Chapter 10 – Design great UX – How to run Design Sprint?


[PreviousChapter 9 – Fundamentals of Product Design]

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Development time is a precious resource and it’s important to use it wisely.
To be more efficient and responsive, Google Ventures created the Design Sprint — a process to answer critical business questions in 5 days.
It is a highly structured innovation cycle where teams answer specific questions by keeping the user at the center.

Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product, Design Sprint would help you understand whether an idea is any good before making any expensive commitments. It is a shortcut to learn without building and launching.

Design Sprint –

How to run a design sprint?

There are 5 stages as shown –

Stages of Design Sprint

Before the Sprint — Sprint Planning

Step 1: Sprint Brief — Define the Big Challenge

The first step towards the design sprint is to create a sprint brief so that everyone’s on the same page. The Sprint Brief would have following components –

a. Sprint Challenge — The challenge that you need to solve. According to Google, there are 4 things that make a challenge great –
– The challenge is something real that the team needs to deliver
– It’s stated in a way that sounds inspiring — something to solve for
– It’s clear and concise
– It includes a time frame (next quarter? 3 years from now?)
Example: Redesign on-boarding process, Explore new channels to sell a product, Explore new ways to discover a product, etc.

b. Deliverables — What would the team create during the sprint? Example: App prototype, Video to test new offering, etc.
Your deliverable should be of the highest quality (clickable prototype over hand sketches)

Step 2: Prepare Artifacts from the user research

(read more on creating user artifacts here)
Begin by collecting all the user research conducted into one place and prepare/collect artifacts, especially User Personas, User Journey mapping and Survey/Interview Summaries.
You should also prepare an insight report on current solutions and competing products.

Step 3: Assemble Sprint Team

Your sprint team should be a cross-functional team, which should include all the product stakeholders. Ideal team size is 6–8 people, which includes participants from Business, Sales & Marketing, Technology, Product and Design teams and any key leadership related to the product.

Step 4: Sprint Master

Allocate a Sprint Master and create a deck which would help facilitate the Sprint. Choose someone who’ll be confident in leading the discussions and facilitate the session.

Step 5: Logistics

Block a place that has ample space (room for seating as well as movement for at least 10 people). Also, it should have a lot of whiteboards, charts, and places to stick sticky notes.
Get the supplies – Writing Pads, Pencils, Pens, Colored Markers, Charts, Scissors, Tape, Sticky Post-It, Colored Dot Stickers and most importantly Healthy Snacks.

And finally, block the participant’s calendar for 5 days.

Day 1 — Understand — Dig into the problem

In the understand phase (day 1), your team comes together to understand the problems from all possible angles. The goal is to create a shared understanding and knowledge.

You can pick a set of following activities to plan your Understanding Day –

Day 1 — First Half

a. Clarify the challenges of the sprint:

Define the scope and challenges you’ll be targeting in the sprint by defining the – goals that you want to achieve from the sprint
– user type that you’d be focussing on during the sprint
– what platforms you’d be focussing on during the sprint
– the timeframe for solving the challenge

b. Set up Lightning Talks:

Lightning talks are brief (10–15 mins) pitch by key team members (Product Leader, Sales/Marketing Leader, Technology Leader) to present the relevant knowledge for the Sprint Challenge. This would help your team create a shared knowledge of understanding of users and current challenges, any business or technical opportunities, and discuss any previous efforts.

c. HMW (How Might We) Cards:

“How Might We” ensures that the team asks the right questions and think of innovative answers.
The technique involves the team members writing down their thoughts during the Lightning Talks or whenever they feel it necessary.
They need to frame their thoughts into statements in form of —

“How might we….”.
For example, “How might we help improve the Day One Retention?” or “How might we streamline the onboarding process?”

The HMW method allows the team to get deep into insights and pain points and reframe them as opportunities.

Day 1 — Second Half

d. User Understanding

User Journey Mapping — It’s essential for the team to think like your users. That’s where User Personas & User Journey Mapping would help you. You can read more about Personas and User Journey Mapping Here

User Interview — It is a good idea to include user interviews in the session. It might be an actual interview, a recorded session or summary of any previously conducted research.

Empathy Building — Empathy Building Exercise helps your team to get further into user’s mindset. This involves having the team to use the product to complete a critical task in an environment that resembles how the users use your product.

e. HMW Sharing & Affinity Mapping

Once, the team has finished with the Lightning Talks, it’s time for the team to share their HMW notes (by reading out and placing on a wall).

Once, you have all the HMW notes, you group notes based on a common theme or categories.

HMW Notes Sharing
f. HMW Voting

After the team has finished the HMW sharing and defined useful categories, the team will vote on which opportunities they feel are most important.
Each team member gets 3 votes (represented by color dots) that they can add to the HMW notes.
The main goal of voting is to eliminate far-fetched areas that won’t benefit your users.

g. Defining Success Metrics

Data-driven UX design is better than designing and developing on user experience gut feeling. But collecting, analyzing and applying metrics relevant to UX is easier said than done.

