Design Sprints - a unique approach to conceptualise and test ideas in just one week

Whether you are launching a new product or considering adding new features and functionality to an existing one, a Design Sprint offers a unique approach to conceptualise and test ideas with users in only one week.

The foundations of Design Sprint are set on Design Thinking and lean techniques. Business strategy, interdisciplinary collaboration, rapid prototyping and user testing are all key aspects of this approach.

Design Sprints bypass traditional product development phases such as build and launch and focuses on moving fast between ideation and learning. The format is a time-constrained, five-phase process where each phase runs for a single day:

  1. Monday is about understanding the problem by setting a goal, mapping the journey, select a target and learning about the business by talking to experts

  2. Tuesday is time to explore solutions through sketching. A set of competing solutions that address the challenge is what we are after at this point

  3. Wednesday is the day we choose the best idea and prepare a storyboard to determine every step the prototype will need to support

  4. Thursday is a very intense day, the team gets busy creating the prototype. A facade that will be at the centre of the user test sessions

  5. On Friday we test the prototype with users, aiming to learn whether we are on the right path or need to consider a further, shorter design sprint to refine the idea

Customers always wonder what the output of the sprint is. It is simple: whether your idea was received with open arms or mildly rejected by users, you have learned. And you have done it over the shortest period of time possible. You can then chose how to proceed from there: a further iteration? back to the drawing board? All without a huge investment of your time and budget.

Some principles to keep in mind 

1. Don’t jump right into solutions

One typical problem we see in projects is that stakeholders are keen in getting started with development immediately. Even discovery phases get little or no budget. On day 1 of a design sprint we take time to map out the problem and agree on an initial target. You need to start a bit slow so you can go fast later.

2. Don’t expect brainstormed solutions

Group brainstorming does not really work. In reality is a recipe for loud team members to push their ideas while quieter team members don’t get their chance to expose theirs. During the creative activities performed during a Design Sprint, all team members are encouraged to work independently first and, only then, expose their individual work to the whole team.

3. Keep team debate to a minimum

Abstract debate and endless meetings negatively affect teams looking for innovation and change. During Design Sprint activities that require group and stakeholder input, team voting and a final call from the team Decider help focusing on priorities.

4. Adopting a prototyping mindset

A common issue with prototyping is that people try to get all the details right before even testing the main idea. A simple facade is all what is needed to learn quickly and decide how the next step.

5. Getting honest feedback

The main purpose of prototyping is to have something to test with real users. They are the ones that will provide you with actionable feedback. Don’t try guessing and hoping you are right - all the while investing money and months of time into your ideas. Test with people!

Can a Design Sprint work for you and your organisation?

Design Sprints are not a solution to every single type of project. But there is a big chance that if you are trying to launch new products or features that would incur in considerable development effort and costs, a Design Sprint is a risk-free alternative that provides you with real user data to validate your assumptions over just one week.

If that sounds interesting, get in touch with our Design team. We would be happy to meet you, understand your challenge and show you how a Design Sprint can address it.