I find gratification in creating products that are not only objectively beautiful, but that are conducive to a great user experience. Achieving that end-result come at the price of the digital world’s most precious of the commodities — time. In addition to creating a top-of-the-line product, we apply a user-centric approach to our clients’ business problems. It is a formula that we use on a regular basis to bolster client happiness.

Conceptualizing a product requires much effort. Many businesses spend a lot of time and resources coming up with a plan that is weak from the get-go, thus developing a product that is ultimately a poor fit for the client’s objective. Agencies, including ours, are at times guilty of condoning the sloppy process which I call, Design & Dash. Design & Dash is where we design for, and hastily implement a product without providing a clear path or considering solutions to potential problems that could potentially arise. Time and/or budget constraints are typical causes for this haste and it often ends up costing the client more money in the long run because of the rework that is often needed. A product design sprint can minimize these kinks or unforeseen liabilities from the objectives and help reduce potentially costly redesigns or direction changes in the future.

So what is a product design sprint?

No, you aren’t running a team 5k while brainstorming and verbally puffing out ideas between breaths (although, I wouldn’t put it past the new-age team-building practices of some companies). I would consider it akin to an intense track and field week for conceptualizing and nailing down a concept with a core group that may include champions of applicable teams or stakeholders from your clients’ business. What would normally take months of effort is ideally achieved within five days. This intensive design sprint process was developed at GV (formerly Google Ventures), a venture capital investment firm whose goal was helping startups solve problems quickly. Design sprints are considered an efficient way of creating products and identifying solutions to existing problems. They can assure clients that their product is on a correct avenue by allowing them to participate in the outcome, and in turn bringing greater clarity to a project from the beginning.

Great. How do I get this design sprint going?

  1. First of all, get comfy.
    Find the perfect room that has adequate light and is a good temperature— ideally a large conference room with plenty of whiteboards. Keep in mind you are spending quite a bit of time in these rooms and you want to be useful instead of thinking about how tired or cold you are.
  2. Be sure you have all supplies needed and prepared.
    Sharpies, pens/pencils, Post-Its, paper, Blu-Tac, and stickers are must haves. View this handy checklist from GV to make sure you have everything you need.
  3. Get the right people in the room.
    On the client side, the attendees should include a product owner and key stakeholders. Typically you don’t want any more than five because the conversion will tend to derail, but get key decision-makers to be a part of the process. On the internal side the team should consist of a tech expert, UX expert, and a coordinator who is able to conduct the team and keep the momentum going.

I’m ready. Let’s get this party started.

Day 1: Understand the problems you’re trying to solve and agree to a long-term goal. Make a roadmap of the challenges you intend to face and single-out a feasible portion of the problem that you can solve within five days.

Day 2: Is a day of solutions. Begin focusing on conquerable issues that can make a difference, attempting to solve the problems you identified in Day 1. Because everyone in the group has different ideals on how to potentially solve the problems. Everyone will work individually to sketch out within a short time frame following the sprint’s four-step process. Be sure to not get caught up on the minute details of one specific solution. The idea is to get as many different options as possible to present to the group.

Day 3: At this point, you’ll see that your boardroom most likely has a pile of sketched solutions haphazardly scattered on an already crowded table full of remnants of take-out meals, half-used sticker dot sets, and Post-It notes. Though it may be overwhelming to look at, consider it a job well done… so far. The next task is to gather the ideas, critique each solution, and end up with one solid path.

You want to agree on the right avenue that aids the team in reaching the long-term goal. The team will create scenes that cater to the path. After the winning sketched solutions are selected, you’ll create a storyboard (a step-by-step walkthrough of the product) for your prototype.

Day 4: With a storyboard developed, a working prototype can can be created by the UX expert of the group. The prototype is not meant to look refined and it need not be branded or even function on point. GV states that, “a realistic façade is all you need to test with customers.” This makes it easier for the UX expert to complete the “bones” of your product prototype within a day. At the end of the day, prepare for Day 5 testing by confirming the testing schedule, reviewing the prototype, and drafting an interview script for the end-user focus group.

Day 5: It’s go-time! Turn over your working prototype to the interviewers and end-user focus group. You can record the test sessions and share them with all the stakeholders so they watch how potential real customers interact with the prototype. This validation provides an insightful look at the product and shines a spotlight on potential problems with the experience that should arise.

Pat yourself on the back. Now, go sleep.

What a feat. You’ve endured five intense days of brainstorming solutions to a problem, creating a storyboard from a focused solution, designing a workable prototype, testing and validating your product with end-users, and if I had to guess, you are ready for the weekend. As grueling as the 5-day process may have seemed, the takeaway should have revealed that the design sprint was a beneficial way of creating a product while maintaining the group unanimity of the long-term goal.

Revisions at the expense of precious time and resources should be minimal, leaving you with more time to focus on the benefits of your product. Here’s to many successful product launches!

TL;DR

Design & Dash leads to a happy customer at first, but a lot of expenditures in the long run because of unnecessary product pivots. A design sprint can help to uncover and avoid those product road-bumps, helping a new idea launch faster and cost less money in the long-run.

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