A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore, a lesson learned to be iterated.
|Concept Overview||A Design Sprint is a time-bound and structured problem-solving workshop or process used primarily in product design and innovation. It was developed by Google Ventures and is now widely adopted in various industries. The goal of a Design Sprint is to rapidly explore and validate ideas, create prototypes, and gather user feedback to make informed design decisions. It typically spans five consecutive days and involves cross-functional teams.|
|Key Principles||Design Sprints are guided by several key principles: |
1. Time Efficiency: They compress the design and validation process into a short timeframe.
2. Cross-Functional Collaboration: They bring together people from different roles and expertise.
3. User-Centered: They focus on solving real user problems and addressing their needs.
4. Prototyping: They emphasize the creation of tangible prototypes for testing.
5. Iteration: They allow for rapid iteration and improvement based on user feedback.
|Five-Day Sprint||A typical five-day Design Sprint is structured as follows: |
1. Understand: On the first day, the team understands the problem, defines goals, and identifies user personas.
2. Diverge: On the second day, team members generate a wide range of ideas through brainstorming and sketching.
3. Decide: On the third day, the team evaluates and selects the most promising ideas, creating a storyboard or plan.
4. Prototype: On the fourth day, a high-fidelity prototype is developed, usually through sketching or digital tools.
5. Validate: On the fifth day, the prototype is tested with real users, and feedback is collected to inform further iterations.
|Benefits||Implementing Design Sprints offers several benefits: |
1. Rapid Problem Solving: It accelerates the process of idea validation and problem-solving.
2. Collaboration: It fosters cross-functional collaboration and alignment.
3. User Validation: It provides early user feedback, reducing the risk of building the wrong solution.
4. Efficiency: It minimizes wasted time and resources on unvalidated ideas.
5. Creativity: It encourages creative thinking and exploration of different solutions.
|Challenges and Risks||Challenges in conducting Design Sprints include the need for a dedicated and diverse team, potential difficulties in selecting and prioritizing ideas, and the risk of overloading the process with too many features or ideas. Successful facilitation and clear objectives are critical to mitigate these challenges.|
|Applications||Design Sprints are applied in various fields, including product design, software development, service design, marketing, and innovation. They are particularly valuable for developing new products, improving existing ones, and exploring innovative solutions to complex problems.|
|Tools and Techniques||Various tools and techniques support Design Sprints, including whiteboards, post-it notes, digital prototyping tools like Figma or Sketch, and user testing platforms. The choice of tools depends on the specific objectives and needs of the sprint.|
Understanding a design sprint
Design sprints were initially developed by Google Ventures to help start-up businesses address and overcome challenges.
Over time, the process has evolved into what Google suggests is a “greatest hits of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more – packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.”
As the name suggests, design sprints aim to find solutions to problems quickly. This is achieved by following a proven schedule over five days. In the next section, we’ll take a look at each section day in more detail.
The five days of a design sprint
Design sprints are highly collaborative and experimental with a focus on the end-user. The approach is based on design thinking, which advocates a human-centered approach to innovation and rapid prototyping.
A typical design sprint follows this basic structure:
On the first day, the challenge is clearly identified and a strategy is devised for the rest of the week to overcome it.
Who is the end-user and what are their needs?
The sprint team brainstorms potential solutions and sketches various solutions that may have merit.
From the list of solutions created on Tuesday, the team selects those that have a realistic chance of solving the problem by the end of the week.
Then, each sketched solution is turned into a storyboard.
Storyboards are turned into working prototypes that are ready for testing.
On the last day, prototypes are shown to key stakeholders and tested for viability.
Strengths of the design sprint process
Aside from the obvious speed in which a viable solution can be found, design sprints also break from outdated, committee-based decision making prevalent in many organizations.
By de-centralizing the design process, design prints encourage stakeholders with a variety of perspectives to come together and work toward a shared vision.
Strength also lies in the focus on sketching and prototyping. Both allow sprint teams to explore creative ideas that might otherwise be rejected.
If the final solution is not viable, sketching and prototyping is an effective means of reducing the cost of failure.
Design sprint 2.0
Design sprint 2.0 is the most updated and semi-official version of the process.
Several changes have been made to the updated version, including:
A four-day process
To increase efficiency, procedures have been shortened or streamlined.
Perhaps counterintuitively, steps have also been added to increase efficiency.
In the updated version, the full sprint team only needs to attend two days instead of five.
This makes it easier for stakeholders to clear the required time in their schedules.
Optimization for app development
Design sprint 2.0 is a faster and more aggressive approach to prototype testing.
As a result, it is well suited to modern rapid app cycles where speed is a priority.
If required, tech businesses can also run both versions of the sprint simultaneously or perform consecutive 2.0 sprints.
Airbnb Case Study
Airbnb has a long-standing tradition of using design sprints and storyboarding to make key decisions.
Indeed, Airbnb emphasizes design and UX as core components of its value proposition.
This became even clearer when back in 2020, Airbnb called it “The New Normal,” the ability to incorporate storyboarding and design sprints within its UX development process.
As Airbnb highlighted at the time:
“In the spring of 2020, a global pandemic quickly changed the rules for how we live, work, relax, and travel. Airbnb, like many businesses, had to pivot its priorities to meet the needs of travelers and hosts who had a new set of behaviors and constraints.”
In order to enable guests and hosts to feel comfortable throughout the pandemic, Airbnb launched a “cleaning protocol.”
Airbnb called this form of design sprint as “service design:”
Airbnb highlighted five principles to this:
1. Tame the complexity by making it tangible
This can be done by creating the first artifact in the form of a blueprint, which helps simply the understanding of the problem at hand.
2. Identify the biggest friction points to focus your design
As the Airbnb’s team highlights some key questions to ask in this stage are:
- What’s the biggest pain point for our core audience?
