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[Guide] How To: The 3 Day Design Sprint

June 22, 2016

Developing a product or service can quickly degenerate into a debate that continues for months. Therefore, Google Ventures developed the design sprint: a methodology based on agile and scrum, that allows you to go through the entire process of design, prototyping and testing with customers, in five days. Design sprints offer an efficient process for creating a website.

During larger website development projects a lot of discussion, coordination and focus is involved. Larger companies often face silos, separate budgets and especially a lack of a joint focus. By stepping out of the working atmosphere for three to five days, physically coming together and running through the process step by step, you will make great strides which allow you to avoid capital errors.

The starting point of a design sprint is that people with different backgrounds come together allowing them to learn from each other, and there will immediately be a wider scope. A possible composition could be: a product owner with mandate, someone from marketing, IT and management (financial or commercial) and at the agency side a conceptual and graphical designer, followed by a front-end developer. The product owner is a crucial role, of which the exact interpretation can vary.

Design sprint in three days

A design sprint for a new website could look like this:

  • Monday: you start the first day with the setting of target groups and personas, goals per target group, customer experience maps and the online and offline touch points, backgrounds, and tone of voice. You define the who, what, how and why of your website project. In short, you specify the scope.
  • Tuesday: the second day you start directly with shaping templates for the most important pages, typically the home page and product pages. A day of sketching, the determination of wireframes, discussions, prioritization, selection and prototyping. At the end of the day you will have a 'minimal loveable product': a product with enough features to create happy customers. It doesn't have to be a working website, as long as it's functionally working and creates the right experience.
  • Wednesday: the last day you will do 'minimal lovable product' testing with end users and stakeholders. As Silicon Valley-hero Steve Blank states: "Get out of the building" and see what your customers are saying, because real facts are found outside: Perform a short test, change the design immediately and test again straight away. Eventually you will have a tested design and you can set the priorities for the next sprint.

The three steps of the design sprint

The original design sprint of Google Ventures is a five day process with separate days for sketching solutions, discussing these solutions and then building them. When developing a website however, this can all be done in a shorter period, like Banfield, Lombardo and Wax describe in their book Design Sprint.

Multiple sprints

By applying multiple sprints you break the whole design process down into smaller goals. Depending on the website and the customer, three to four sprints are required before you can start building:

  • Sprint 0: is all about sketching and determining the starting points in terms of target group and goals, font use, colour choices and the skeleton wireframe. Sprint 0 provides a broad support among all participants, rough sketches and a MLP (or an MVP) that can be tested.
  • Sprint 1: in the second sprint the website is made tangible: You specify the main pages, apply functional and visual design, develop these pages and test them with customers.
  • Sprint 2 – 3: the remaining pages are designed, made visible and once again are tested. A sprint 3 might be needed for websites with multiple target groups and product groups.

Then there’s a transition phase towards the building phase. More developers get involved for front-end (HTML-CSS) and the deployment to back-end system (for example, a CMS like Hippo, Adobe or hybris). During this phase of the project it is costly to restore errors. That is why obtaining and processing customer feedback during every design sprint vital.

Principles

The following principles can help to make swift progress in your design sprints:

  • Facilitator: the facilitator listens, makes notes, monitors the progress, adjusts in time and makes summaries.
  • Location: make sure you have a large room with good lighting, whiteboards, projector, flip chart, a wall on which notes can be stuck on or pinned in.
  • Clients: prepare the test process with the customers as much as possible, so that you can test quickly and efficiently.
  • Attention: participants must be really available: No open laptops or disturbing phone calls.
  • Time: build in regular breaks, and don’t make a day last longer than six or seven hours, otherwise you will lose productivity. 

Mind-set for success with design sprint

Design sprinting is an iterative process. When you (as a company) want to use design sprinting to develop a website, bear in mind that there is no set time for it. A creative process is hard to capture: you think of and make something to see what customers think. Customer feedback is the uncertain factor in terms of production time and success: therefor fixed pricing will not work. Design sprinting needs the willingness to really think out of the box and put the customer first.

Find out how to make the best ecommerce decision for your organisation here.


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