confidence in your idea before embarking on an expensive build. In 5 days, you will have gone from a concept to a user-validated prototype for a product, feature, or idea.

When wouldn't we use a design sprint?

The first thing to remember here is that design sprints are not a one size fits all solution. They are not suited for all project types. Design sprints don't work well in these circumstances:

Not enough information is known to inform the team

During Day 1 of the sprint we conduct interviews with key stakeholders. These interviews help inform the sprint team about the user, the business, and other pertinent information. Without this input it will be harder to pinpoint potential problems the team may face.

When we cannot build a realistic prototype in 1 day

The purpose of the prototype is to validate the work done during the sprint. If the prototype would be too large to create during the sprint, then it would be impossible to get user feedback.

The scope of the problem is too large

Some problems are just too large to solve in a week. In this case, we would recommend running tasks from the design sprint to narrow your focus.

The scope of the problem is too small

On the flip side, if a problem is too small, then it's not worth taking up 5 days of the team’s time. Just design and ship it.

Who should we involve in the design sprint?

Google Ventures recommend a team of 7 for a sprint. You don't have to include each person listed below, but a mix helps. 1 person can also fill multiple roles.

The decider

The decider is the person responsible for making decisions in your company. It could be the CEO, Founder or Product manager, as long as it's someone who is able to make decisions.

The finance expert

The finance expert knows where the money comes from, and where it goes.

The marketing expert

Who creates your companies message? You want this person in the room.

The customer expert

You want someone who knows your customers inside-out.

The tech team

This person knows what your company can build, and deliver.

The design expert

Bring the person who designs the products your company makes.

Explanation of the process

The design sprint runs over 5 days, and each day has its purpose.

Monday

Monday is all about creating a clear path for the week.The day begins by looking at what you want to achieve. We look to the end of the sprint, and agree to a long-term goal. We also create a set of sprint questions you will aim to answer during the week.Next, a map of the challenge will be created. The map contains the "actors", such as customers, and key players on the left. On the right, you should outline your end goal. A flowchart is then created which shows how customers use your product.In the afternoon, interviews take place with experts from the sprint team, and other experts you wish to involve. The map, long-term goal, and sprint questions are updated during the interviews.After the interviews, we create "How Might We" notes. These notes are used to reframe problems as opportunities.At the end of the day a target for the sprint is chosen, and the decider makes the call.

Tuesday

Tuesday is all about solutions. The day starts with a fun exercise called “Lightning Demos”. It's your chance to look at solutions from other companies. We use sketching to create solutions to the problem we're trying to solve.

Wednesday

By Wednesday we should have lots of solutions sketched out. The problem we have now is too many solutions - we need to define our plan.The morning is focused on selecting the solution that will be prototyped. The group works through exercises to find that solution.In the afternoon, with our chosen solution, we create a storyboard. We use the storyboard to design as the basis for our prototype.

Thursday

Our goal for Thursday is our prototype. Everything we've learned from the previous few days influences our decisions here.Each member of the team is assigned a role. There are roles for the marketer, writer, asset collector, and interviewer.Later on Thursday, a trial run of the prototype will be presented to make sure it's correct and feasible.

Friday

Friday is the day it all comes together. You started Monday with an idea, and finished Thursday with a prototype. Today, you'll demo the prototype to real users, and collect their feedback.At the end of Friday look for patterns in the feedback, and review the long-term goal and sprint questions. Decisions will be made on how to follow up the sprint.

What do you get at the end of a design sprint?

At the completion of the sprint, you'll have a validated prototype, a sharper vision, and more concepts for the future.The product team can now be more confident in proceeding to development, or revisiting the prototype to make further changes based on user feedback.The great thing about the design sprint process is that it can be repeated. Now that you know the process you can use it when needed to solve your design problems.

You can read more about how we can help you introduce design sprints into your business.