You could make use of Google’s HEART —
“a framework for user-centered metrics for web applications, which can be used to measure progress towards key goals, and drive product decisions.”

The framework provides a comprehensive structure to organize UX related goals. We use Goal-Signal-Metrics Matrix to prioritize which metric you’ll need to track a Sprint.
GOAL: What are you trying to help users do? What problem are you trying to solve?
SIGNAL: What change in user behavior or opinion would indicate you’ve been successful in your goals. There may be multiple signals for each of your goals.
METRIC: How to measure the size of any change in user behavior or opinion.

Google HEART Framework

Day 2 — Diverge — Explore & Develop as many solutions as possible

Day 2 First Half

Many times, we’re picking the first solution that comes to mind, this might be the best solution, but not always. That’s where Diverge stage helps a team.

Start by Boot Up Note Taking — During the Understand phase, the team shared and generated a great deal of knowledge, materials, and opportunities. Boot Up Note Taking allows everyone to review, collect thoughts and prepare to sketch solutions.

The individual team members are given time and space to brainstorm solutions. The team member should make use of Divergent Thinking Technique where they follow a free-flowing, non-linear approach of thinking to come up with multiple solutions set.
You could make use of following techniques for Brainstorming

Comparable Problem — You could look for a comparable problem from other industries as an inspiration to solve your problem. For example, if you are looking to develop an app to help user book a mini-truck for moving goods, you could take inspiration from Uber or Lyft.

MindMap — Mindmap is writing down everything in your head. The important thing is that all the team members get every solution (old and new) out of their head and onto the paper at low fidelity.

Mind Mapping Technique for Brainstorming

Crazy 8 — Generate as many ideas as you can — It’s a fast sketching exercise that challenges people to sketch 8 ideas in 8 minutes. The goal is to push beyond your first idea, which is frequently not the most innovative, and generate a wide variety of solutions to your challenge.

Crazy 8 Technique for Brainstorming

Day 2 Second Half

Sharing & Voting –
After everyone has finished with the brainstorming of ideas (Crazy 8), it’s time that each team member is allowed to share their ideas. Post sharing of ideas, each team member votes on 3 ideas that he/she finds most compelling.

Day 3 — Decide and Converge on one idea

Day 3 — First Half

Begin the day by reviewing all the ideas presented previous day. However, You can’t prototype and test them all. You need one idea that’s best to achieve your goals.
In the first half, you’ll critique each solution, and decide which ones have the best chance of achieving your Sprint goal.
You can use the matrix of Needs to determine Value that can be provided and then Matrix for User Value v/s Technical Difficulty to prioritize your ideas.

Matrix for rating ideas

Day 3 — Second Half

In a storyboard, the team tries to map out each user experience that they want to test. Storyboarding helps clarify what you need to Prototype. It ensures that everyone on the team is unified on what the idea is, and helps the group make critical decisions during the prototyping process.


The goal is to take the ideas the team has generated so far and sketch a low fidelity UI showing how a user would move through the certain part of the story — where they click, what they see, where are they navigated, what info they enter, what they think, etc.

Day 4 — Prototype

In the context of Design Sprint, Prototype is used in a slightly different way than in standard product development.
A design sprint prototype is a facade of the experience the team has envisioned in the sketch phase. It as an experiment in order to test out your hypothesis.

The design sprint team should accomplish following tasks –
– User Flows
– Mock-Ups
– High Fidelity Designs
– Prototype Development
– User Recruitment for Usability Study
– Script for Usability Study (to be used during Validation)
– Study Set-up

The deliverable of Prototype phase should be a working product or at-least a clickable High Fidelity Prototype (you can make use of InVision or POP by Marvel).

Read more on creating Prototype here

Day 5 — Validation

Day 5 — First Half

Validation phase is the moment of Truth for your design sprint.

Watching your users try out the prototype is the best way to validate your solution and check if there are any problems, which in turn lets you start iterating immediately.

Everyone in the Design Sprint team observes these Usability Study.

Usability Lab Study lets you observe the user while he or she attempts to complete a set of tasks while using your product. The goal of the study is to identify any usability issues and to determine the participants’ satisfaction with the product.

You can use a board to take notes as illustrated –

Note taking during Usability Study

Day 5 — Second Half

Stakeholder Review involves reviewing your solution discovered during the Sprint with all the stakeholder including (CEO or Decider) and Technology Lead (if they weren’t present in the sprint.

Putting together a well-crafted presentation of the prototypes and user feedback can help you greenlighting the solution.

Closing the Sprint

Recap the sprint and Review the challenges and the final solution (including User and Stakeholder feedback) and close the sprint.
If possible, put in place a development plan and bring the stakeholders from the respective team into the loop.

Google Sprint Resource –

[PreviousChapter 9 – Fundamentals of Product Design]

[Next: Chapter 11 – How to conduct Usability Testing]

[Back to content page —  Product Management 101]

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