What is an Agile Design Sprint? And why should anyone care?

Yana Carstens
Mar 3 · 4 min read

In this post, I will showcase a model that I developed as a result of experimentation to integrate design into agile successfully. My experience as a UX designer started in design-centric companies but evolved into working for software consultancies, where I started working in agile. This model emerged out of a pure desire to satisfy the fast-paced, MVP lust without compromising design methodology or craft. If you are a Product Manager, Product, or UX designer who works in engineering-driven companies, and is looking for a way to start integrating design into agile workflows, this post will help.

An Agile Design Sprint is a model a product designer or UX/UI team can follow to integrate the human-centered design process to scale in an agile environment. It is a method optimized for speed, collaboration, iteration, and execution that produces developer ready deliverables without compromising the quality of design craft, in a repeatable and scalable way.

What an Agile Design Sprint is Not

An Agile Design Sprint is not a Google Venture Sprint dubbed GV Design Sprint. A GV sprint generates concepts and tests ideas on whether they should be invested in or not. A GV design sprint is a method to ideate, create, and test a novel idea, risky feature, product idea, or business model with end-users in one week, testing one context, scenario, or task at a time. The value is validation and feedback on how and if to evolve the concept, not to provide production-ready deliverables.

During an Agile Design Sprint, designers create and deliver how a product feature’s experience should work and look like in collaboration with the product team and engineering. The outputs are well-thought-out designs in the form of wireframes or interactive prototypes, ready for implementation, and include multiple scenarios, states, and micro-interactions. They are informed by user research, business, and product goals. They are estimated and planned out the same way development is. The outputs communicate well-thought-out experiences that are ready for development after each one to two-week sprint.

Why are Agile Design Sprints Important?

Growing tech companies must invest in user experience to enhance the quality of the revenue-generating products (mobile apps, websites, IoT, PaaS, and SaaS products). Doing so is proven to increase customer acquisition, retention, loyalty, and cost savings. However, it is not as easy as adding designers to a team — more on that in another post. Hence, many engineering centered companies face difficulties integrating design processes into product development workflows in a consistent and scalable way. Introducing a new method using already established language is a surefire way to start lifting the divide between designers and developers. Using a term like Agile Design Sprints brings the disciplines in alignment with regards to the value they provide to those investing in them and makes it easier to communicate the needs of the design team to those influencing company processes.

“Only 5% of companies reap the greatest benefits from integrated design practices.”

— Invision Design Maturity Report

The name Agile Design Sprint can be replaced with any other name synonymous with product development naming convention, which could vary within different organizations. The goal is to embed and infuse an organization with the design process in a scalable way that will move the organization higher in design maturity. Having a term that implies and includes the process without making it sound foreign is more natural to communicate and create buy-in for adoption. Hence my advice is to use already established language within companies showing resistance to the product, engineering, or business side.

Agile Design Sprint in Action

Below is an example of an agile design sprint which includes daily activities, roles involved, and outcomes. The traits are the definition of design epics, scenarios, and requirements, team feedback loops, designer-led critiques, full flow designs, and final reviews during demos.

Tips and Reminders for Agile Design Sprints

Using this model has been effective to introduce and make design thinking scalable with companies sharing one or more of the following:

  • Engineering driven and introducing product design into their workflows.
  • The company is lacking design leadership representation at the highest level.
  • The company is lacking an established design practice that produces consistently high-quality outputs.

In short, defining Agile Design Sprints is important to:

  • Create a unifying language between design, product, and engineering using already familiar terminology.
  • Avoid us vs. them mentality.
  • Create space for the design process.
  • Create an environment for the UX design process that leads to high-quality outcomes and deliverables.
  • Give traditionally software consultancies a “package” to estimate design effort.
  • Give product companies a starter for defining design operations.

To learn more about elevating design practices within engineering-driven companies, follow Sentio Design on LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Originally published at https://www.sentio.design on March 3, 2020.

Sentio Design

Powering companies through human-centered design.

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