My first try at running a remote design sprint

Experimenting with a remote way of working

This is a story about a how I ran a Design Sprint 2.0 remotely. If you’ve never heard of that, you can learn more here or read the book — I highly recommend it!

The challenge

I volunteered to help Audax UK — The Long Distance Cyclists’ Association and I really wanted to time-box what I can contribute, but also follow the only way I like working — using the Design Sprint.

The approach

While I’ll be following the framework, there are some obvious omissions:

  • I’ll be working by myself — I’ve had a few calls and we have a long-term goal and a feature to work on
  • I’d be doing this remotely
  • I’ll only have a few hours each evening (I like my sleep)
  • I’ve previously asked the community a series of questions that have helped me gain some understanding of the organisation

Introductions

Audax United Kingdom is the internationally recognised long-distance cycling association in the UK and was established in 1976. It oversees the running of long-distance cycling events in the UK, and, using a system of timed checkpoints.

Audax UK is a non-profit organisation and provides its members with:

  • a quarterly A4 magazine packed with information, event updates, letters, stories and photographs
  • inclusion in the AUK Awards and Championships structure.
  • 3rd-party insurance while participating in AUK events.
  • the warm glow you get from belonging to the world’s largest long-distance cycling club (yes, it says this on the website)
Photo thanks to: Brian Callow on http://www.aukweb.net/

Long term goal

The long term goal is a retention in membership numbers. Audax UK believe that a high renewal of the membership will be achieved if members receive an easier to understand experience, simpler signup and payment process, ultimately making them a lifetime member.

Sprint questions

This is where we get pessimistic. How could we fail? Here are some assumptions to start:

  • members want to renew
  • Audax UK wants new members and wants to grow
  • the prototype I create can be developed

The riskiest assumption I think we have is that members have enough information and feel that the benefits are valuable to want to renew.

Make a map

So considering I know we’re focussed on membership (and I had little time), I started drawing the map with just the membership side in view. Listing current members and prospective on the left, I drew the ending (signed up member) on the right and filled in the steps to get there.

In Jake Knapp’s workshop in Copenhagen, I learnt that when making the map, you should map how it currently works. In our case, how a member renews their membership.

Doing the map this way helps you identify what areas to improve to help get you closer to your long term goal.

I used Realtimeboard, knowing that I could easily add more steps. Also, the nights are dark this time of year, so screenshots suit much better!

This is how the map looked to start with:

Players on the left, ending on the right

Ask the experts

I’ve had a number of conversations with Audax UK before embarking on the membership renewal sprint. With each call, I noted down any information I found pertinent.

The partner

Caroline is the new membership director at Audax UK. I got on a call with her to understand what she wanted to achieve with membership:

Caroline — Partner
“The first priority is to get the admin correct for existing members, so they can change their details and renew. They should be able to login easily. We should consider GoCardless-type direct debits (we currently do cheques and standing orders).
We have around 7000 members and could double that without much more admin work. Our second priority about getting new members”

The community

For balance, I also reached out to Twitter, to see what I could learn from the community.

Looking through my tweets, I could see some insights that would help me understand the challenge. That’s the whole objective for Day 1 of the sprint!

I started asking wider questions first, such as:

Why do you like long distance cycling?

Person 1
“I like the hours & days moving through the (often new-to-me) landscape, the peaceful solitude, meeting like-minded people from all over the world & the personal challenges one regularly have to overcome on a long ride.
Life’s quite comfortable & long distance riding reminds me of that fact by making it more difficult & uncomfortable while still being enjoyable!”
Person 2
“For me it’s the joy of being on a bike for 8 hours a day, the rhythm, the joy of the simplicity of life. I find cycling to be the best way to travel. It’s the perfect speed to see and know the land you are travelling through.
Being exposed to the world means you are experiencing a place with all your senses. I’m an explorer at heart and cycling is my favourite way to explore. The long distances are the result or side effect even of loving every minute on the bike.
I’ll never love the pain of speed but the satisfaction of being tired after exploring the world that I love.”
Person 3
“When I started cycling I didn’t think I’d do my commute distance 17 miles, but gradually increased and increased, my furthest single day distance so far has been something like 250 miles.
I love the exploring new places that covering distance can do. It’s really rewarding to find a remote road with stunning scenery. Challenging myself to complete a route or distance is rewarding too.
I’d be hiding something if I didn’t mention the reaction when you tell folks of a big ride you did is pretty cool.”

The themes coming from these interviews were those of enjoying being on the bike, the achievement of riding a long distance and the fascination of exploring new places.

Part of Audax UK’s appeal is the organised routes and volunteers that help you complete your ride. I asked:

How do you typically discover the routes and events?

Person 1
“The Audax UK website. Audax Club Parisien has a comprehensive list of rides throughout the world & friends on Facebook & WhatsApp often post about rides too.”
Person 2
“Route planning is a headache because there isn’t an app out there that’s gotten it right yet. So many cyclists have different priorities and the apps don’t always get those nuances right. Or like with Google it will send you down a completely unsuitable path that’s completely overgrown because they don’t have up to date information on the condition!
I generally try to find a route someone has done and then tediously look at it on Google earth.
On a visit to the European Cycling Federation in Belgium I picked up a route map for planning.”

Again, I didn’t namecheck Audax UK for fear of leading the question. I asked what problems they experience at the moment:

What problems have you experienced?

Person 1
“Logistics mainly. If it starts away from home I’ll ride to the start usually — unless that compromises the ride itself. Planes, trains & cars are problematic for various reasons.
Arranging everything around family & work life is also something I have to do — especially for the longer rides (600k +).”

Getting to the start is something I’m well aware of. Part of the usefulness of the Audax website is finding local rides, though currently, that is quite difficult to do (there is no postcode lookup for example).

I then broached the subject of Audaxes themselves:

Have you heard of Audaxes?

Person 2
“I have and I tried to sign up for a local one last year, they appeal way more to me than sportives. Unfortunately I found out too late to get a spot last year, but hopefully I’ll be able to get involved 2018.”

On the whole, quite positive feedback.

How might we

In previous Design Sprints, this was usually be where I got a little confused. I checked the book and I think the trick here is to write how might we’s through the ask the experts round. Looking back through them, here are some contenders:

  • How might we explain the membership types and prices easily? There’s 1 year or 5 year
  • How might we improve how people can add other people in their household (and is this an edge case?). We should usually discount edge cases in a design sprint
  • How might we enable riders to download routes easily (enticing them to join as a member)
  • How might we best articulate the benefits of membership so it’s a must-have product (see Hacking Growth) for more

I updated the Map with my How Might We’s and chose one that I felt was the most important to solve:

The Map with How Might We’s

Pick a target

With our voted How Might We, I chose the Renewing Member — as that was clearly defined in the Long Term Goal, and the area closest to the How Might We to improve. Initially I picked the membership form, but remembering what Jake had said in the workshop about the problem tending to be further upstream, I chose the renewal page — as this is where we would explain and let the renewing member choose their membership type.

The outcome

That’s as far as I went with this sprint. If I do anymore with Audax UK, I’ll be sure to update this with a part 2!


I’m Ross Chapman, a product designer at Etch. I run Design Sprints and product design projects with partners.

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