Design Thinking Series, Part 3: Design Sprints Accelerate Success

Posted by on October 11, 2019

The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. Developed at GV, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

— GV.com/sprint

Unlike the more typical define, design, develop, deploy methodology, design sprints focus on generating ideas rapidly to improve the usability of a product in advance of building and launching. Rather than trying to design the entire solution in one go, design sprints break down the product into key components, allowing the designers to continuously supply the developers backlog for their sprints.

A single sprint is not meant to design an entire site, section, or even page, but instead to examine the user’s process and how it can be improved within the system.

Using Design Sprints will allow iterative improvements to a product without locking into a set product roadmap that might need to change in order to meet shifting conditions and priorities. Instead we define the goal for that design sprint, pulling from a backlog of requests and work to resolve a particular task. As new requests come in, they can be added to the backlog, and then considered for the next sprint, allowing ongoing refinements to the relevant features and functionality.

Why Design Sprints

Design sprints — developed by Google Ventures (gv.com) — have been applied to help companies from start-ups to fortune 500s quickly and accurately prototype and test user experience concepts which can then be developed into final working products.

  1. To kick-off a project: To help make sure that the project gets off to a quickstart, a design sprint can be used to find the needs, expected outcomes, user journey, and possible solutions that can then be developed into a prototype.

  2. Develop a new product: If the product is new for the organization, the two week version of the design sprint can be used to quickly iterate through solutions before bringing ideas to the developers.

  3. Ongoing refinement to an existing product: When refining an existing product in conjunction with an agile development environment, the design sprints can proceed the development sprints, building the backlog of tasks for dev.

Roles & Responsibilities

Design Sprints have a variety of roles to execute. Some of these roles are filled by Rivet Logic employees, but others provided by the client to ensure that the solution meets their needs.

Provided by Rivet Logic

  • The facilitator coordinates the design sprint, ensures that the team stays on track, and deconstructs the final results from the sprint, preparing for possible development or further design iterations.

  • The designer is knowledgeable about UX and design best practices to help guide team decisions throughout the process, and work with the prototyper.

  • The prototyper is knowledgeable about user interface design practices, the technology being used to deploy the product, and can use simple tools to create mid-level level prototypes for user testing.

Provided by Client

  • The decider works with the facilitator to choose the big idea to work on in the sprint, makes final decisions where group consensus, and reviews the final output created by the facilitator, asking hard questions about whether it ready for development yet. Although they do not have to be present during the entire sprint week, they should check in regularly to provide feedback and make any unresolved decisions.

  • The sprint team should be a combination of subject matter experts recruited from power users, new users, reluctant users, and managers who can help guide the sprint towards solutions that work best for the overall company. Like jury duty, this should be a revolving group, changing from sprint to sprint to keep fresh perspectives.

  • The test team is made up of actual users or potential users who are not a part of the sprint team who test the prototype and provide feedback. Although this goes on for much of the day, each test subject will only need to give about an hour for the testing.

Road Map

To prepare for the sprint, the week before the facilitator “sets the stage.” The design sprint itself takes place in the second week requiring  intense, focused work by a diverse team committed to resolving the issues defined in the first week. In the third week, the facilitator works with the decider to unpack the findings from the sprint, iterate on any remaining design needs, and then prepare to brief development on their tasks in advance of development in week four.

Pre-sprint — Set the Stage

Before the sprint begins, you’ll need to have the right challenge and the right team. Working with the decision maker to choose the issue to be worked on in the sprint, recruit that sprints team, recruit people to test the ideas, and make sure to gather all materials needed to conduct the sprint.

The biggest challenge is likely to be recruiting a team of members with diverse skill sets so that we can approach the problem with a broader spectrum of opinions. The team, a sprint team usually consists of the facilitator, a designer, a prototyper, a customer service representative, and a manager from the company.

  • Choose the Big Idea to be tackled

  • Recruit the sprint team

    • 3-5 people

    • Block off Monday & Tuesday

    • Reserve 2 hours for Wednesday, Thursday

    • Friday

  • Recruit for testing.

    • 3–5 people

    • Block a 2 hour block Friday off for them (each participant a different block)

  • Book the “war” room

  • Gather supplies. Don’t forget snacks!

The Design Sprint Week

The design sprint is composed of five interlocking activities performed over a five day period.

Monday — Ideate & Sketch

The first day of the sprint is dedicated to reverse-engineering the big idea. Reverse-engineering is the process of deconstructing the problem in order to understand its root cause, (and in turn, the solution).

While the team suggests solutions to look at, the facilitator will place viable solutions on the whiteboard. After that, each team member will choose a section of the customer journey to sketch by themselves, then presenting their sketches to the team.

Tuesday — Tell Stories

Create storyboards for prototyping on Thursday. Separately, each group member will roughly sketch how the solution works on storyboard worksheets. After regrouping, each member presents their story, and the group then decides on a final story, possibly combining elements from different stories.

Wednesday — Prototype

The designer and developer begin turning the wireframe into an interactive prototype with the rest of the team’s input and direction. If not working on the prototype, the rest of the team can be confirming the test subjects are still available for tomorrow and write a script for the customer interview. This person will create a list of questions to ask the user tester as they review our prototype.

Thursday — Test

Interview customers and learn by watching them react to your prototype. This test makes the entire sprint worthwhile: At the end of the day, you’ll know how far you have to go, and you’ll know just what to do next.

Friday — Refine

After testing with users, the team reassembles to review

Post-sprint — Iterate Prototype

While design sprints won’t result in a finished product, they do help validate ideas quickly and affordably, providing a wealth of insights in a relatively short space of time. Before wrapping up the sprint, decide what to do with the prototype.

Is the solution ready to go to dev?

or

Will we improve the prototype and conduct a follow-up sprint?

Next Steps

After answering the post sprint question, the process is ready to be repeated again. At this point, you need to decide:

Do we need to revisit a previous big idea for further refinement in a new sprint?

or

Are we ready to tackle a new big idea in a fresh sprint?

Additionally, the facilitator will be providing ongoing feedback and support to the engineering team as they work through their own sprints to develop previously completed solutions.

Design Sprints with Agile

When design and development work closely together—playing off of each other’s strengths and pushing each other’s limits—that’s where the best experiences will be created. That’s what we bring at Rivet Logic!

Although a relatively new process, combining design sprints with development sprints allows us to react and adapt to changing needs and requirements, rather than locking into a solution. Additionally, since solutions are often dependant on technical capabilities, the design sprint allows designers to iterate around solutions based on real world conditions.

The design sprint starts in advance of the development sprint, and then stays one sprint ahead of development .

Interested in learning more about Design Sprints? Contact Rivet Logic today.

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