There has been a lot of buzz around the idea of design sprints. But what is a design sprint, and should you be running them?
Let’s begin by looking at precisely what a design sprint is.
In many cases, this translates into a way to define and kick off some form of digital project, although Google Ventures has used the technique beyond that field.
Google has created a highly structured five-day process with activities defined for each day, to help participants come up with actionable solutions to their projects. A typical design sprint runs as follows:
The whole process is highly interactive and user-focused. In short, it embraces many of the principles of design thinking to produce something tangible with which everybody can agree.
Design sprints are being widely adopted and with good reason. When organisations approach them in the right way, they have the potential to be very beneficial.
For a start, they break the pattern of committee-based decision making that is so prevalent in many companies, and moves away from detailed specification documents. Instead, design sprints encourage collaboration through making. They are an excellent way of bringing together varying stakeholders and helping them work towards a shared vision.
As a result, sprints are an approach adopted by many agencies when working with new clients. They help the agencies get to know the key players involved, and ensure that everybody knows what they are going to build. Unlike a specification document, a design sprint helps avoid misunderstandings about what the final deliverable will be.
Design sprints also encourage original thinking through experimentation and iteration. Because of their focus on sketching and prototyping, it is possible to explore ideas that would typically be rejected by the company out of hand.
But probably the most valuable benefit of design sprints is that they introduce stakeholders to the importance of validating ideas with real users.
The answer is a definitive yes. But that doesn’t mean you need to be using design sprints all the time.
Because of their popularity right now, design sprints have started to be seen as somewhat of a silver bullet, but that isn’t the case. They are merely another tool in our arsenal.
When we have a well-defined problem to solve and access to the right stakeholders, a design sprint can prove invaluable. But in other situations, we might be better off running a customer journey mapping workshop or carrying out a collaborative wireframing exercise. It’s about using the right tool for the job.
That said, there are some lessons we can learn from design sprints that are applicable in a far wider variety of situations