Imagine that you’ve just had an epiphany and found the solution to an unanswered problem. “This makes a great business idea. I need to build it!”. Wouldn’t you want to fast-forward to the future and see your finished product and how it interacts with its users? The Design Sprint will give you that superpower.
With this framework, you don’t even have to make any costly commitments. To explain it more thoroughly, I will go through it step-by-step. Firstly, I want to give you an idea of:
- how the DS came to be
- what it is
- what are the benefits of implementing it
- why it should matter to you
In the next articles, I will address the process (day-by-day), the activities that help unleash a team’s creativity, and lastly, what our process at Setapp looks like. So if you like the idea of cutting to the chase, to end useless debate cycles and compress months of time into a single week, then keep reading!
And btw, if you want to learn how to use Design Sprints to jumpstart your product, let me know and we can have a chat.
The birth of the Design Sprint
‘Efficiency’ and ‘quick results’ became part of our daily vocabulary as businesses and technology started to move faster. Many teams realized that they needed to abandon the traditional non-software inspired waterfall process if they wanted to keep up with new tech and emerging products. As a result, businesses shifted to iterative development methodologies like Scrum to implement measurable quick iterative cycles of development - also called ‘sprints’.
Then around 2010 in Google, Jake Snapp, created the first version of Design Sprints when he was looking for a quicker process to design and launch products rapidly. His framework soon became the ‘de facto’ means of testing & building products throughout Google’s teams which enabled them to launch products in weeks - not months or years!
In 2012, Jake and his colleagues started running the Design Sprints with the portfolio startups of Google Ventures to help them make daring, data-driven, and user-focused decisions. By 2016, their legendary Sprint book came out, and companies like Uber, Slack, Airbnb, Lego, and Medium have used DSs to improve their products and make their businesses more profitable.
So what is a Design Sprint*?
*People often refer to it using different names: Product Discovery Workshops, Service Design Workshops, Product Design Sprint, Innovative Workshops, Google Sprint, and others. For the sake of this article, I’ll refer to it as Design Sprints - it’s original name.
“A Design Sprint is a five-phase framework that helps teams to answer critical business questions through rapid prototyping and user testing”
Based on Design Thinking** methodologies and (Agile) Sprints, the primary goal of a Design Sprint is to reduce the risk of bringing a new product or a new feature of an existing product to the market by building & testing a prototype in only 5 days (Monday to Friday).
** Note that Design Thinking and Design sprints are two different things, while DT is the foundation, philosophy, and a toolkit for innovation, Design Sprints are a specific step-by-step system for producing and testing new products or ideas.
During those 5 days, the Sprint team will go through various phases such as:
I will go through this process and phases in detail in my next article.
Who can participate?
The Design Sprint framework is for big companies, startups, individual teams or anyone that needs to generate new (innovative) ideas. It will replace the traditional brainstorming meetings with an idea-generation machine consisting of a multidisciplinary team.
The Sprint team should consist of 7 or fewer members and people from different disciplines is invited. Be it a marketing or customer service representative, Head of Software Development, CEO, and designers… all experts can participate in the 5-day Sprint sessions. This way, the team of experts - and the decision-maker - can solve problems together more smartly and effectively.
Why run a Design Sprint?
If at this moment you - as an entrepreneur, Product Manager, CEO, or Customer Service Leader, etc. - have….
- An idea for a product or service
- A problem that you can’t find a viable solution for
- An MVP that needs it’s solutions to be validated
- A product that doesn’t engage users
- A product that requires new features to keep up with competitors
Then Design Sprints are perfect for tackling any of those! Of course, there are many different reasons for teams to run a Design Sprint. It’s important to note that based on their intentions and goals the methods used in the Sprint should be personalized to each case and team. You will get more information on this in my next articles.
Do you share these challenges? Book a call and discover how design sprint can help you achieve your goals
Here are some of the benefits of running a Design Sprint:
1. You save tons of time.
Remember it’s 5 days, and you’ll get the results of the equivalent of 5 months worth of meetings, emails exchanges, and consultations. The smooth collaboration between members of different disciplines and with different skill sets can (and will) spark creativity. As a result, in a very short time frame you will:
- get real solutions to problems
- to speed up product discovery
- help the team to gain crucial knowledge and learnings
2. You save money.
More often than not, many teams build a product that will have to be re-built months later. With DSs, anyone can spot opportunities and risks in those 5 days that will save the team from horror nights. The faster you know what solutions or problems you need and can solve, the quicker you’ll create your prototypes.
3. You take user-centered decisions.
You’ll be working with people from different disciplines and a facilitator, who will oblige everyone to work with respect, empathy, and openness. The team's structure will make everyone to be aware of the customer’s needs, motivations, problems, and expectations at all times. Also, the tools and activities are built around the end-customer, and therefore, during those 5 days the team will try to listen, trust and develop meaningful relationships with them.
4. You get deliverables.
At the end of the Sprint you will not get estimations, speculations or RFPs, but real user-validated prototypes. Moreover, you’ll be part of the whole process: ideation, sketching, prototyping, and testing!
Design Sprints are built in a way where the creativity of every team member will be unleashed. It doesn't matter if you are not good with sketching, coding, or with numbers. Every team member’s skills will be used to its best and in an effective way. Remember that it’s only a prototype!
Design Sprints are not the answer to all your product development problems. You also don’t want to be running Sprints for every single idea, doubt or new feature you want to have. That’s not the point.
You want to use DS when you have encountered an obstacle or/and a complex problem that it’s a critical business opportunity or challenge. For example, launching your product to a new market, targeting a new customer segment or introducing a feature that will fundamentally change the whole UX of your product.
Also, I want to stress again some of the reasons why Design Sprints would be an excellent addition to your product development efforts. You will:
- Solve the most complex problems
- Make your product/feature user-centered
- Increase your team’s speed and effectiveness to take critical decisions
- Find the potential risks and opportunities of a product/feature fast
- Reduce bureaucracy
- Effectively gather and collaborate within departments
- Test an idea and prototype quick
In my next article, I am going to go through each day of the design sprint to show you how it all works. Stay tuned!
At Setapp, we have our version of Design Sprints. Our team has mostly used it to help our clients to design and kickstart new products or features. We have seen the value, certainty and excellent results that it brings to our clients.
If you want to find out how you can run a design sprint in your company, send us an email and we'll be happy to tell you more.