The Design Sprint

A five-phased approach for digital product teams

Design SprintThe Design Sprint is often the first phase of a design thinking process or the best way to validate a new product or feature. It gets the entire product design and development team on the same page, reduces the risk of downstream mistakes, and generate vision-lead goals for the team to measure their success by. It’s a fun and flexible framework for starting new product design and/or development work.

The 5 Phases of a Design Sprint

Phase 1: Understand

Phase 1 - UnderstandThe first day of a design sprint is an opportunity to bring the working team to a mutual understanding of the problem to be solved. You’ll answer the questions: “Who is the customer, who is the user, and what are their problems?” You’ll all share the relevant context so the answers to these questions can be understood clearly, but you won’t need to come up with solutions yet.

Phase 2: Diverge

Phase 2 - DivergeThe Diverge phase explores the range of possibilities. Now that you have an initial understanding of the users and a problem of theirs worth solving, it’s time to look at potential solutions, generating as many ideas as possible. This is more than brainstorming, it’s about each person working individually to sketch their ideas without the pressures of groupthink, and sharing them with the rest of the group, using the wisdom of the crowd to vote for the best ideas.

Phase 3: Converge

Phase 3 - ConvergeThe Converge is about making hard choices and picking a direction to prototype and test with users. You’ll focus on having the right (and sometimes difficult) conversations about how you can solve your chosen problem, in order to design an effective solution. You will find yourselves debating frequently and perhaps heatedly. If everyone consistently agrees with everything, something is wrong.

Phase 4: Prototype

Phase 4 - PrototypeDuring this phase you will build a prototype—it could be quick-and-dirty, low fidelity, or high fidelity. All product prototypes are living versions of the idea you have in your head. These tangible prototypes need not be perfect but should provide enough detail to be able to test adequately the assumptions your team has made. The goal here is not perfection. it is something that can test your hypothesis and validate or invalidate your assumptions.

Phase 5: Test

Phase 5 - TestYour users (or customers) are the ones who will give you the best feedback possible. This is where you get to see their pupils dilate, their smiles widen, and voices rise in reaction to your prototype. It is also when you can be greatly disappointed. If you consider your personal journey map along your design sprint, this is the point where your emotions run high, as you have spent a lot of energy up to this point and you’re hoping that everything will work. Be prepared if things go wrong. Sometimes they don’t, yet most times they do. It’s OK—to our knowledge, no humans were ever harmed by a design sprint.

Design Sprint Agenda

Who is The Design Sprint For?

Design Sprint ArtifactsIf you’re a product owner or manager, you might use the Design Sprint to kick off a new project or start a new cycle of updates on an existing one. If you’re on the business team, you might use the Design Sprint to initiate a change in process or begin the innovation of a product concept. However you use it, the Design Sprint gives you a starting point for almost any product related work.

The approach consists of structured brainstorming sessions to translate client objectives into a single narrative, and then physically craft potential solutions. Connecting these customer stories to practical and emotional user feedback via testing, we create a roadmap that outlines a path for future design and development activities.

The origin of Design Sprints can be traced to the world of Agile Development and are used effectively at the beginning or middle of a project, or before a redesign effort or series of iterations.

“When we started the Design Sprint process, I was worried how this was going to turn out. But after the second session, I trust you guys completely. I know your team ‘gets’ us and what we’re trying to do. We’re now on a different course than we planned at the outset, but it’s exactly what our company needs right now.”

Doug Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer – OfferLogic

Common Questions

Design Sprint Whiteboarding ExerciseWhy a Design Sprint?

  • Build the “right” product the first time around
  • Save time and money on design and development
  • Get a team aligned with customer focused evidence to support your product’s direction
  • The Design Sprint will change the way you and your team create digital products

When should I run a Design Sprint?

  • When you’re about to kick off a project
  • When you need clarity around your product idea
  • When you need customer input on product features

How do I get started?

Contact a strategist at Fresh Tilled Soil today to learn more about the Design Sprint.

Read more about The Design Sprint

Design Sprint BookThe full process has been documented extensively in the book Design Sprint by Fresh Tilled Soil CEO Richard Banfield and Chief Design Strategist C. Todd Lombardo.

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