- What point in the journey causes the most drop-off?
- What’s the biggest pain point for the on-the-ground staff that enables this service?
- What is the most “expensive” part of the process?
3. Get curious about how your audience is already adapting to this challenge
You can start this process by identifying the key pain points to design for.
Often, as the Airbnb team highlights, your customers might already be solving these in their own way.
Thus, this will give you a headstart in understanding whether you can incorporate these learnings into the product.
4. Identify short-term milestones that support the long-term vision
Here it’s critical to balance short-term wins with immediate impact with the long-term vision.
This tension between short-term wins and long-term vision helps establish a successful collaboration between operators and strategizers.
5. Consider content opportunities at every level of your service
Another key element is of crafting content that can enhance the UX.
- Google Ventures (GV) – The Birth of Design Sprints:
- Case Study: Google Ventures popularized the concept of design sprints. They used design sprints to help startups and their own projects, such as YouTube and Nest, tackle complex design and product challenges.
- Description: GV’s five-day design sprint framework involves defining the problem, ideating solutions, prototyping, and testing with real users. This methodology streamlined the development process and led to innovative solutions.
- Implications: Design sprints enable teams to rapidly validate ideas, reduce project risks, and align stakeholders.
- Actions: Companies across various industries have adopted GV’s design sprint methodology to accelerate product development and foster innovation.
- Blue Bottle Coffee – Improving In-Store Customer Experience:
- Case Study: Blue Bottle Coffee, a specialty coffee company, used a design sprint to enhance the in-store customer experience and reduce wait times.
- Description: The design sprint involved cross-functional teams working intensively for a week. They mapped out customer journeys, identified bottlenecks, and prototyped solutions like a mobile ordering system.
- Implications: The design sprint led to streamlined in-store operations, shorter wait times, and improved customer satisfaction.
- Actions: Other retail businesses have adopted similar design sprint approaches to enhance their customer experiences and operations.
- LEGO – Innovating the LEGO Boost Kit:
- Case Study: LEGO utilized design sprints to develop the LEGO Boost kit, which combines physical LEGO building with coding and robotics.
- Description: LEGO employed design sprints to align its design and engineering teams, refine product concepts, and create user-friendly coding interfaces.
- Implications: The design sprint-driven development process allowed LEGO to create an engaging and educational product.
- Actions: Companies in the toy and educational technology sectors can adopt design sprints to develop innovative and educational products.
- Slack – Redesigning the Slack Calls Interface:
- Case Study: Slack, the workplace communication platform, used design sprints to revamp its calls interface to improve user experience.
- Description: Slack conducted design sprints to gather user feedback, ideate improvements, and prototype new interface designs. This iterative approach helped them refine the calls feature.
- Implications: The redesigned calls interface enhanced user engagement and communication within the Slack platform.
- Actions: Technology companies can apply design sprints to iterate and improve user interfaces, features, and overall user experiences.
- Financial Services – Enhancing Customer Onboarding:
- Case Study: A financial services company implemented a design sprint to streamline and digitize its customer onboarding process.
- Description: The design sprint involved cross-functional teams working collaboratively to identify pain points in the onboarding process, develop digital solutions, and test prototypes with real customers.
- Implications: The design sprint reduced customer onboarding time, improved efficiency, and increased customer satisfaction.
- Actions: Financial institutions and service providers can use design sprints to modernize processes and enhance customer experiences in a rapidly evolving industry.
- A design sprint is a four or five-day process for testing a new idea through the creation of a prototype for actual users.
- Design sprints were originally developed by the venture capital arm of Google as a way to foster creative collaboration toward a shared vision.
- In design sprint 2.0, the five-day process has been shortened to 4 days with more logical and efficient steps. Key stakeholders are also required to be present for less time, thereby increasing the chances that a sprint will accommodate scheduling demands.
Design Sprint Highlights:
- Definition: A design sprint is a structured, time-bound process (usually four or five days) that focuses on finding solutions to critical business challenges through rapid design and prototyping. The process emphasizes end-user perspectives and testing.
- Origin and Purpose: Design sprints were initially developed by Google Ventures as a way to help start-up businesses address challenges. Over time, the process has evolved into a comprehensive approach that combines elements of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, and design thinking.
- Process Overview: A design sprint typically spans five days and involves the following stages:
- Monday: Identifying the challenge and forming a strategy.
- Tuesday: Brainstorming potential solutions and sketching ideas.
- Wednesday: Selecting realistic solutions and creating storyboards.
- Thursday: Turning storyboards into working prototypes.
- Friday: Presenting prototypes to stakeholders and testing for viability.
- Design Thinking and Collaboration: Design sprints are highly collaborative and experimental, based on design thinking principles. They encourage cross-functional teams with different perspectives to work together toward a common goal.
- Strengths and Benefits: Design sprints offer several advantages, including rapid problem-solving, breaking away from committee-based decision-making, and enabling creative exploration through sketching and prototyping. They provide a structured framework for innovation and iteration.
- Design Sprint 2.0: An updated version of the design sprint process, with notable changes such as a streamlined four-day process, reduced time commitment for stakeholders, and optimization for app development cycles.
- Application in Real Life: Airbnb is known for using design sprints and storyboarding to make key decisions. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb used design sprints to create its “cleaning protocol” to address changing user behaviors and needs.
- Key Takeaway: A design sprint is a powerful methodology for quickly addressing business challenges, fostering collaboration, and generating innovative solutions. The process follows a structured schedule, involves various stages of idea generation and prototyping, and is guided by principles of design thinking and user-centered innovation.
Connected Agile & Lean Frameworks
- Business Models
- Business Strategy
- Business Development
- Distribution Channels
- Marketing Strategy
- Platform Business Models
- Network Effects
Main Case Studies: