What is the Design Sprint
The Design Sprint is a proven process, that can be from four to five days in its full version.
It is a process for validating ideas and solving significant challenges through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.
It is developed by Google Ventures and increasingly used by large companies. It is one of the most effective ways to quickly find solutions to complex problems in teams as an alternative to classic exhausting meetings and long work sessions that often prove to be less productive.
It is essential that all the work team is present during at least the first three days of the Design Sprint. The process works to the best of its potential if the ideas and discussions arise from the active participation of each interested member in the project, in our case 6 team members participated in the sprint.
The Design Sprint in Starteed (our company)
The Desing Sprint methodology is well defined and shared, but over time different versions of the process have been born and, after an in-depth analysis of the various proposals, for our project we have decided to follow the AJ & Smart method (already used by companies like Ebay, Red Bull, Salesforce, Slack and others) structured in four days. The material made available by AJ & Smart on their website and their Youtube channel was very clear and the one most suited to our case.
But how are the single days of work structured?
Let’s see it together.
Day 1 — Monday, Define the Challenge
During Monday morning the following are defined: the long-term goal of the company, also called “HMW” (How might we?) And the map of the actions performed by the customers to arrive, in our case, to purchase one of our products.
The work session started with a quick but effective brainstorming during which the team had 20 minutes to ask questions about Starteed’s mission, its ideal target, its products and the way they are offered to the public.
At the end of the brainstorming, each member of the team was asked to write on a post-it which should have been, according to him, the result achieved by Starteed at two years starting from that day in the best possible scenario, imagining then to be succeeded in that time to overcome every possible obstacle and find the solution to all market demands.
At this point there followed a voting process that would be used throughout the sprint. Depending on the type of decision to be made, each member of the team had from 2 to 3 “dots” (stickers) to stick to the post-it with the most correct answer for him.
The post-it note with the most votes was the one to be taken into consideration and in the case of same balance, the most experienced team member called “Decider” (generally a member of the company board) establishes which decision to focus on to avoid decision stalls.
The most voted long-term goal was: “In two years from now, Starteed is going to be a leader in providing technology solutions for crowdfunding in Italy”.
How might we?
Once we defined our Long Term Goal, it was time to ask ourselves a different kind of question, how can we reach the goal we set ourselves? With the same methodology used just before each team member had 20 minutes to write his HMW, the goal was to write what obstacles and problems Starteed should have been able to overcome and resolve to achieve its long-term goal.
After the presentation of the HMW and the voting process, some of the most chosen were the following:
- “Will we be able to make people understand that we are not a crowdfunding platform?”
- “Will we be able to intercept the right target?”
- “Will we be able to show our experience in the market?”
- “Will we be able to pass the concept that we create a crowdfunding campaign quickly and easily?”
We first had to identify the set of starting “actors”, the individuals who use Starteed, and the point of arrival of the map that in our case is reached by purchasing one of our solutions for the crowdfunding.
Once the actors have been established, in our case a “customer B2C” and a “customer B2B”, and the point of arrival of the map we then analyzed the acquisition channels of the single individuals (web searches, advertising, referrals, direct sales, etc.) and the actions performed by them in the Starteed ecosystem (site visit, contact request, trial activation, etc.) to reach the arrival point, the purchase of one of our products.
At this point, we have taken the most voted HMW and established together where each of them should have been placed on the map, at what point of those actions performed by our potential customers, we will therefore have to be able to solve the obstacles previously identified.
It seemed immediately obvious that the goal of the Design Sprint should have been the development of a new version of the Starteed website.
Lighting Demo & Notes
After the lunch break, each participant was asked to search and analyse the competitors’ websites to identify up to 3 elements or concepts that, according to him, made sense to use as a starting point for the prototype of the new site.
After each member of the team then presented the elements identified and the reasons for his choices; then followed the well-established voting phase from which the elements and concepts to be surely used in the future prototype.
The time had come to put on paper what had been discussed so far. The sketching phase provides a series of exercises aimed at creating a first “concept” of the final prototype, one of these is called “Crazy eight”.
Each participant had precisely eight minutes to design eight different versions (on a single A4 sheet divided into eight equal parts) of his ideal site prototype or even just a part of it. Obviously given the limited time available, it was not possible to do well on the aesthetic part. The exercise was very useful (as well as very funny!) To let the most different ideas come out of all team members and to prepare for the prototyping of future “Solution Sketches”.
The Solution Sketch is the result of the first day. Using three or four A4 sheets united in a single design, each participant had an hour to make their concept for the future prototype; to do so, everyone had to keep in mind what emerged during the first part of the day and the interesting or useful elements or concepts of other websites taken for example.
When creating your Solution Sketch, it was essential to keep in mind the three rules indicated by AJ & Smart:
- Ugly is ok (ugly is ok)! This is not a competition for those who draw better, focus on content and not on the graphic aspect;
- Words are important (words are important)! To support the drawings it was necessary to add a post-it to describe verbatim more in detail any flows or concepts that are difficult to express through the drawing;
- Give it a Nickname (give it a Nickname)! Solution Sketch would be analysed the following day anonymously; in order to avoid valuations that were not sincere, it was important to explain the various concepts referring to them with proper names instead of associating them with the people names.
What followed was a very intense and productive hour during which an almost surreal silence reigned, while each member of the team created his concept with the dedication that would be analyzed the following day.
Day 2 — Tuesday, Decide and Storyboard
Arriving at the office on Tuesday, after the morning coffee, we immediately set to work to evaluate the individual Solution Sketches.
After a first half-hour in which everyone had to vote for their ideal concept or even just part of it, this time with unlimited red dots available to allow the creation of real “heat maps” of interest on the most voted elements, every single Solution Sketch has been analyzed from top to bottom with particular reference to its most voted areas and to any doubts that have been written in the meantime on special post-it attached to the bottom of each job.
Only at this point, the authors of the various sketches were revealed to allow them to answer the questions raised during the anonymous analysis session.
The result of this first decision-making part made it possible to identify on which elements the team should concentrate to give life to the definitive prototype of the new Starteed website.
User Test Flow & Storyboard
Now that we had defined the fundamental elements from which to start developing the prototype of the new site, all that remained was to identify the set of actions that users would perform on our website starting from their landing to the purchase of one of the products of Starteed, called “Storyboard”.
To do this we have taken the points of departure and arrival already defined for the map created the day before, then respectively the acquisition channels and the purchase of one of the Starteed products, and we have placed them at the beginning and the end of our Ideal storyboard. At this point, the exercise provided that each participant proposed in 30 minutes the list of actions carried out in sequence on the site by a potential customer to get from point one to point six.
Each member of the team then voted the flow that he considered most linear or even just one of the actions that convinced him the most. We have therefore reached the end of the second day with Starteed’s long-term goal, the challenges to be overcome, a first idea of the best graphic concept to be developed, the map and the storyboard followed by a potential customer on the future website.
All we had to do was start “Prototype”!
Day 3 — Wednesday, Prototyping
The prototyping phase, unlike the previous ones, does not follow precise rules and does not include a series of pre-defined exercises. At this point each team is free to organise the development phases of the prototype in the way that it considers most appropriate, the important thing is to keep the decisions taken during the previous two days and to avoid setting in motion new decision-making processes that at this point of the sprint would be deleterious.
New ideas arising at the time during prototyping may indeed be exciting but would put in doubt everything that has been decided during the sprint.
In our case we have decided to divide the work according to the areas of competence: the web designers and developers have concentrated on developing the graphic template of the site’s pages, while those of us who are in the front line with the client have taken care of identifying the flows, the most suitable material and copy for the individual areas of the site.
The common goal was to arrive at the end of the third day with a final version of the homepage of the new Starteed website to be tested the following day by a series of testers selected based on their degree of knowledge of the sector and their type of work.
Day 4 — Thursday, Test!
During the previous days of sprinting, the person in charge of the final tests had scheduled appointments for Thursday with the testers selected in the meantime.
We then asked each tester to browse the prototype of the homepage and perform a series of precise actions that would allow us to understand the behaviour of a user on the website and its interactions with the proposed actions.
During the test, two of us set aside the negative and positive feedback that emerged during the navigation of the prototype; these feedbacks turned out to be very useful for the refinement of some areas of the homepage of the site that we had imagined.
From the first day, each participant was enthusiastic about experimenting with this innovative work method and fully entered into the collaborative spirit of Design Sprint.
Every important decision, starting from the long-term objective of the company to the design of the final prototype, was in fact defined together and voted fairly; the targeted and timed discussions foreseen by the sprint have also allowed each team member to acquire the set of fundamental information of Starteed’s business (the target, the positioning of the products offered, the advantages of the developed technology, marketing and communication) which are often taken for granted or incorrectly attributed to only part of the team.
Passing three entire days of all team to the sprint, can be scaring, but in our case I can confirm that the three days thus programmed have allowed us to save time and resources in the long term with the further advantage of making the entire team participate in decision-making processes and create a tangible and testable prototype in a very short time.
If you want to see the output of our Design Sprint, visit our website.