Just five days from idea to prototype with design sprints
At foryouandyourcustomers we draw from a wide spectrum of specialists who work on different topics at our locations.
How often does a good idea come up in your company that is never brought to life? How often do internal factors and organisational blind spots blur the view of surprisingly simple solutions for your customers? A large-scale project is not always what is needed to make improvements to the user experience and the design of digital touchpoints. Inspired by the Google Design Sprint, foryouandyourcustomers has developed an agile, cost-effective design process for brainstorming and implementing ideas for improvement.
Agile approaches have not just captured the IT world. Agile and lean processes are finding their way primarily into start-ups, but also in many other sectors and company structures. It seems almost inevitable that processes are adapted to that effect in modern times. You look at global networking and the fast speed at which new innovations are hitting the market, and adapting with agile processes appears to be the best option currently for withstanding the enormous pressure and staying competitive.
Targeted, more concentrated work with design sprints
Big objectives tend to come with even bigger risks. Often products are developed in a long and cost-intensive project phase without involving end customers. This increases the risk that a product is ultimately not accepted by the user. It’s a worst-case scenario that no company wants to experience.
It is precisely these types of risks that the Google Design Sprint approach aims to minimise. Ideas are validated not after first undergoing cost-intensive development (idea > build > launch > learn), but rather directly at birth, using prototypes and involving users (idea > learn) (see figure on left). The design sprint was developed and tested by Jake Knapp, a designer at Google Ventures. In his book, Sprint – How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days, he provides detailed instructions for how to do design sprints. According to Google a design sprint lasts five days, and each day is carefully planned and assigned its own role. You run through all of the phases from Monday to Friday: map (understand the project), sketch (brainstorm ideas), decide (choose a solution), prototype (build a prototype) and test (test the solution).
‘The most common estimate is that it’s 100 times cheaper to make a change before any code has been written than it is to wait until after the implementation is complete.’
It’s a method that start-ups like Airbnb or Slack, among others, have successfully trialled. The time pressure forces participants to focus on a specific challenge, concentrate on finding and choosing a solution and then work on that solution in a targeted way.
The focus is on building a visual prototype, which makes the concept idea tangible and testable. The risks and costs are low, as measurable results are produced in just five days and there is always the option to change the direction of the project at the end of the sprint if necessary. It’s a process that rapidly accelerates learning and corresponds to the view of Jakob Nielsen, an expert in user friendliness, that it is much cheaper to change a product in an early development phase than to make changes later.
The foryouandyourcustomers design sprint
Working with prototypes and running user tests at different project phases is a fixed part of the conceptual projects of foryouandyourcustomers. We wholeheartedly follow the approach of John Maeda, Head of Computational Design & Inclusion at IDEO, who underscores the great benefit of visual, digital prototypes for the decision process (see quote at the bottom left). A prototype serves as a visual anchor and allows everyone involved to make a decision to develop a shared objective and work on this together until the desired improvement is achieved.
Specific problems are investigated and ideas for optimisation are implemented and designed as prototypes within a limited period of five days. This way, improvements can be captured visually and validated by employees and customers. So when a new idea is discussed on Monday, there is already a visual solution by Friday. In some circumstances it can be handed over to the engineers or to the project team immediately upon completion of the sprint. This fast, iterative approach has great benefits for companies. The most important channels can be improved continuously instead of only in large-scale projects, in terms of usability, brand communication and conversion.
Five simple steps from kick off to handover
In contrast to the Google Design Sprint approach, we loosen the strict timetable for the individual days and compile the work packages flexibly based on the specific problem at hand. This makes it possible to finish the kick-off and analysis even as early as the first day and allow for two whole days of prototyping. Or collecting new insights from stakeholder interviews or focus groups with customers is considered especially high priority, and more time is reserved for this accordingly.
The phases of our adapted design sprint.
The total timeframe of five days is important to us, in order to progress quickly, but the distribution of the methods must be flexible and adequate for the task at hand. We use a comprehensive methodology for this, starting with quantitative or qualitative data collection in the analysis phase (e.g. conducting user surveys, employee analyses, evaluating analytics figures), moving on to different prototyping methods (e.g. paper prototyping workshops, clickable wireframes or developed designs), and finally employing lean testing methods (e.g. verification workshops with internal stakeholders, rapid usability tests with end customers, preparation for A/B testing, etc.) All methods are selected with purpose and intentionally kept lean in their execution. All intermediate results and final results are documented in the process and specific recommended actions are provided, which we discuss with the team during handover at the end of the sprint.
Channel-specific or cross-channel, radically new or slightly optimised
Not every solution can be completely reinvented from the customer’s perspective. Important stakeholders and conditions in the company must be taken into account. The result is then often a compromise that works for all parties. But it is often helpful to pursue an idea in a radically new way and look at it with fresh eyes from an external angle, because a new objective can arise, often bringing decision-makers onto a shared track.
In the design sprint we address the different needs of the company flexibly and define the objective in a joint kick-off in such a way that it meets the expectations of the client. The end of the process sees an interactive prototype, which covers the relevant use cases and has the right amount of detail – whether on mobile, tablet or desktop.
Good results can only come out of such a short timeframe when you have an effective, well-deployed team. We intentionally limit the core design sprint team to just three employees. Other experts from different disciplines can, of course, be involved as well, in order to enhance the quality of the solution accordingly. At foryouandyourcustomers we draw from a wide spectrum of specialists who work on different topics at our locations.
How can design sprints help you?
Still not sure if design sprints are right for you? We’ve listed a selection of possible scenarios for you:
- You’ve already been working on the same product or on a specific problem for some time. You want creative, innovative solutions and a new push, greater focus and more decisiveness.
- You have lots of ideas but no time to test them out. We can help you prioritise ideas and refine the objective.
- You have identified a specific problem area and now want to find the reasons for this and develop a possible solution using an analytical approach.
- You’re actually happy with your channels but want to make continuous improvements to them in order to stay competitive. We’ll take your relevant channels to a new level in terms of UX and conversion.
- You want to get colleagues from other departments to understand and accept a new solution and thank that a visual prototype in the company design can help with communication.