How to Run a Google Design Sprint

Melanie Yencken
Jul 22, 2016 · 5 min read

My lessons learnt and downloadable resources

Over the past few months I have been reading a lot about the Google Design Sprint process. In fact, working in UX it has been almost impossible to miss. It seemed to me this process was fundamentally about empowering different roles (Prod/UX/Dev) to collaborate and participate in the UX process. This is something I passionately believe in — so naturally I was looking for the right opportunity to trial the process with my team at Schibsted.

What is the Design Sprint?

The Design Sprint is a shortcut to learning without building and launching. Putting the business, tech and especially the user in the center of the process.

Why should you use a Design Sprint?

The sprint process is a mini product development toolkit which is useful for creating a user experience when you’ve already done your research and reached the point where your team needs to be focused on a specific mission, or to be more precise — a specific challenge that needs a solution.

The Design Sprint blurs the normal lines of responsibility between different roles in a product development team allowing everyone to take part in generating ideas, sketching them and testing with users. It’s a fantastic tool if your team is brand new and you want to set them up for great working relationships or if you have an existing team with new product features or problems to solve and want a fresh mindset for the project.

It's also a great way to cover a lot of the product development process in a very short period of time (understanding, discovery and testing) so can help you kick start a project very quickly.

We condensed the 5 day process into 3 days due to restricted schedules.

What happens during the sprint?

During the sprint you will cover a condensed version of the product discovery and development process from understanding the problem to rapidly developing solutions, voting and prioritising ideas, prototyping the selected ideas and then testing them with real humans.

Break the day into 5–10 minute increments!

My Lessons Learnt…

Lesson Number 1: Use other people’s experiences with the sprint to inform yours!

There is a lot of information available online on how to best run a sprint and in fact this article is just a summarisation of a few different resources, thanks to these folk for the inspiration: fastcodedesign, hackingUI and of course google.

Download the slides for a presentation version of this article

In the spirit of sharing, these all of my own personal resources for downloading:

  1. Overall Learnings Presentation: Slides/deck version of this article.
  2. Presentation slides for the sprint: I created a summarisation of the process outlined by fastcodedesign which helped me keep on track during the sprint.
  3. Energizer instructions: Few of my favourite energizers for workshops

Lesson Number 2: Preparation is crucial

Good preparation will make or break your sprint!

Invite a broad spectrum of roles to the workshop
  1. Invite a broad group representing different disciples in your team.
    Be sure to have representatives from each function: development, design, research, analytics and most importantly, your stakeholders.
  2. Block out the time in everyone’s calendars
    Unfortunately we couldn’t find five consecutive days, so instead I managed to condense the sprint process into three days.
  3. Plan your agenda in detail, down to 5 minute increments.
    The sprint process is quite intensive and you will need to keep on top of the schedule to ensure you can cover everything in the time allocated.
  4. Assign a facilitator (if this won’t be yourself).
    The facilitator is paramount to the success of the sprint, they will keep time, maintain energy, top up coffees and run energizers. This makes it quite difficult for them to participate in the sprint so if you want to also generate ideas and work on prototypes, be sure to find a dedicated person for this role.
  5. Book a nice large space with lots of walls and book a 2nd room for user testing.
    A large environment with lots of natural light is ideal. Be sure to get out of your normal space to adopt a fresh perspective and remove everyone from the normal distractions.
  6. Share the objectives with the group in advance.
    Ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands why you are dedicating so much time to this sprint. I also shared a few links from other companies which had reviewed the process so the team had some understanding of what they would be asked to do.
  7. Print your inspiration material for sticking up on the walls.
    Slides are good but I also printed all of our inspiration material out so we could have it surrounding us on the walls for the entire three days.
  8. Bring equipment (paper, sharpies, voting dots, note books, post its, and printed mobile templates for sketching).
    These items are your tools for success and worth the investment.
  9. Buy plenty of snacks and plan your meals.
    Never underestimate how important food is to maintain energy during an intensive process like this. Always have fruit, sweets, water and access to caffeine easily accessible.
  10. Most importantly: Recruit users for testing on last day!
    This can seem daunting… recruiting users to test something you haven’t design yet?! But this is very important to complete the sprint and test the ideas and assumptions you have created.

Lesson Number 3: Control the ‘energy’ in the room

The sprint is very labour intensive and your guaranteed to exhaust your participants. To get the most out of your time together, plan in advance to cater for the waning energy levels.

The first step to managing energy levels is just to be conscious of them. If you’re assessing regularly for how tired or engaged your team is you will be much more likely to maintain or recoup good energy in your workshop.

  1. Plan regular breaks and publish when they will be on the walls
  2. Keep healthy (and sugary) snacks lying around at all times!
  3. Ask for feedback each evening via a form and try to adjust your schedule the next day to accommodate
  4. Introduce energizers between each key activity or after breaks (especially lunch)

Energizers — are fun quick exercises which usually involve getting people up and out of their chairs, running around and laughing a lot!

Download my favourites here: Energizer instructions


Melanie Yencken

Written by

UX Leader & Founder of @LDN_Tech_Ladies

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