Design sprints are very useful tools to rapidly discover answers and solutions to questions faced by businesses. They provide a mechanism for the speedy evaluation of those solutions, allowing business decisions to be made faster.

What is a design sprint?

Design sprint stationery

The design sprint website defines a sprint as a “five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.” They can be used as part of creating a new web design or app development project.

Design sprints are effective because they include decision makers from each part of the business. However, it can prove a challenge to find a space in the calendar when all the decision makers are available to be in the same room (physical or virtual).

There are five phases to a design sprint each taking place on a consecutive day. Running a design sprint to this time-constrained schedule provides enough time for each phase, keeps everyone on track and ensures that the sprint goal is reached.

If you would like to learn more about design sprints, you can find more details on our design sprint page.

When is a design sprint the wrong solution?

User testing a prototype

A design sprint is a powerful tool, but it isn’t the tool for every job. Design sprints are useful when the problem to be solved is clearly defined and you have access to the decision makers in your business. If these individuals (or delegated representatives) are not available, this can lead to unexpected variables being introduced late in the sprint process. If this happens it can lead to the failure of the sprint.

It is also vital that you have access to users to test and evaluate your solution. Without their feedback any solution produced as a result of the design sprint will likely be incomplete.

When should a design sprint be used?

Design Sprint Group Discussion

There are many great reasons to run a design sprint. They are an effective way to build a new product or improve an existing one. The process works best when you bring together a group who understand the key areas of your business. The team will ideally include designers, developers and decision makers who understand your product.

Design sprints are an intensive process and preferably need a dedicated workspace. This is so that items (e.g. whiteboard, sticky notes and stationery) can be left in situ between each day, preventing time being wasted setting up the room every morning.

What can we learn from the design sprint process?

Design sprint prototype demo

Design sprints are effective because they focus on collaboration, rapid prototyping and experimentation, as well as including the key decision makers in the process.

Creating a team which draws upon each aspect of the business and allows them to collaborate freely. This prevents design decisions being made in isolation and reduces the risk of important business details not being given appropriate consideration.

The focus given to prototyping and experimentation allows ideas to be given a visual form and be communicated more clearly. This also helps to increase team collaboration and provoke new ideas as the design evolves.

Including the decision makers in the design process also increases their acceptance of the result. Their thoughts and ideas help to form the final prototype which increases their buy in.

Ultimately, design sprints are powerful because of the principals they employ in the development of new designs. If they are applied to other processes, it is likely they will be greatly improved and avoid some of the drawbacks of a full design sprint process.

If you want to learn more about design sprints or are interested in running your own, you can find out more information about them on our design sprint service page.