Sprinting through the noise to quickly answer questions

Amid big ideas about design are the granular processes and best practices for success. One of these processes is the design sprint. The concept is pretty simple: Focus on a design goal for a specified period, usually one week.

But what exactly does that process entail? Whether it’s strides on the track or strokes on the keyboard, every sprint has a start and finish. Let’s talk about the hurdles in between and the value of the exercise itself.

What is a design sprint?

It’s an exercise designed to organize and execute software development and design. And it’s all thanks to Google—it pioneered the original five-day design sprint, which starts with a problem or project, a team of people, and time on a calendar.

Sprints are all about short bursts of heads-down activity devoted to validating product ideas, both big and small. These sprints require major investments of stakeholder time—the design and development teams often need access to stakeholders for entire days. But there’s an upside: This all-access pass means quicker validation.

Instead of whittling away for six months coming up with concepts and prototypes, teams can produce faster results with a five-day sprint. After all, the sprint has a clear end goal. By the end of day five, you will have a prototype tested and approved by users.

It’s worth mentioning that sprints don’t always go as expected. The hope is that the exercise validates an idea, but sprints can just as easily invalidate ideas. In that case, the organization benefits by investing a little time and money to save a lot in the long run.

The design sprint process

A design sprint is five days, each with specific priorities. Get organized ahead of time and define how each day should look.

Pre-sprint work

Before your sprint, think of the basics—what does the project look like? What about its team? Take inventory of who should be involved in the development, both internally and externally. Start with a stakeholder invite list and include diverse participants. Consider looping in folks with skills in:

  • Decision-making
  • Customer behavior
  • Software design
  • Technology

Have your dream team? Good. Put on your running shoes and get ready. Sprints are a workweek, Monday through Friday, with daily tasks.

Monday

On Monday, the team should get aligned on the problem and priorities ahead. Set the tone for a successful sprint by sharing useful information about the problem. This could include chatting with experts or sketching out solutions.

Tuesday

By Tuesday, it’s time to focus on solutions, make decisions, and prepare for prototyping and testing. Review your sketches and choose a prototype that stacks up to existing solutions. Then you can storyboard how the prototype should work.

Wednesday

Now it’s all about the prototype. Your development team cranks it to 11 to finish the prototype based on the priorities defined in the previous days. By the end of the day, your prototype should be ready for users to test.

Thursday

Your team is ready for the big five. On Thursday, choose five users who best fit your customer profile. This is when your software development experts shine because they can conduct interviews and collect data to inform software design changes.

Friday

It’s the big day! During a sprint, Friday is Fri-yay, and you can exhale. Get ready to present your findings and assets. Be sure to internally review the week’s work and tie up loose ends. And don’t forget to regroup with the team, either—it’s been a busy week for them. Host a “retro,” or retrospective, to get a feel for how the sprint went.

Sounds simple, right? It is … and it isn’t. Sprints are part of each design and development project, but they are still a niche field of expertise. Developing a high-fidelity prototype of custom software (with real user data to boot) isn’t for everyday users, but a professional team can help. If you choose the right people, the process can be rewarding.

Partner with the right software development company

This is just a high-level overview of a design sprint. There are countless tasks and milestones within each sprint that we didn’t cover here. Think you might need a little help along the way? Most people do—so finding the right partner is key.

Before you invest in software development, find an expert team that meets your needs. Technical chops are essential, but so is knowing how to get the most out of your teams during the sprint.

Take a look at what your week would look like during a design sprint!