Category

UX

The Design Sprint

Introduction

The design sprint was created by former Googler, Jake Knapp. It’s a time-bound process, with five phases typically spread over five full 8-hour days. The goal is to solve a critical design challenge through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with users. The benefits of a design sprints include: saving time, creating a path to bring a product to market, prioritizing the user, and testing a product before launch. Before starting a design sprint, ask yourself: Are there any potential solutions to your design challenge? Are cross-functional teams needed to weigh in on your design challenge? Is the design challenge’s scope wide enough for a sprint? If you answer yes to any of these, a design spring might be the right move.

The Five Phases of the Design Sprint

Each phase takes one full day, is hands on, and requires creative collaboration. The five phases of a design sprint consist of the following:

Understand. This phase sets your sprint on the right track and helps your team get a clear picture of the design challenge by having conversations with other people, like experts in different departments and industries. In this and all phases, you focus on the user.

Ideate. Come up with ideas and build off of them to create solutions. Sketch and present these ideas. Prepare for testing. Start your target profile with an inclusive approach.

Decide. Which solution do you want to build? Discuss each possible solution and select one that is most likely to excite users and achieve the design process goal. Create a step-by-step blueprint for the prototype phase.

Prototype. Build the first version not the finished product; something realistic enough to test with users. Confirm the test schedule, finalize interview questions, and make sure the prototype is ready to go.

Test. Put the prototype in front of users. Observe how they react and interview about their experience.

Benefits

Design sprints put the user first. Throughout the creative collaboration, every person is valued and the best ideas rise to the top. The time is distraction-free, giving time for collaborators to focus. By running a design sprint, the team lowers their risk of an unsuccessful market debut. It can be scheduled at any point during a project.

My Design Sprint Experience

In my experience, I have rarely come across companies who implement design sprints. I have seen all five phases, but they lacked this scheduled, 5-day timeframe, and the collaborative approach. The ideate and decide phase would for example only involve the project owner and key stakeholders, or the UX designer, product manager, and client. Phases would stop and start during intermittent meetings scheduled across weeks. Looking back on my time as a web development manager, I attribute the great success of our flagship product to the collaborative approach we took across departments, valuing every voice. It not only brought the best ideas to the fore, it also built a strong sense of teamwork and individual satisfaction. However, it could be difficult to organize all of those voices across the span of a year, and the design sprint approach would honed those contributions into succinct focus. It would be fantastic if more companies and collaborators adopted the design sprint into their workflow.

A design sprint would help me design with the user first. By talking to experts in the Understand phase, and utilizing my team members and their diverse perspectives, my understanding of the problem we’re trying to solve and its potential solutions has a much better chance of solving the problem than solving it with a limited team in a silo. The Ideate phase allows everyone’s ideas to be heard, and even if a lot of the ideas might be bad, it ensures that all of the cool ideas are heard, too. Similarly, the Decide phase has everyone vote, and the solution that has the most potential is chosen. With this clarity, preparation for the Test phase will lead to appropriate testers, survey and interview questions, and necessary equipment. The Prototype phase is massively hands-on in creating, asking questions, offering ideas, and reviewing the completed prototype. Details won’t get missed or forgotten thanks to the sprint’s condensed timeframe. The Test phase collects user feedback by observing and interviewing users. I think I’d have the most interest in this phase, because it’s a moment of truth: were we successful in putting the user’s needs first? Again, this will determine whether the solution is a success based on the user’s experience, rather than a single person or a very limited group of decision-makers’ assumptions, which means a higher rate of success at the product’s release.

In design sprints and otherwise, it’s good to take a retrospective on what went well and what could be improved. In my projects, I have found the best approaches have been to share all my ideas and create an environment where others are comfortable and confident to do the same. The only bad suggestions are the ones not shared! This created the strongest solutions because we harnessed the brilliance from our whole team. However, there could be frustration if someone missed a meeting or notes were not taken so potential ideas fell through the cracks. Next time, I would much rather take this 5 day design sprint approach to dedicate everyone’s time together, without losing any momentum.

I recently worked on projects at a large organization that would have benefited from a design sprint. The Understand, Ideate, and Decide phases involved the key stakeholder requesting a product to the product owner, who tried to gather as much information as possible. The PO took this request to the development team, who usually needed more information from the key stakeholder. Time was spent circling back, but the PO did not fully grasp the developer’s needs, nor, as a result, did the key stakeholder. Furthermore, the product was for an end user that was not the key stakeholder, and there was no research done on the end user’s experience. The project would have benefited from an Understand phase where the team could interview the key stakeholder, as well as any experts on the end user’s experience, such as the customer service representatives.

