Design sprints are becoming more and more popular, and a lot of organizations today are successfully implementing this process to work on their products or services. It is being widely adopted by both big companies like Facebook, Google or Uber, and small startups, to validate their products before moving towards development and launch.
But is a design sprint a good process for your product? When is it worth to use a design sprint, and when it is not the best approach?
A design sprint is an excellent tool to use when building a new product. When you’re planning to build an app, web platform, e-commerce site, or any other digital product, a design sprint would be a perfect fit, if:
you want to validate the idea or find a solution for a big, complex problem,
you operate on a disruptive market so that you need innovative solutions,
you need the team to align on a common, clearly defined goal and vision,
you want to benefit from feedback from real users.
Are there products for which a design sprint wouldn’t be a good fit? Well, it definitely won’t work when you’re planning to implement something small or the problem is very narrow, i.e., a very simple, basic app or website. In that case, a better tool could be a design studio, which may help you to come up with the best solution.
But do I need feedback from users if I have already gathered it?
If your product was already validated and is based on UX research, it is worth considering if there is a part of the product that has not been tested yet, or maybe something that was tested has changed.
What if I already have all the designs and vision and what I need is just a process for implementation?
If you have a clear picture of the product you want to implement, then a design sprint can provide valuable insights, based on which you may revise your assumptions and consider changes before spending time and money on development.
When you already have a product, you can use a design sprint for multiple purposes — for example, if you want to:
add new features,
increase the number of users or a specific type of user,
improve user experience,
redesign the product,
solve a big, complex problem your product is facing.
But when you’re planning to add just a small change, for example, in navigation, or redesign a small part of the product — doing a Design Sprint that requires time and engagement from different people on the team is not the best approach. Instead, you can run a shorter design studio or a usability audit.
A few sample challenges for existing products that companies solved using a design sprint:
Slack — attracting more business users,
United Nations — boosting user engagement,
Headspace — developing a child-focused feature.
Running a design sprint for existing products helps product companies to increase their revenue, the number of users, and overall user engagement (i.e., Pocket increased the engagement of new users by 58%). By quickly testing new ideas we can not only save plenty of time that we would spend on developing new features, but we can also verify if the changes we’re planning will bring value to our users — which is particularly important for already well-known brands.
Design sprints are not only suitable for digital products. The process can be used for creating physical products like hardware, packaging, furniture, even a workspace.
The challenge here lays in the fourth day of the sprint (2.0). You need to be able to create a prototype of anything you are willing to build, that will look and feel like a final product. Sometimes you may use a visualization (like a 3D model or a brochure) but you need to make sure the users will have a chance to experience and understand your product.
If you’re in a business of services, you can also use design sprints as a tool to improve your customer experience or processes.
Even in very demanding industries, where it may seem difficult to implement innovative solutions, design sprints can be applied — and KLM Airlines can serve as a good example.
By implementing the design sprint process (and their prototyping environment at the airport), they have tested and implemented a lot of solutions to big challenges, i.e., tracking and handling passenger luggage and onboard Wi-Fi — things that make their customers’ traveling experience less stressful and more enjoyable.
When designing, implementing, or improving business processes, the common problem is a very long decision-making process, especially in big organizations, where it’s distributed between many people. It also costs a lot of time spent on endless meetings and discussions. Design Sprint is a great tool to timebox the process, speed up decision-making, save time, and reach for innovative solutions. It can be used for HR processes (i.e., Google used a design sprint to redesign its hiring process), marketing strategies, sales processes, or to solve any other more open business problem.
What makes the design sprint unique and versatile is that it can be used for various business needs. It can fit any kind of organization or industry.
Not sure if the design sprint will be the right choice for you? You can start by trying the Lightning Decision Jam first. It’s a 1-hour workshop that reflects the workflow, mechanics, and, most importantly, the speed of the design sprint process.