Technology is advancing at a breakneck speed, competition is as fierce as ever, and customers are demanding better experiences to secure their loyalty.
Companies know that they need to become more agile and stay in tune with their markets to get ahead, but how are successful organizations doing this?
For many, the answer is a Product Design Sprint.
In a nutshell, a Product Design Sprint is a workshop that allows businesses to reduce the risk of bringing a new product or feature to market, and to answer complex business questions within a very short time.
Based on the Google Design Sprint methodology, the workshop is usually held over five days, and covers ideation, design, prototyping, and testing – all with a user-centered focus. This approach allows design sprints to condense months worth of work into a single week and minimize the risk of failure, using up only a fraction of the resources it would have used otherwise.
Running a Product Design Sprint can bring many benefits to your business:
A Product Design Sprint is usually held over five days, each day corresponding to a different phase of solving the given problem.
Having said that, after many years of refining our Product Design Sprint methodology, we found out that it is crucial to stay flexible. Set an agenda, but be prepared to scrap it once the workshop starts—only the design sprint phases should remain fixed.
Throughout the workshop, you will gain a deeper understanding of your business needs and ideas, and identify and prevalidate viable solutions.
The following part of this article covers the approach, goals, and methods and tools that are used during each phase of the workshop.
The focus of the first phase is to understand the business problem and create a roadmap for the week ahead. Start by gathering insights on user needs and business goals, and assess your technology capabilities. You can then set your long-term goals, which will help keep everyone aligned as the project moves forward, and establish the main goal to be addressed during the sprint.
The aim of this phase is to find out what skills are available, align on the product idea, and gain a deeper understanding of the client, users, the business background of the product, and the market.
Example of a stakeholder map:
The aim of the second phase is to generate and explore as many ideas as possible. You can start by reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of existing solutions, then move on to developing new insights and solutions. Through individual analyses and brainstorming, many ideas will emerge, which will later be evaluated and tested.
The focus of this phase is brainstorming, ideating features, and discussing user flows and journeys.
Example of user journey mapping:
By now, you should have plenty of ideas to work with. The goal of phase three is to identify the best options as a team, critique them against the overall goal, and decide which will go forward to be prototyped.
In this phase, you will concentrate on structuring and outlining the system architecture.
On the fourth day, you will develop a prototype that can be tested with users. The key is to build something in just one day, so it needs to be as low-fi as possible, while allowing you to get the answers you need.
Before you start, everyone on the team should be clear what their roles are. Typically, designers build the prototype, unless it’s so low-fi that everyone can contribute—for example a paper or Keynote prototype. Product owners usually assume the responsibility for loading the prototype with realistic information, data, and copy.
By the end of this phase, you should have a working prototype which allows you to visualize the product idea.
Example of storyboarding:
In the final phase, you will test your prototype with real users, technical experts, and business stakeholders.
In this ‘moment of truth’, as GV (formerly Google Ventures) describes it, you will receive direct feedback from users, which will allow you to validate your ideas before you invest in designing and developing the product.
At this stage, the goal is to validate your idea by testing the prototype with users.
Once the sprint is over, the client will have a much better understanding of their users’ problems, plus a host of ideas on how to solve them.
At Netguru, we leave every client with a detailed report on the workshop, including digitized versions of all materials and canvases, and a functional lo-fi prototype of some of the user stories. We also make suggestions as to which direction the client should take the product in.
If a client then proceeds to build their product with us, we provide a comprehensive project roadmap, which breaks down the project into phases, along with predefined tasks for each phase so that developers can get to work.
Product Design Sprint is a hugely powerful tool for increasing your organization’s agility while finding simple solutions to complex business questions.
The key to success in design sprints lies in aligning stakeholder expectations with the goals of the sprint at an early stage, and not losing sight of these throughout the process. Adopting a collaborative, user-centered approach is crucial, as is selecting the right tools and methods to get the most out of each day.
After many years of experience working with our Product Design Sprint methodology, we have seen that when done properly, design sprints allow companies to reduce the risk of failure in a new or existing product development, and to condense months worth of work into just a few days.