Product Design Sprint

Waiting to learn until your product gets to market can be expensive. Do you really want to spend weeks or months of development in order to answer the critical business questions that you ideally want to know before a single line of code is written? Introducing the product design sprint.

What is a product design sprint?

A product design sprint (pioneered by Google Ventures) is a five-day exercise for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.

Participating in a Design Sprint involves the entire team and focuses their efforts at hitting clearly defined goals. Digital Products exist to make the lives of those using them easier or more efficient; yet it is common to think of a software system as a technical exercise without making the User the primary focus in it’s design.

Design Thinking combines traditional methods of design with empathy, creativity and rationality to solve human-centered problems.

The Sprint Phases

A typical length for a product design sprint is five days, with each day representing a different phase. We frequently kick off new projects and features like this but a product design sprint can yield excellent results in isolation – long before a project has started.

The aim is to develop a product or feature idea into a prototype that can be tested by the real intended users. We can evaluate our assumptions and ensure that the user is placed at the centre of our products.

Monday

Understand

Monday’s structured discussions create a path for the sprint week. In the morning, we’ll start at the end and agree to a long-term goal. Next, we’ll make a map of the problem to be solved. In the afternoon, you’ll ask the experts to share what they know. Finally, we’ll pick a target: an ambitious but manageable piece of the problem that you can solve in one week.

Tuesday

Diverge

On Tuesday, we get to focus on the solutions. The day starts with inspiration: a review of existing ideas to remix and improve. Through a series of creative exercises, we can develop and question functionality, problems, and solutions. Each person will sketch, following a four-step process that emphasises critical thinking over artistry. This phase is crucial to innovation and marketplace differentiation.

This gives us a baseline of ideas and visuals with which to evaluate and identify potentially viable solutions in next phases.

Wednesday

Converge

By Wednesday morning, we will have a stack of solutions. That’s great, but it’s also a problem. We can’t prototype and test them all — you need one solid plan. First of all, we’ll critique each solution, and decide which ones have the best chance of achieving the long-term goal of te project or feature. We come up with a realistic prototyping storyboard and develop an assumptions table to guide our prototyping and testing phases.

Thursday

Prototype

Now the (almost) real work starts. We will take the winning solution from Wednesday and turn it into a prototype. By only focusing on the customer-facing interactions of the product we can finish the prototype in just one day! The prototype should be designed to learn about specific unknowns and assumptions, reducing risk and answering those critical business questions.

Friday

Test & Learn

By Friday, we’ll have created promising solutions, chosen the best, and built a realistic prototype.

Now it’s time to test the prototype with existing or potential users or customers. Their experiences will inform how close or far from the ideal solution we really are. We’ll understand what needs to be done next and more importantly we will have only spent 5 days not 5 months in working this out.