What it is
A design sprint is a five-stage interactive strategy and design workshop intended to accelerate definition of a minimum viable product (MVP) or service. After initial discovery and data-gathering from our side, between 4-7 participants from your business or organization will come to the table (literally!) for six hours a day to understand and solve a business problem, usually surrounding a product or service. We facilitate sprint participants to understand the problem and explore all solution ideas. After revision and discussion, one idea chosen to be rapidly created and tested with real users – resulting in validation or invalidation before any money is wasted on a full design or build process.
What you put into it
For a successful sprint, you need full participation from key stakeholders who represent distinct knowledge areas around the problem to be solved. This can include the product owner, a marketing manager, a lead designer, a customer (or target customer), and a "Decider" – the person authorized to ultimately sign off on the product or service direction. This person does not need to attend the sprint full-time, although their participation is required at key points during the day.
How sprints apply to products and services
Design sprints are a problem-solving tool – so technically, any problem you have can be explored in a sprint, and the best solution ideas can be tested and validated. But traditionally, design sprints have been used to help define digital products, or feature enhancements for those products. By facilitating rapid validation with real users, sprints can mitigate wasted time, money and resources on a lengthy design or development process for a beautiful product or service that customers simply don't want, need, or are willing to use. That's why design sprints are also popular in service design, where the "prototype" could be a new physical or customer service experience.
In the sprint itself, think about recruiting dedicated participants from your company or organization who represent different aspects of the problem to be solved. These people should have a deep knowledge of logistics, technology, design, and the customer's experience. A decision maker (to be known as the "Decider") will be making the call on key design ideas coming out of the sprint, so this person should have ultimate say over the product or service direction. We will provide a person to prototype a proof-of-concept on Day 4, unless you already have someone with that skill set.
Where it came from
The idea for design sprints originated in IDEO's methodology of design thinking, a problem-based, human-centered approach where an idea is thoroughly unpacked before coming up with solutions. It is often part of a lean UX process (stemming from agile development), in which user experience methods are condensed, with designs being produced and tested rapidly and iteratively. Google Ventures shaped these ideas into a compact workshop, branding it as design sprints, with Thoughtbot and others proposing alternative models.
Slalom has created a hybrid, user-centric approach based on these initial models, and we customize our sprints according to client needs and business context.
What we put into it
FACILITATION OF ALL SPRINT ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING USER TESTING
DISCOVERY RESEARCH EFFORTS BEFORE THE SPRINT (customizable)
A PHYSICAL SPACE FOR THE SPRINT
STRATEGIC ADVICE FROM EXPERTS WITHIN TECHNOLOGY CONSULTING, AND ACCESS TO HUNDREDS OF TECHNOLOGY PROJECT SPECIALISTS
What you get out of it
Following a design sprint, you get:
A STATUS CHECK ON YOUR PROBLEM, SOLUTION, AUDIENCE, AND SUCCESS METRICS
DOCUMENTED ASSETS PRODUCED DURING THE SPRINT – PHOTOS, NOTES, SKETCHES, ETC.
USER EXPERIENCE DELIVERABLES: PERSONAS, CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE JOURNEY MAP, SOLUTION STORYBOARD
A lightweight proof-of-concept design developed on day four
SUMMARY FINDINGS FROM USER TESTING
A GO-FORWARD PLAN WRITTEN BY SLALOM, OUTLINING RECOMMENDED NEXT STEPS (FOR AGILE PROCESSES, deliverables are customized – e.g., PRIORITIZED USER STORIES FOR THE PRODUCT BACKLOG)
Sprints can help you rapidly visualize and prove the value of solution ideas, so products can get to market faster. And because design is based on actual user behavior and preferences, you can anticipate market reception and adoption in advance, instead of releasing a product and crossing your fingers. (View our example deliverable deck.)
Unlike an agency or independent sprint facilitators, our group is part of a larger technology consulting firm. This allows us to liaise with experts from across tech practices to strategically craft a go-forward plan and advise you on the best course of action following your design sprint.
Before the sprint: Discovery
To inform the sprint, we include two days of sprint preparation to analyze existing research and data that exists on:
- The problem to be solved
- The proposed solution or existing product/service to be enhanced
- Potential or existing users
- Business goals and success metrics
We also conduct informal interviews with key stakeholders, and figure out logistics for running the sprint.
As a client, you will benefit from providing any background information in advance, including analytical data or access to existing systems or prototypes. At a minimum, these will be analyzed during our 2-day preparation phase, and will inform the activities taking place during the design sprint itself. If you need support collecting this information, we can include a discovery phase beforehand. You should also expect to work with us to identify and schedule participants in advance – including those who will be present every day, special guests with expertise on the problem who will attend short interviews on day one, and target users to test the prototype on day five.
An additional discovery phase could include on-site or remote analysis of:
ANALYTICS: SITE OR APP DATA TO EXPLORE USAGE PATTERNS, CONVERSIONS, ABANDON RATE, HEATMAPS, ETC.
QUALITATIVE OR QUANTITATIVE USER FEEDBACK: SURVEY RESULTS, INTERVIEW NOTES, CALL LOGS FROM CUSTOMERS, MARKET RESEARCH, OR ANY OTHER DIRECT FEEDBACK COLLECTED FROM USERS/CUSTOMERS TO UNDERSTAND THEIR PAIN POINTS, PROCESS, AND BEHAVIOR AS IT RELATES TO THE PRODUCT OR PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS CONDUCTED TO DATE
EXISTING PRODUCT SOLUTION OR PROTOTYPE
EXISTING KPIS, SUCCESS METRICS, GOALS OF PRODUCT
INTERVIEWS WITH STAKEHOLDERS, TEAM MEMBERS, AND/OR USERS TO FILL IN GAPS OF MISSING INFORMATION
When a sprint can work
A design sprint is a great problem-solving tool to rapidly define and then validate a solution. When applied to products, we sometimes describe it as an "MVP accelerator". The Goldilocks metaphor can be helpful to think about when trying to decide when to run a sprint: if your concept is too broad ("We want to disrupt the petcare industry!") or too narrow ("We have scoped out and budgeted a responsive site for our solution on X platform, and we have a defined, already prioritized feature set aimed at this particular sector of our target market"), a sprint might not be your best solution. But if you have some solution ideas for a problem you want to solve, and are open to iteration – understanding your problem, assessing success metrics and highest impact ROI, changing focus where necessary (target user, target section of user journey), and solving for it in a flexible way that might or might not result in the solution you had expected – a sprint can be an excellent tool to define the direction of your product or service. Check out our packages!
A design sprint might not be appropriate when:
YOUR SCOPE IS TOO BROAD
You aren't comfortable with iteration or the possibility of a new outcome
YOUR PRODUCT or service idea (or feature set) is already thoroughly DEFINED
VERY LITTLE INFORMATION EXISTS ABOUT THE USERS OR THE PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED
ADDITIONAL RESEARCH AND DATA IS REQUIRED BEYOND 1-2 DAYS OF INTERVIEWS
THE GOAL IS TO SIMPLY EXECUTE RATHER THAN VALIDATE A SOLUTION
A design sprint can help you:
GAIN SPEED AND FOCUS
ALIGN A DIVERSE TEAM
FOLLOW A CLEAR PROCESS
START A NEW PROJECT IN A CLEAR DIRECTION
UNDERSTAND TARGET AUDIENCE AND THEIR EXPERIENCE
VALIDATE OR INVALIDATE THE MARKET VALUE AND USABILITY OF A PRODUCT, SERVICE OR FEATURE IDEA
UNPACK ANY TYPE OF PROBLEM TO STRATEGIZE A GO-FORWARD PLAN