How we Used a Remote Design Sprint to Kick off Product Development for a Healthtech Startup

Annie Bacher
Sep 13, 2019 · 8 min read
Image for post
Image for post

We used a remote design sprint to kick off product development for a healthtech client’s new search catalog, which will allow researchers to find the best tools for their studies.

Never heard of a Design Sprint? Read more about the original Google Ventures Design Sprint, or the adapted Design Sprint 2.0, which we based our process on.

The challenge

This healthtech startup wants to give researchers and companies the ability to search their massive database and order reports of their information. The reports and search results will save customers hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars of their own time and budget.

Our client currently puts together the reports manually. They comb through the database and curate custom reports for each of their customers, but they plan to automate this process with their new product.

We wanted to create and test the platform’s design before spending time and money on development.

Image for post
Image for post

Some of the requirements for features (to consider either in this sprint or in future sprints) included:

  1. An onboarding flow to gather information and educate new users about this relatively new field.
  2. Progressive search features to guide users through a recommended selection process.
  3. Different logins for multiple types of users, and team or organization logins in the future.

The only problem? We would have loved to have our team of 7 members across different areas (design, project management, development, writing, etc) in the same place for all four days of a Design Sprint, with lots of coffee and sticky notes. But we were spread out across North and South America, and wouldn’t be able to get together for a whole week to sprint it out.

So we adapted the process and customized our own remote Design Sprint.

The team

For those of us who hadn’t worked with this healthtech client before, this experience doubled as an intensive onboarding to the project.

The process

We split the typical Monday of the Design Sprint 2.0 into 2 days, and then Tuesday’s art gallery/user flows/storyboard into 2 days as well. Prototyping and user testing days stayed as written, with just a short check-in call on prototyping days to let the designers work for the rest of the time.

Image for post
Image for post
Remote design sprint schedule, Indicius-style

Beyond adapting the schedule, we had to adapt our tools and our expectations for a remote setting.

The planning

Instead, we tried to communicate suggestions for disconnecting ahead of time: turn off notifications, no email checking, phones off during the sprint calls.

Setting up and setting expectations

  • Set up virtual sticky notes and boards on Miro, our remote whiteboard of choice.
Image for post
Image for post
Our remote set up on Miro
  • Provide clear guidelines (and examples) of the 3-part concept creation. We needed to allow more time for the facilitator to upload concept sketches and edit notes so that they were readable. Tip: For readability, we recommend using a scanning app (such as the Dropbox app or GeniusScan) instead of just taking photos.
  • Make sure you over-communicate details of the sprint to the client (or anyone who will be remote) during the preparation period of a remote sprint. You don’t want them to feel left out of the fun.

The tools

  • Miro for our virtual workspace
  • Zoom for video calls
  • A dedicated #sprint channel on Slack for dedicated sprint conversations and communication during non-Zoom call hours
  • The Time-Timer, a physical timer to keep us on schedule for all activities
  • Invision for prototyping and user tests
  • Pens and white legal paper for offline activities

During the sprint: A summary of our experience

Ideation and definition

Remote note: When you’re typing, it’s easier to write way more How Might We (HMW) questions and 2-year goals than in an in-person setting, where you’re scribbling on sticky notes. You might need more time for HMWs and 2-year goals to be able to review and cut out repetition. It’s way too easy to type a long, detailed 2-year goal, so make sure you narrow it down as much as possible to keep you focused during the Sprint.

Lightning demos

Remote note: Screen sharing worked well for sharing lightning demos. Pasting screenshots directly onto the Miro board was also helpful for reference later in the Sprint.

Offline concept creation

Since we weren’t in the same room together (and we couldn’t look over everyone’s shoulders as they sketched), it was especially important to reiterate the time limit, and explain how the first three exercises help get you ready for concept sketching.

Remote note: Send a calendar invite for the roughly 45 minutes of offline time for sketching, so that Sprinters block it off in their calendar. We found that even though we weren’t sketching concepts during a call, it was hard to squeeze in time for sketching during day 2 if we didn’t plan for it.

Remote user testing: What we learned

Remote note: Since this first sprint, we’ve found it works better to split user interviews into 2 days to accommodate time zones and busy schedules.

Here’s what we learned from testing our prototype:

  • Users like the straightforward onboarding/data collection process that we had designed. The lightning demos really helped us with this part — to visualize onboarding processes in other industries.
Image for post
Image for post
User testing feedback: stickies everywhere
  • We were focusing on the design and general flow of onboarding and search, but users got distracted by our lack of or placeholder copy in certain places throughout the prototype. It was a first-hand lesson on why content-led design is so important, especially when testing with real users.
  • It became clear that we needed to account for a second Design Sprint in the future focused on the marketing website and clearly defining the value proposition.
  • Users needed much more guidance and orientation than we expected around how to conceptualize the process of searching through the catalog. This product offers a new solution in the Healthtech space, and users aren’t familiar with it.
  • Users gave us lots of constructive feedback about our “comparison” screen — once you’ve gone through the onboarding, selected the filters, and are comparing your results. We were later able to address this in an iteration sprint and users loved it.

Unexpected benefits of a remote Design Sprint


Lasting sticky notes


What’s next?

Since that first remote Design Sprint, we’ve completed a second remote Design Sprint to test a separate prototype for the platform’s secondary audience. We’ve carried out two iteration sprints to refine the prototypes based on feedback from those first user tests.

This week, the client is launching their MVP, and development has been a fairly straightforward process, thanks to all of the early testing we did during the Design Sprints.

Want to learn more about how we run remote design sprints at Indicius? Get in touch:


Sharing stories, projects and experiences — Indi style.

Annie Bacher

Written by

Copywriter and workshop facilitator — Helping software companies write for clarity and connection.



Sharing stories, projects and experiences — Indi style.

Annie Bacher

Written by

Copywriter and workshop facilitator — Helping software companies write for clarity and connection.



Sharing stories, projects and experiences — Indi style.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store