Running a Google Design Sprint for startups from start to end

Nadav Rikover
Dec 9, 2015 · 8 min read

“This was A productive and fun day. Everyone that attended, said they really enjoyed the process, the option of being a part of the thinking process and the general atmosphere. There is a consensus we need more sessions like these and with additional team members.”

Etay Geller, VP product at 90min

This is the feedback I was given from the 90Min. team, a football platform product with over 30 million users per month and $40M in funding after the Google Design Sprint workshop I ran for them a couple of weeks ago.

I think this feedback symbolises the real essence of this methodology developed at Google Ventures and in the next lines i’ll explain why.

As a member of Google Developers Expert program, I’ve been invited last May to take part in the first “Google Academy for Design Sprint Masters”, a full day workshop that took place at the company’s HQ in Mountain View, California with 30 more UX and UI experts. This was the first time that the company ran this workshop for professionals that aren’t part of the company.

We were all really excited to get to know the agile oriented methodology and understand its interesting techniques.

So, what’s a Design Sprint?

The process combines 6 stages:

  • Understand
  • Define
  • Diverge
  • Decide
  • Prototype
  • Validate

This mini toolkit for creating a user experience is very practical 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.

Each stage of the method includes practices of a large UX process such as user interviews, user testing and user research. These stages help us to sum up the educated studies so we can get the participants on the same stage and create a healthy process.

Prior the Sprint

Recruiting a group of 8 participants from different aspects of the company: business, marketing, technology, product and design is important in order to get the best perspective of the challenge. I requested the team leader to provide the email of each participant and sent to all of them an introduction email. The email was a great built up for the workshop and it got really excited about the workshop.

Preparing a brief document prior the workshop helped us to create a great introduction of the challenge. The brief should include a short paragraph that specifies the current challenge, which deliverables we would like to get by the end of the process, vision of how a success outcome will look like and the initial milestones of the production process.

And lastly, the logistics preparation including finding the right place, collect the equipment and create the actual schedule so the sprint will work smoothly.

Here’s what you will need to run a design sprint:

  • Sharpies
  • Sticky notes
  • Voting dots stickers
  • A4 paper
  • Erasable marker
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Whiteboard
  • Colored papers

The Stages

1. Understand

During this quick 5 minutes talk of each aspect, the team wrote down their notes using the “How Might We” technique. This approach ensures that the team asks the right questions and helps us find innovative answers. For example, “How might we help our users to find content they’re interested in?” and “How might we make the navigation fun and intuitive for our users?” — This kind of questions motivate us to push the boundaries forward in terms of the user experience we want to achieve and finding new ways of technological solutions.

The ‘How Might We’ stickies

2. Define

We started by creating various personas that describe the product’s users, created the first journey map from when they first discovered the product until they became “power users”. Then we created a user statement which is a simple sentence that describes the user’s characteristics, his needs, motivations and what he values the most. Next, we created the design principles list: adjectives that we want our users to describe our product with. And lastly, we executed the “First Tweet” — a very inspiring exercise of creating the company’s first tweet after the publicity of the solution within the Twitter limitation of 140 characters. The best guidance is to tell the group to imagine that it’s time to launch the feature and ask them “What is the first announcing tweet you will send out?”

I also gave the team a reference of a real tweet Google published when they launched “OnHub” router — giving a real example as an inspiration helped the group open their minds.

3. Diverge

Now that we understand the challenge and defined the strategy, we can start throwing ideas. To do so, there’s a great technique called “Crazy 8 in 5”: each individual sketches quick 8 potential UI solutions in 5 minutes. The purpose of this activity is to generate many ways of solving the challenge no matter if they’re realistic or not.

Deciding on which option to prototype (90Min team)

4. Decide

But how can we choose one idea to prototype? Using the “Risk vs. Reward” scale, we took each popular solution and positioned it in scale of the various risks vs. the value — It revealed what’s easy to do and important for users so we could decide which one to prototype.

5. Prototype

6. Validate

In order to answer this question, we used the InVision prototype the team created and introduced the context to different users in order to test it with them, and asked them some guiding questions. But that is not all.

The validation stages requires the technology team to review the solution and figure out its complexity, how much time it takes to develop it and if we’re able to support this kind of solution in our framework. In our case it was approved and pretty much possible in the timeframe we wanted.

Last but not least — the stakeholders validation. Their review is essential for the sprint to succeed. Usually, they’re the ones that are funding and managing the company, therefore they can point out other crucial perspectives and make the final validation.

Finished the design sprint — now what?

Conclusion

The Design Sprint method allows us to solve these challenges using quick validations without wasting too many resources on other solutions that the company didn’t even learn. By creating quick prototypes, we can get actual feedback and see if there’s a real potential for the solution we’ve created.

Some companies and corporates may consider the democracy approach of the Design Sprint as a threat, but they shouldn’t. The joint effort cuts out the organisation bureaucracy for a change, and gives each participant the feeling that his opinion counts and contributes to a better chemistry and greater synergy in the company.

Mostly, this process gives us useful techniques to increase creativity and generate new ideas while putting the users needs upfront, and contributes to position the user experience as a problem solver.

Want to learn more about the Google Design Sprint?

Want to run a design sprint for your team?

Originally published in Hacking UI.

Google Developers Experts

Experts on various Google products talking tech.

Google Developers Experts

Experts on various Google products talking tech.

Nadav Rikover

Written by

UX specialist & product design consultant, owner of Rikover Interactive, mentor @ Google Launchpad and a certified Design Sprint Master. www.rikover.com

Google Developers Experts

Experts on various Google products talking tech.