What is Design Sprint and When to use it

What is Design Sprint and When to Use It

Are design sprints useful or are they not?

That’s one debatable question that many agencies have been pondering over and over. The answer is: it depends on the product to be launched and the target market.

It’s true that there are many agencies out there that have been launching hundreds of applications over the years without ever uttering the words ‘design’ and ‘sprint’ together. But are all these applications truly beneficial to the public? Do these really stand out in the crowd of zillions of similar other products? And what has design sprint got to do with this anyway? Hmm. Something to think about.

What is a Design Sprint Anyway?

Simply put,
design sprint is a quick but elaborate procedure to find answers to all possible questions that help build a good app.
Not enlightened yet? No problem. Let’s try to put a little more light on it.
There are five stages of a design sprint, and the best part is that each of these take only one day each. This means that one can find all answers (even the hard-to-get ones) in just five days. Sounds cool, right?

Back to the five stages then:

  1. Understand
  2. Diverge
  3. Converge
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

Zooming in:

1. Understand

In plain words: Know your target audience and the market.

While preparing an application, it’s of utmost importance that you know what your audience needs, what’s missing, what annoys them and how your product can be different from the rest in the crowd. Don’t just assume. Research. Browsing online reviews won’t help here. The best way is to interact with people directly. Using services like SurveyMonkey, Fieldboom, SurveyGizmo, Typeform or GetFeedback makes this task much easier and faster.

To-do list for Day 1:

  • Build two (or at most three) small teams of people from every department, even the ones who might seem irrelevant.
  • Create a map of the complete process that the application will undergo during user interaction.
  • Find out the bumps in the road, and highlight the problems.

2. Diverge

Once you’ve found the problems, you know what to fix. So, sketch your heart out with every possible solution you can think of. Just don’t go beyond crazy.

To-do list for Day 2:

  • Get everyone on the team to jot down any – just any – kind of solution that they can think of.
  • If people are comfortable with flowcharts or words or sketches, just let them be. Anything will work.

3. Converge

Go through the solutions and sort them out into two groups: ones which might best suit the problem and the rest which might not. Subsequently, filter the former list further down.

While choosing solutions, allow all team members to vote. When creating something for the mass, it’s important to get everyone’s opinion on the board. Don’t forget to include your clients while voting.

To-do list for Day 3:

  • Prepare a map with all the solutions.
  • Choose the ones that appear to be closer to solving the problems.
  • Build a storyboard with these filtered solutions.

4. Prototype

Now that you’ve got the best possible solutions, create a prototype to test in the real world. It can be simple coding or even complex AI – basically anything that can convince people that it’s real, and can get completed within a short span of time.

To-do list for Day 4:

  • Create a simple, quick, realistic prototypes with the solutions in hand.

5. Test

Here comes the deciding day! Invite some of your target audience to experience the application. There can’t be a better panel of judges. Based on their feedback, you’ll know exactly if the prototype is a success or if you need to change anything.

To-do list for Day 5:

  • Test the prototype on target audience.
  • Note down their feedback.
  • Prepare a list of anything that needs to be improvised.

Done! You’re ready to move to the next big phase of the application: release or edit.
Okay, design sprint sounds good. But isn’t it enough that the team tests the application before launching it?
Umm…no. Sorry, it isn’t always.

Minds working in the same pool start thinking in a similar way. There’s a huge crowd out there, and a handful of people in the office won’t be able to decide for all of them.

Moreover, it’s a common tendency to assume that the person in front of me will think in the same manner as I do. This is mostly seen while designing UX. So, we tend to forget that the user might be a layman who might find an apparently simple thing to be very complex.

So, we need real users, and not just brilliant teammates.

At first thought, design sprint may seem to be more of a luxury than a necessity but given a second thought, you’ll realize that it actually gives you superpowers to speed your way into time and see how the application will work once it’s launched.

Wouldn’t it be a relief to know that all those exhausting plannings, expensive promotions and every penny invested in the production will receive their due reward? All you’ll need to see the future are five days, and a couple more for prior research.

How do I Know if my Product Needs a Design Sprint?

Now that’s an important thing to know before you start. Not every product needs to run a sprint before running the marathon in the market.

Here’s when design sprints are useful:

  • The product is new in the market
  • The market is new to you
  • In case the product fails, it will have a huge impact on the company

Fresh Tilled Soil has crafted a nice flowchart to analyse the conditions in which a design sprint would be necessary. Feel free to take a look.

Is it Worth All the Time and Effort?

One might think that five days are too much to be spent on only one project. Rethink of it as an investment. These five days will save the harassment that an agency might have to face if the product does not work well with the audience. Let’s not talk about the client’s frustration; that’s another chapter. Moreover, there are so many other long-term advantages:

Increased Speed

Having accomplished a lot within these five days, the team will move in the momentum even when the sprint is over. This will pace up work on every other project.

Better Focus

The team learns where to focus while solving any big problem, thus converting every issue into an opportunity.

Improved Work Quality

The team gets better at solving problems both alone and together. Every person first came up with their own solution, and then worked together to solve the large puzzle, remember?

Fresh Ideas

Including people off the usual team brings in fresh perspectives towards looking at a problem and solving it.
Oh! One more thing. Come prepared for the party. You’ll need lots of these stuff:

  • sticky notes of different colours and sizes
  • colour dots
  • markers
  • pens
  • paper
  • painter’s tape
  • snacks
  • water and juices

You’ll also need two large whiteboards (or three, depending on the number of teams you have).
Bringing in some good music won’t be bad either 😀