Design Sprint: What it Can Do For Your Product and How to Implement it

Those familiar with the Agile ecosystem are no strangers to the terminology of sprints. Sprints are basically short, time-boxed periods in which scrum teams work to complete a set amount of work and make it review-ready.

Following the same principles is the design sprint. It is a time-constrained, five-phase process based on design thinking approach to reduce the risks when launching a new product, service or feature. The concept of design sprint was developed as a result of many designers work, including those within GV (Google Ventures).

Essentially, the sprint answers many business critical questions in a four or five-day span. This happens via design, prototyping and actually testing the ideas with customers. It combines behavior science, business strategy, design thinking and innovation and as such considered a great way to battle-test a design.

The sprint format helps to cut through the endless-debate cycle and compresses months of time to a matter of days. The idea is to test a realistic prototype, validate it with real customers, and shorten the feedback loop.

Phases of a Design Sprint

The creators of this approach have suggested a general outline of the phases and flow of design sprint. But first, you need to set the stage, collect the ingredients, check the recipe for a design sprint. You will need a facilitator or a sprint master, a decider (the one who has the final say), a prototype, a real user to validate the design. You will also need to lock down a room for the week and the usual office staples from post it notes, stickers, sharpies, and so on.

Typically, a sprint master defines the problem and the teams phase out the problem solving in the following way:

  1. Understand: The first part of the Sprint is to understand the scope of the product/project and map it to the business opportunity, audience, competition, the value proposition and decide the metrics for success.
  2. Sketch: Explore, develop and iterate ways of solving the problems. Vote on the best solutions and create the storyboard.
  3. Converge: Find ideas that fit the following product cycles and explore them further through storyboarding
  4. Prototype: Create and design prototypes, focusing only the function and not the form at the moment.
  5. Validate: Conduct real user testing from your product’s main target audience. Take feedback.

The ideal outcome of a design sprint is a high-fidelity design prototype, validated by customers and providing directions for next steps.

Benefits of Running a Design Sprint

  • Agile way of problem solving
  • Real user validation
  • Enables you to fail early; test early
  • Collaborative approach
  • Minimize risks

Who is the perfect candidate for a Design Sprint?

Design sprints are used to improve products and businesses. All teams can benefit from a design teams; from startups to companies and organizations. This is the quickest and most efficient way to validate the feasibility of a production and its value proposition.

Does it have to five days?

The answer varies for each company and product. Some practitioners have further shrunk the five-day sprint to 3 or 4 days, while some others have extended it to meet some specific challenges.

Is Design Thinking the same as Design Sprint?

Design Thinking is the foundation on which the practice of Design Sprints is based. But they are not same. To understand this better, let’s look at this widely accepted definition of design thinking:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

 — Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO

So basically, Design Thinking uses elements from the designer’s toolkit to arrive at decisions. It provides the basics, the philosophy and the toolkit for innovation. Design Sprint is how you implement it in a step-by-step, formulated way. So, while you see some design exercises and tools both in Design Thinking and Design Sprint, they are not the same.

What happens after the sprint is done?

With a tangible prototype of your product and user-tester feedbacks to guide you, you can move on to the next phase of design. You could build a second sprint to refine the prototype or start developing.