October 24, 2019 Websites | Intranets | Research | Digital brand management | Digital communications

Move in a bold new direction with design sprints 

By Simone Slaviero & Veronika Zitko

Does the fear of failure keep you from fully committing to that one risky idea with a ton of potential? Or maybe you're familiar with this scenario: on the brink of kickstarting a new project when you suddenly realise that no one is on the same page. It could even be that your project is underway, but things are getting a little dull and you need to reinvigorate it – fast!

Design sprints might just be what you need to give your projects (and your team!) a much needed boost: a 5 day process that will provide you with a fully tested prototype and a roadmap of related features.

You might’ve heard of design sprints. Or maybe you're new to them and you're wondering what the fuss is all about. At Comprend, we believe that every company could learn something from them. Join us as we cover the whys and hows of a successful design sprint!

Design Sprints were developed by Jake Knapp during his time at Google Ventures (GV) back in 2010. It's a proven methodology that facilitates problem-solving and eliminates risks related to the release of new products, services or features. After just 5 days spent on a design sprint with us, you will have a working and tested prototype and a roadmap of prioritised features – all ready for development.

We will facilitate the process, which will take you from identifying the issue to defining a possible solution and all the way to a prototype. During the first two days, your job will be to feed in and discuss problems, needs, and facts. We'll check in regularly during the following days and conclude the session by presenting all our findings to you.

Design sprints - day by day

The process is highly structured to ensure key outcomes are achieved during the week. The most important thing is maintaining momentum once the process is underway. This is why design sprints are at their best when they’re held over 5 consecutive days, typically Monday to Friday.

So, what is a design sprint? And who does it involve? We’ve prepared a high level overview of the daily activities and outcomes!

Day 1 - Map & Sketch

Mondays are when magic is made. Thanks to the participants, experts in fields like marketing, communications, sales, IT, customer service, engineering, HR – just like you! – the first sprint day helps provide a cross-sectional overview of the situation. For the best results, you will ideally want to gather 5-7 of your experts, covering some of these areas, in the same room.

One of your chosen experts will be designated as the overarching decision-maker during parts of the process. This is typically a Product Owner/Manager, Project Manager or CEO – basically, someone who is already authorised to make decisions for the project within the business.

Comprend will facilitate and guide you through a range of activities. Together, we will define problems, goals, and a focus area for concept sketching. Some of the overarching activities include:

  • Structured conversations: several exercises will put a stop to endless discussions. Instead, we promote effective and efficient communication that enables everyone’s voices to be heard. We will reframe problems as 'How might we..?' questions, brainstorm long-term goals, and identify related challenges.
  • Mapping: next, we'll jump to the whiteboard, mapping the steps that users might take on their journey to achieving their selected goal. We can then refer to the 'How might we' questions to choose the perfect focus area for solution sketching.
  • Sketching: starting with a quick decision jam for some inspiration, we'll build up to the final solution sketches though a four-part exercise that starts with note-taking and scribbles.

By the end of the day, you'll each have a concept ready for review on day 2!

Day 2 - Decisions & Storyboarding

Following our incredible efforts on Monday, we'll all return for one more day together to create the final solution for prototyping. By the end of the day, we'll have accomplished the following:

  • A final concept that's been voted on by the group and decision-maker.
  • A final storyboard pulled together from individual boards that contains in-depth detail ready for prototyping.

This is where most of your job is done. Comprend will take it from here and check in with you throughout the rest of the process.

Day 3 & 4 - Prototyping & Testing

We now transform your chosen storyboard into a live, working prototype. We will also suggest a quick catch-up or two to share progress and collect feedback.

During the prototype testing phase, we also welcome collaboration from all those who would like to be involved. Depending on our progress during this portion of the sprint, we can potentially start user testing as early as day 4.

Day 5 - Testing, recap & next steps

By the end of the week, we will finally have what we all came for: answers! The prototype testing will reveal what is or isn't working – and what is ready to go into development. We will meet with you to reflect on the previous week and provide a neat pack covering the next steps you need to take based on the week's findings.

Post-design sprint

The next phase can include another iteration of the design sprint, allowing for a more refined prototype to be created and tested based on existing feedback. We can also set up a product roadmap and break it all the way down to user stories, ready for backlog management and development.

And if you really want to hit the ground running, we have self-organising teams ready to jump in and launch your Minimum Awesome Product (MAP)!

Why design sprints are successful

The process is successful due to the building block exercises, which are easy to complete and allow everyone to make their voice heard. This way, goals can be aligned, ideas are explored openly, and concepts are easily created.

People often wonder if they need to have any design or artistic skills – we're here to tell you that no Michelangelos are required! What we need most is your expertise and we are here to guide you through all these steps, from A to Z.

When to use them

If you feel like you have been having endless discussions about your upcoming project, team alignment is not happening, goals are unclear, and you're never delivering on time – a design sprint might be the right choice for you! If you're facing pressure to be innovative, know that this is the perfect process to test out new, bold ideas and see how they would land with users. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that that risky idea might just work and propel you to that next level you've been seeking!

Whatever the outcome, design sprints will always provide you with alignment and definite answers that will move you in the right direction for your business. Are you ready? We are!

Simone Slaviero

Business Analyst – Service Design



Veronika Zitko

UX and visual designer



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