How to improve your design sprints with the working backward-approach

- It´s all about those P0:s.

This article is a step by step example of how the method can be used during a one-week design sprint.

Part of an application flow in Principle, made by Borut Kerzic and Zhi Wang.

A 5-day sprint to create a food delivery app.

This week we learned an approach in how to work backward during design sprints. We were tutored by Jorge Furuya — currently working at Samsung in Seattle, which gave us a very insightful week. We learned to apply systematic thinking throughout the whole design sprint.

In parallel with the project’s methodological approach, we applied a lot of prototyping skills in Sketch + Principle. Before even starting this particular kind of prototyping, learn to always, always name your layers. This will make your life easier.

- Our team was given a quick but process-based methodology: start with the end goal.

1. Start by writing down a simple fictional press release.

The press release should be describing your product — as if it would already be released. Describe the main user, the main problem it solves, what technology is being used and how it improves the user’s life(s).

2. Gather together in your team (could also be together with the client) and go through the press release.

Decide some main points on how you can work to make the press release a reality.

3. Create value propositions.

In our case, we wanted to make a homesick student feel less lonely in a new place by bringing the essence of a familiar and home-cooked, meal to a food delivery app. Our values became; honest exchange, efficient exploration, community building, and welcoming wellness.

What are the core values your product wants to represent? Is it helping people to overcome anxieties? Is it an app to help dog owners diagnose their pet before seeing the veterinary? Then these values need to be representative of these user groups, and the scope of the problem or how they will represent the experience. These value propositions can be iterated upon, but they are important.

3. Set up a user in mind

Or a few users. Make use-cases describing the emotional background, the journey the user goes through and the main problems for this user. Set up how the product can help the user through a short journey.

4. Based on imagining your story: what will be the features of your product?

Start making P:s. yes, they are called P:s!
P0 — Absolute necessary features. These features are what the product needs to have to even be shipped. 
P1 — Very important requirements
P2 — These requirements would be nice to have, but are not that important
P3 — The product can live without these requirements, but are great to add at later stages of the development

An example:
P0 — The app needs a landing page
P0 — The user should be able to connect with peers
P1 — The user should be able to pay as the user pleases
P2 — The app should be able to connect to other organizations and stakeholders

Divide these P:s into a list. Always come back to the list when ideating on for example screens or product components. It is a great way to prioritize and make sure that the whole team is on board on what needs to be done.

5. Make several wireframes and doodles.

Divide the wireframes into sections onboarding, search, browsing, customization, check-out or depending on the story you are trying to create. Decide on a complete or simple journey. They don’t have to be refined yet.

By me

7. Set up mood boards and visual representations.

(Can also be created by the teams lead visual designer) Color schemes, choose your material design language, pictorial representations, and descriptive keywords. It can be good to make small “sketches” in principle to practice making transitions and animations you will be using later.

9. Always come back to your value propositions and P:s during iterations.

Is the “swipe away actions” really the most important thing for the user, if the app should be representing community building?

If the app is about community building, then maybe the app instead should lure the user in to explore peoples stories, and linger on people profiles to extend personal relations? These are the kind of thoughts you should be having throughout the design process, while working through the priorities and coming back to the values of what you are trying to create.


By following this type of process, a very successful week was conducted. It was very easy to manage the team and division of tasks using this “Working backward approach”. Sometimes working in a team can seem very hard, but when we used this method, we actually managed to apply a system on how to work together very efficiently.

One thing that was missing for us was the ability to work on the same files inside Principle and Sketch. To conquer this issue, we tried to plan the grids, fonts, visuals as much as possible. We tried to adopt the kind of systematic thinking to be able to make the final app flow as cohesive as possible.

It was very easy to manage the team and division of tasks using this “Working backwards — approach” and the final experience became surprisingly seamless and unified.
Here is an initial screen of the final result rom our new food delivery concept- SNACK in a bowl delivered in the city of Umeå, Sweden.

Working in team , IXD -19, at Umeå Institute of Design: Klio Rapakoulia, Borut Kerzic, Nicole Waniowska, Zhi Wang, and Mehek Sharma.