Here is how we do Design Sprints

Learn how to use them for making great digital products

Google Design Sprint (GDS) has been an invaluable partner for making Design Sprints here at Charlie Tango.

The method offers an excellent framework for early testing, and — with a bit of tweaking — it is great for developing digital products. Read on and find out how our Senior UX Designer, Ulla Tønner, uses Design Sprints.

If you are unfamiliar with Google Design Sprint, this article is not for you. You need to know the rules before you can break them. Ulla recommends you visit this site and read this book first. Then come back.

We professionalize loose ideas

The most significant benefit of the design sprint is how we can quickly visualize, qualify and test ideas. By sketching from the very beginning of a sprint, the team brings loose ideas into reality in a very effective way.

Not only are we able to test the ideas with end-users on the fifth day. We can also validate because everyone can relate to the sketches.

But it is not done by merely drawing sketches and prototype the idea.

We use tools like design drivers and design principles in a very structured process following the sketching exercise. While the sketching is for opening your mind and trying out other ways to do stuff, we also added a design driver follow-up.

Here we analyze the sketches to create design drivers and design principles. This exercise gives us a valuable list of statements and words that the team can score according to how much weight they should have in the concept.

So, instead of only sketches we now have a list of prioritized design principles supported by a bunch of sketches as a launch pad for the following prototyping process.

We base decisions on user validation

Typically, according to GDS, you make decisions in the middle of the Design Sprint.

But halfway through the conceptualization, chances are zero to none, that you can make a qualified decision: Ideas have just been quickly jotted down, and nothing is tried or tested.

So, we would instead make decisions based on the final user tests where we have validated our concept with the end-users and know what works — and what doesn’t.

That is why we like to make decisions in the following week. We use half a day on summarizing after the team has “slept on it,” and it is in this part of the sprint, that we bring in the decision-makers.

In our experience, these people rarely have the time to participate in the entire sprint week anyway, so this is a good time to bring them into the loop. It is easier for them to go on with a tested prototype than an overdrawn post-it note.

We put together a great team

When putting together your Design Sprint Team, we have found that there are a few golden rules. The team members must:

  1. Be grounded in their field of expertise and trust their knowledge
    In a design sprint, the team members do not prepare! The idea is that we have all the knowledge we need in the sprint room. If the members were allowed to research first, they would spend too much time doing that for the sprint to be worthwhile.
  2. Have a creative mindset and be able to see beyond their field of expertise.
    A team of strong professionals is worthless in the design sprint if they can only do what they do best. They must be bold enough to try out things they’ve never done before or outside their field of expertise if you want to make creative concepts.
  3. Trust the knowledge and expertise of the rest of the team
    The real value emerges between the team members’ diverse knowledge base. That demands a great deal of trust from each member that everyone knows what they are talking about.

We are facilitators

One of the reasons that a Design Sprint is so efficient is because it is so tightly run. You can achieve a lot in just five days if the process is always driven forward.

And it must be driven; you can not expect it to move by itself. That is the job of the facilitator.

Great facilitators have insight into group dynamics and processes and know how to make sure all team members contribute to the processes.

They know how to make sure a product is delivered on day four by keeping discussions and nit-picking from dragging the process to a standstill.

Also, they are experts when it comes to design processes, so they know how to map both business and user needs and put these to use in the Design Sprint process. They need to be sure that you can actually test what you set out to test.

All Charlie Tango facilitators have a UX background because of these qualities, and because they have great insight into user-testing and translating user (and business) input into real products.

Remember! The facilitator can NOT participate in the process:

You can not stir the pot if you are in it.

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