Identifying Good UX Design: FoodieLand App

Exemplar image from Google’s Foundations of User Experience Design course on Coursera.org

Prompt 1: Identify at least one aspect of the FoodieLand app that demonstrates usable design. Explain your reasoning in 1-2 sentences. 

Hint: Is the app’s design, structure, and purpose clear? Does the app have any elements or features that make it easy to navigate?

Usable
The placeholder text clearly demonstrates what in particular the user would search with the label “Search food”. The icons for filters and adding or subtracting items are ubiquitous.

Prompt 2: Identify at least one aspect of the FoodieLand app that demonstrates equitable design. Explain your reasoning in 1-2 sentences.  

Hint: Does the app address the needs of people with diverse abilities and backgrounds? 

Equitable
Icons that allow the user to select language and audio playback demonstrates usability for non-English-speaking users or users with vision impairments.

Prompt 3: Identify at least one aspect of the FoodieLand app that demonstrates enjoyable design. Explain your reasoning in 1-2 sentences.  

Hint: Does the app inspire a positive reaction from the user by considering their thoughts and feelings? Does the app engage users and make them excited to keep using the app?

Enjoyable
The ratings side-by-side with the pricing makes it easy to determine a more informed selection when choosing an item.

Prompt 4: Identify at least one aspect of the FoodieLand app that demonstrates useful design. Explain your reasoning in 1-2 sentences.  

Hint: Does the app solve the problem of “how to help a busy person working from home select a meal to be delivered?” How does the app help solve this problem?

Useful
There is very little text to navigate and it is easy to scan the screen quickly, allowing for a fast experience to solve the user’s problem of getting food.

A user experience you think is great and why

Ikea’s Maximara inner drawer is an innovative twist on the sock drawer. It is a drawer that sits inside of a larger drawer. It is usable as it’s mechanical functionality functions identically to the drawer which contains it. The assembly user manual is equitable in demonstrating how to build the drawer with pictures rather than a limited set of languages. I find it enjoyable because the rubber surrounding the wheels that sit in the tracks of the drawers creates a silent slide in and out of the dresser. I find the inner drawer particularly useful in containing everyday items I reach for when I am dressing. I used to forget about accessories like jewelry, but now I remember it as an option when I am choosing my socks.

A user experience you think needs improvement and why

My English/Danish dictionary has revealed necessary improvements in order to enjoy it fully. It is not usable in providing past or future verb endings as I have found in larger dictionaries. I don’t find the use of the Union Jack to demonstrate the English language particularly equitable, as it is a language spoken around the world. I have been disappointed to find there are some words I have not been able to find, due to it’s limited size. Only some of the words have info pertaining to type of word, i.e. adverb or adjective, to differentiate words with identical spelling but different meaning. However, I would find it more useful if this info was provided for every word.

Self-Reflection: Your journey to become a UX designer

What skills do you already have that can help you on your journey to becoming a UX designer? For example, are you artistic, detail-oriented, or considerate? Do you have relevant past experience in the world of design? Share your passion.

I have experience interviewing many clients to understand their pain points and how to establish user trust. I have also interviewed my clients for my own business in order to understand how to formulate my ideal customer avatar and position my brand to their needs. I also have experience storyboarding for animation, as well as wireframing for websites. I have used visual design across mediums, from fine art to space to digital, utilizing color theory, typography, and design theory to create an informed visual experience. Additionally, I have working experience as an engineer, with experience communicating to and as an engineer. As a web development manager, I have utilized communication to ensure clear and timely communication, and deciding the scope of the product.

What are your goals for exploring the field of UX design? Why do you want to pursue this professional certificate?

My goals for exploring the field of UX design is to have a formally educated review of the field, so I can make the most informed decision on the next best steps for my career. Since I already use UX design, I also want to hone my craft and utilize best practices based on the information received here. I want to pursue this professional certificate less so for the recognition from potential employers. I am doing this in order to stamp out the imposter syndrome that wonders if I have all the information I need to apply to the jobs I really want to tackle, to stamp out the voice that questions if I have enough in my portfolio to apply. I believe that pursuing this certificate will give me recent, tangible work to show, which will be supported by my experience undertaking similar work, now leveraged with the best practices learned here.