Around the year 2010, the term design sprint emerged. The design sprint methodology is a highly collaborative approach widely used to resolve a business challenge with optimal use of time and development resources. A simple framework, a design sprint allows teams to decipher critical business related problems in a short span of time. While design sprint is often confused with design thinking, there are several differences, starting with the fact that design thinking is a philosophy used to approach a problem. Design sprints are used to create a prototype using dedicated resources from various departments and in a limited time. Simply put, a design sprint is applicable in a situation where the idea is already defined.
Purpose of a Design Sprint
Design sprint is a collaborative process that is performed to resolve a realistic problem. While it does not apply to all processes or challenges, it is applicable where efficiency and focus are imperative to address the problem on hand. Design sprints are best suited for situations with a clearly defined problem. The main purpose of design sprints is to create an environment that will reduce the brainstorming phase of a design process from months to weeks. Design sprints can save the time spent on ideation and back forth volleying by unifying various teams to share a vision with a clearly defined set of deliverables and solutions.
Some examples of situations where design sprints can be used include improving user engagement for an app, redefining the customer onboarding process, or exploring a product’s viability over time. If the user engagement is low, design sprint brings important people in the design process together to work on a viable solution in the shortest span of time. Without design sprints, this problem is addressed in silos where each team presents their take or opinion. While all the ideas might be good, it becomes difficult to find a unified approach to resolving the issue.
There are several people involved in a design sprint process. The facilitator is at the center of the entire process, bringing participants together and ensuring everyone is on track. This person will be involved in the pre-sprint and sprint process, using their special skills to get the work done. The designer understands the aesthetic and design elements, thus ensuring the prototype is user-friendly and functional. The tech expert is the one who brings the vision of the product or app to reality. They use their knowledge and tech skillset to create the product. The marketer focuses on marketing the product by explaining the sellable features of the design in a detailed manner. Finally, the product chief is pivotal to the entire design sprint process. Typically, this person is the CEO or the head of customer service. They are responsible for the product, and their opinions matters the most.
While the Google Ventures model suggests a 5-day schedule, realistically, it can be cumbersome to get all the members of the design sprints team to work within the said timeline. However, keeping in mind that a design sprint is a collaborative effort that brings together people from different departments, it is important to expedite the process without losing the integrity of the exercise. As all design sprint participants need to be present, giving people enough time to respond with their ideas is essential. Also, it is essential to allocate and plan for post-sprint. Typically, one day is allocated to planning for each task of the sprint.
DAY 1 – Understand – It is the first step where every member of the design sprint team comes together to share their knowledge and insights. This involves understanding the problem the app or product is aimed to resolve. Various parameters are discussed, including competitor knowledge, target audience, business angle, technology capabilities, and feasibility.
DAY 2 – Define – The next step is defining the problem statement that will be addressed. This is done based on evaluating everything gathered from the first step and adding context. The team identifies the sprint’s focus, goals, and success parameters here.
DAY 3 – Sketch – Having defined the objective of the sprint, individual members give ideas that are used to brainstorm for the next step. This is important as it shows how each member perceives and addresses the problem. If the design sprint is about refining the home page of a website, members of the design sprint team will come up with individual ideas and suggestions. Each idea is individually presented with their reasoning and logic. The ideas from this process are reviewed and evaluated before finalizing the creative direction.
DAY 4 – Decide – The team collaborates to identify the best idea or approach. Sometimes, a culmination of all ideas presented is used to create the final concept or direction that will be prototyped. This stage cements the ideation process, and the team moves to the prototype.
DAY 5 – Prototype – In the world of design sprints, the term prototype is used differently from standard product development. In this, the team creates a concept prototype that will be used to gain the target audience’s response. This process is about creating a concept that is easy to validate and one that is also the fastest. Simply put, a prototype in a design sprint is an experiment that helps test the hypotheses.
DAY 6 – Validate – The final step in the design sprint process is critical to the success of the entire process. The prototype created is typically tested with five users and the feedback received through one-on-one discussions helps understand the concept’s viability. The concept needs to be reworked or improved if the results are unviable. This step concludes the design sprint process.
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