Coming up with fresh, innovative ideas isn’t always easy. Real creativity can often seem just out of reach, or something that only gifted visionaries are capable of.
But creativity is a skill that can be improved. It is not, as the Ancient Greeks believed, a kind of “divine madness” that only a few lucky people ever get to harness. Creativity becomes stronger and more readily available the more you use it, and the more your conditions are better-suited to its particular needs.
In the world of UX design, creativity comes with risk, however. Even the best ideas can be shot down by poor execution, incomplete marketing data, or mere bad luck. Design sprinting is a process that reduces the amount of time that goes into validating creative design concepts and allows teams to focus on the most promising options from the start.
Introducing the Design Sprint: 5 Steps to Validation
If a product, service, or solution passes all five steps of the design sprint, it has all the characteristics required for future success. The design sprint itself is a structured process that replaces the expensive and time-consuming development and feasibility processes traditionally used by most organizations.
The design sprint takes place over five days, with each day dedicated to a specific phase of the sprint:
- Understand. Map out your challenges and single out a key area to focus on. For instance, you might notice a drop-off in user engagement after one or two steps along the buyer’s journey, like the team at Happn did.
- Ideate. Use the second day to sketch out competing solutions to the problem. Don’t worry about feasibility at this point – just figure out how many potential solutions the team can come up with and get them organized.
- Decide. Look through all of your competing solutions and decide which ones can be addressed with a testable hypothesis. Feasibility becomes an issue here, but it’s not a deal-breaker if the idea is testable on some small level.
- Prototype. Work together to create a realistic prototype of the most testable solutions. The prototype only needs to reflect the potential for the idea so the team can gauge users’ reactions to it. If the ideas turn out to be good, more complete prototypes can come later.
- Test. The testing phase should focus on getting feedback from live users in real-time. Finding the right users is critical for this step to succeed.
Design sprints must involve multiple departments within an organization. To complete a successful sprint, teams should consist of several experts from various departments. These don’t need to be department managers or supervisors, but it helps if they have enough experience to understand how their work influences the user experience (UX).
A design sprint should incorporate the following roles from within the organization. Ideally, one person should take on each distinct role, but this may change for small sprint teams:
- Every committee needs a decision-maker. Sometimes the CEO plays this role, but any senior executive can do it.
- Design sprint teams must rely on a manager for recordkeeping, time-keeping, and unbiased guidance throughout every phase of the process.
- The team’s marketer will help craft the company’s customer messaging and reach out to the target customers for the final testing phase of the sprint.
- Customer Service Expert. Every design sprint team should include someone who regularly interacts with users and advocates their concerns.
- A professional designer is crucial in helping everyone on the team realize the ideation and decision processes. It is called a design sprint, after all.
- Tech Expert. Every team needs someone who understands the organization’s technological capabilities and how technology resources can be utilized.
- Finance Expert. When it comes to prototyping and testing, the finance expert will play a crucial role in determining the cost and feasibility of the final result.
How the Design Sprint Improves Team Dynamics
A design sprint needs to incorporate several team members across multiple departments. It helps improve interdepartmental collaboration and cultivate a positive team dynamic through its capacity to put various departments in creative contact with one another.
This is an entirely different environment than the one generated by the traditional design process. Instead of having a small group of designers show their prototype to every other department and then incorporate various changes moving forward, everyone has a say from the very beginning.
The design sprint allows multiple departments to work together on solving user problems. This creates a more streamlined UX while ensuring that everyone in the organization remains on the same page at all times.