Design Sprints: Building solutions in 5 days

Design Sprints: Building solutions in 5 days

Design Sprints is a methodology that aims at more effectiveness within the design process and a better understanding and teamwork between designers, developers, and Project Managers (PMs). Learn more about this.

Author: Sebastián Saco

Design Sprints: Building solutions in 5 days

In a regular software development process, it is hard to know when UX designers should be introduced. Sometimes, they define general design systems at the beginning, and they are never seen again. But sometimes, they prototype detailed screens causing bottlenecks to start the development, or even worse, the development begins without the designer’s intervention, and the result is a Frankenstein product, which is not unified in the visual, language, and behavioral terms we would like it to be.

Thinking about this, in the UX world, the need arose to make work processes more effective by getting out of previous software development models and adopting methodologies more focused on design in order to make it more efficient. Google has managed to make this a reality by creating the Design Sprints, which is a methodology that aims at more effectiveness within the design process and a better understanding and teamwork between designers, developers, and Project Managers (PMs).

In the next lines, we will propose to oil the wheels of the usual methodology (either Scrum, Lean, Kanban, etc.) to provide swift responses from the design team to save development time by building quick iterations. Thanks to this, we will be able to remove common UX mistakes that are often seen much later in the development process, when the fixing costs are much higher.

Meet the Design Sprints

We often hear things like, “We don’t have time for fancy design processes, to iterate the same flow several times; things need to be shipped now,” or, “UX techniques are fantastic, but they do not fit into our schedule; we will see them in the future.”

The Design Sprints are a methodology used in the design process, which consist of building iterations –in only 5 days– without detailed interfaces, making a basic skeleton and not concentrating on specific or aesthetic details that are not going to contribute, in the beginning, which can delay the entire process.

By doing this, you will reduce risks and costs and will be able to answer your business cross-questions in a better way. The gist of the Design Sprints relies on the following process:

  1. Monday: understand what we are building
  2. Tuesday: diverge / Sketch different proposals
  3. Wednesday: decide the best approach
  4. Thursday: prototype it
  5. Friday: validate it (test it)

Design Sprints: Building solutions in 5 days

What does all this mean?

  1. Understand: The week starts with this simple action: understanding the problem. If we want to get the best solution for users, we have to be able to know their contexts, realities, and needs. If we want to get the best solution for them, we also need something manageable.

We are not going to reinvent the wheel in a few days; we are just going to add some snowshoes to it in case we need to travel to frozen areas. The solution needs to be something attainable, a problem or need that we will be able to solve in that short period of time.

  1. Diverge: It is all about sketching different proposals. This is a very low-cost solution since it is not a complete detailed layout. It can be done quickly and tested quickly to see if the solution adds up to the client’s needs and if it follows best practices. Thanks to this, the team can set the groundwork ahead and improve their own performance.

Since we might build something that is going to be much bigger or much smaller than we thought, it is cost-efficient to know this beforehand.

  1. Decide: It is time to choose, so we storyboard the proposals and pick the best solution. Deciding what final storyboard will be helps in the prototype, as we materialize the proposal into something similar to a comic book, describing the journey the user has to make to achieve a goal.
  1. Prototyping: Prototyping comes in on the fourth day. Do not try to design something beautiful but strive to prototype something. Your clients will thank you. At the very beginning, a beautiful car that does not work as intended is still a useless car, and then, it becomes a useful car.
  1. Validate: At last, the work is validated with other users, so we know about the product’s performance: how it works and what does not work. All this information allows us to plan improvements down the road.

And that is how it’s done! In five days, we have something to show.

How much can you gain by implementing this methodology? First of all, you get a clearly defined product by investing little time with a fraction of the effort. However, the Design Sprint is not a one-trick pony. You will also get the following perks:

  1. In one week, you can have something to test or develop. Remember that designers’ work involves the Project Managers as much the Product Owners; it is impossible to obtain good results in isolation.
  2. You do not need to iterate the same flow if you do not have the time. The end product will be better even if you just do one Design Sprint week and then ship it to be developed.
  3. We may realize we needed this kind of methodology too late. If you cannot afford to apply all the UX process, just test the prototypes on Friday. You will be amazed at the kind of input you get even with testing sketches on paper.

The creators of Design Sprints have explained all this in just one minute, or in a few words, the cycle is described this way:

Design Sprints: Building solutions in 5 days

“On Monday, you will map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you will sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you will make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you will hammer out a high-fidelity prototype. And on Friday, you will test it with real live humans.”

What does the Design Sprint offer to the internal processes?

As we said before, by applying this innovative methodology, you will save time, achieve more polished products, spot UX constraints, and have a better-defined project. You can catch things that might be more complicated to develop in the future, but it is ok since you will have detected them very early in the process.

Within the team, the Design Sprints can have a high impact on a daily basis:

  1. UX designers will be on the gestation of the project, and they will identify common UX mistakes using heuristics, prototyping, and defining common behaviors in your app.
  2. We can relieve the burden upon PMs’ and developers’ shoulders by trying to think of easier ways to approach the same problem to define a clear flow where the user does not feel stuck in a maze and can accomplish their goals in an efficient way.
  3. You obtain fast design deliverables. No more waiting weeks or months for an entire app to be laid out. Thanks to the Design Sprint, designers can focus their energy on something that can be defined and prototyped in 5 days. Of course, it needs to be feasible.

What if the project has already started and you want this? Don’t worry. You can use this process to either unlock impediments, speed up the development process, or define a product collaboratively.

To sum up

Building software has taken a much more human-centric approach. We need to know our audience, the way they live, and how they would use the product. With all this knowledge, our best effort will be to give them the best possible experience.

Design Sprints: Building solutions in 5 days

Working with a methodology like Design Sprints offers more definition over the product, more collaboration among stakeholders, faster design deliverables, and surely it will be the kick to define what the final product will be like. Having a more human and user-centric approach is also a good starting point.

As we work in a fast-paced industry, challenging the way we work to make it more efficient should be the norm, and since time is our biggest constraint, why not try something that simplifies the unnecessary parts of the process?

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