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Product design sprints are a technique used to quickly and clearly solve problems, test ideas, and compress weeks (if not months) of effort into a single week.

Understanding and alignment are critical in the design and development process and are key to product success. In order to design a successful and inspiring experience you have to understand who the users are, what their needs and goals are, what the critical tasks are, and what context users are most likely to be in. It is also important to understand the product landscape, existing and competing products, conventions, expectations, and best practices in the industry while always looking to innovate to differentiate from the competition and heighten the experience.

ITX Design Sprints (modified from the GV Design Sprint), answer critical business questions quickly and effectively through sharing, collaboration, designing, prototyping, and user testing. Design Sprints jumpstart the vision process, align stakeholders, clarify goals, reduce surprises, and provide a rapid user testing option.

The process requires extensive involvement from key client stakeholders, and we have, at times, seen skepticism about this being a valuable use of time. However, our experience is that immediately after day one we get complete buy in. This very focused one week sprint creates engaged stakeholders and promising, tested solutions, that help identify a prioritized backlog within days rather than weeks, and improves the quality of what is delivered.

Our designers appreciate user testing to validate their ideas quickly. For example, in one sprint an idea that our designers and the client all thought was great didn’t test well at all. The Design Sprint allowed us to fail fast, learn, and pivot without investing weeks into an idea that ultimately had no value to the target audience.

Another great outcome of the design sprint is alignment and clarity within the product team that could have taken much longer to come to the surface. One of the most valuable outcomes of the Design Sprint is that stakeholders have an investment in the solution that’s being designed because they played a very active role in designing it. 

In short, a brief outline of the 5 day design sprint:

Day 1: Understand and Map

The first day is about getting alignment around the vision and clarity on the goals of the Sprint. It is about first getting a high level, holistic view of the product, business goals, target audience, and user needs, mapping the current user journey, and then focusing on one problem to solve.

Day 2: Sketch

We take the understanding and alignment gained in day 1 and explore, through benchmarking and competitive reviews, alternative approaches. The entire team then sketches to create a multitude of possible solutions to the challenging problem defined on day 1.

Day 3: Decide

On day 3 the team critiques the sketches from day 2, votes on the best ideas, and works together to refine the solution and create a storyboard to base the prototype on.

Day 4: Prototype

On day 4 we write the user testing script and create a prototype out of the storyboard from day 3. The prototype is not coded but it has a realistic façade that makes it real enough to get valid user feedback.

Day 5: Test

On day 5 we take the prototype we created and test it with real users. By observing customers interacting with the prototype, we see exactly what works and what doesn’t. We also interview them to dig deep and learn more about what they are thinking and any product expectations, or disappointments, they may have.

The lack of a clear roadmap can cause harmful friction and frustration that compromise motivation.  A set of well-organized design sprints will help keep your team aligned around a product vision that will lead to success.

1. GV. The Design Sprint.

2. Adrian Dulgheru (2016, September 23). (RE)Search then…Design.

3. Sean Flaherty (2016, April 13). A Software Product’s Future: The Backlog.

4. Interaction Design Foundation (2017, May). Customer Journey Maps – Walking a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes.

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