Product Design Sprint Process (Step-by-Step Guide + Tools)

Learn how to organize an effective Product Design Sprint to solve chosen problems, make informed decisions and plan further development with ease.

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TL;DR

How to run a design sprint?

Preparing to the product design sprint

Step 1: Decide who should participate in workshops. You need a decision maker for the project, a facilitator of workshops and a few experts - e.g. in marketing, design, customer service, tech, finances.

Step 2: Choose a period for workshops and block the entire week in your calendars.

Step 3: For offline workshops, secure and prepare the space.

Step 4: Gather tools adjusted to a chosen for of workshops (offline/online). You need a tool for whiteboarding, prototyping, and gathering knowledge and notes.

Step 5: Set expectations with everyone so that every team member feels ready.

Step 6: Set an agenda.

Step 7: Start gathering data your team may need during the process and elaborating on a problem to solve during the sprint.

Design sprint process day by day

Each day of the design sprint process uses different tools and activities to achieve particular goals.

Introduction

The keys to a successful Product Design Sprint are:

  • gathering the right information,
  • gathering the right people,
  • asking the right question,
  • using the right tools,
  • adjusting the process to the team’s needs.

You don’t have to be a trained designer to conduct it.

But since it may seem complicated, we explained the whole process step-by-step below, giving you just the right amount of information to start.

What is Design Sprint?

Product Design Sprint is a five-day, structured workshop, during which a team collaborates to solve a particular problem. It’s based on Google Design Sprint methodology, and it covers activities from ideation, through prototyping, to testing with real customers. 

<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Prototyping and testing with real users allows teams to effectively validate ideas and solve challenges with little time and money investment.</p></span>

Product Design Sprint workshops help teams to brainstorm effectively, speed up the decision making process, and answer business questions within a short time. The workshop is often used by businesses to reduce the risk associated with bringing a new product or feature to the market. 

Design Thinking as a base

The whole Product Design Sprint process is highly interactive, experimental, and user-focused. It embraces many of the principles of design thinking - a problem-solving approach focused on people, seeking to understand their needs and coming up with effective solutions. 

When are Product Design Sprint workshops useful?

Design Sprints can be used to:

  • solve a particular problem in a product,
  • discover your next focus while planning further development,
  • verify your hypothesis about a product and its further development,
  • verify the business viability of a chosen feature,
  • verify the business viability of a whole new product.

How Product Design Sprint workshops can help you improve a product?

Benefits of Product Design Sprint workshops

  • Jumpstarting the decision making process by gathering stakeholders and experts in the same room and designating the official decider.
  • Encouraging communication and collaboration by putting members of various teams in the same room.
  • Incorporating user feedback to the decision-making process.
  • Providing a new way of working together towards a shared vision.
  • Time and money efficiency.
  • Getting the most out of a team member’s knowledge.
  • Getting everyone on the same page.
  • Encouraging original thinking through experimentation and iteration, exploring ideas.
  • Reducing cost of failure thanks to prototyping and testing.
  • Increasing the chances for the viability of the final solution.
  • Bringing a team (often a team of strangers) together to work fast and smoothly.

How to prepare - What do you need to run a Product Design Sprint?

Gathering the right Product Design Sprint team

The most significant challenge around running a design sprint is getting the right people in the room.

  • A decider. Often a decision maker for a project, e.g. CTO. Their decision will influence the sprint goal and the final product, so they need to be involved and understand the problem profoundly.
  • Facilitator. A person to keep track of the progress and ensure everyone’s playing their part.
  • Marketing expert. A person skilled at crafting your company’s messaging and familiar with your brand and strategy.
  • Customer service. A person who understands your users and talks with them often.
  • Design expert. A person who designs the product.
  • Tech expert. A person that understands tech aspects, knows what your company delivers.
  • Financial expert. A person that knows the cost of the product and how much you can get in return.

Preparing Product Design Sprint workshops

After choosing your team:

  • Choose a period for workshops and block the entire week in your calendars
  • Secure and prepare the space (for offline workshops)
  • Choose/gather proper tools (adjusted for offline or remote workshops)
  • Think about the problem you want to solve during workshops and name it
  • Set expectations with each team member before the workshop so that everyone feels ready
  • Start researching and gathering needed data 
  • Set an agenda but be prepared to stay flexible

Design sprint process and activities day by day

What is the design sprint process?

A Product Design Sprint usually lasts five days. Each day corresponds to a different phase of solving the given problem.

The team usually starts with analyzing a problem and gathering knowledge (day one), then team members brainstorm solutions (day two), analyze them and choose the best one to focus on (day three), build a prototype (day four), and conduct user testing with interviews and feedback analysis (day five).

Each day of the Product Design Sprint workshops belongs to another phase:

Five design sprint phases

  1. Understand. Mapping out the problem, empathizing with users, gathering data, and picking the area to focus.
  2. Ideate. Brainstorming solutions.
  3. Decide. Choosing the best solution and transforming ideas into a testable hypothesis.
  4. Prototype. Building a prototype.
  5. Test. Getting feedback from real users, analyzing it and drawing conclusions. Validating an idea.

Now, let’s investigate what to do during each day of the sprint.

Day 1: Monday

On Monday, you focus on establishing the long term goal. You want to understand the problem and create a roadmap for the whole week.

At the beginning of the sprint, you need to make sure everybody will be moving in the same direction. Day one is about establishing common ground. 

Establish your long-term goal:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • What deliverables do you want to create?

Then, gather as much information as possible about the problem by making a map of the various aspects. By the end of day one, choose one aspect of the problem (called the target) that your team feels they can resolve by the end of the week.

Goal

Establish the main problem to focus during the sprint, create a roadmap for the whole week, and gather necessary information.

Tasks for the day

  • Choosing the goal for the sprint.
  • Creating a database or making a map of all needed information.
  • Creating a roadmap.

Result for the end of the day

  • The sprint goal is chosen.
  • A knowledge base is built and shared.
  • The roadmap for the week is created.

Activities and tools

  • Empathy mapping. It’s a visual way to understand users and their needs, which helps to identify their key problems.
  • Customer Journey. It helps to visualize a customer’s end to end experience with your product or service.
  • Swim lane diagram. Combining the Empathy map with the Customer Journey map creates a Swim Lane diagram. It serves to build a heat map of the problems within each step of the customer journey.
  • How Might We. The method is used to turn existing problems into opportunities. After rephrasing problems into opportunities for you to help a user, vote to decide on which to focus during the sprint.

Day 2: Tuesday

On the second day, the team starts to review the existing solutions - you can point out their strengths and weaknesses. Then, each team member sketches their own solutions and develops new insights.

The aim of this phase is to generate as many ideas as possible. Individual brainstorming stimulates many ideas.

Goal

Ideate solutions. The focus of this phase is brainstorming, ideating features, and discussing user flows and journeys.

Tasks for the day

  • Reviewing existing solutions.
  • Brainstorming - sketching and ideating (individually).
  • Storyboarding to create the full user journey through your product.

Result for the end of the day

  • The existing solution is analyzed and understood.
  • Each team member ideated on solutions.

Activities and tools

  • Lightning Demos. This exercise encourages the team to research competition. Your task is to find examples of existing products that could serve as inspiration.
  • The four-step sketch method. The method forces the team to create solutions in an effective manner. You iterate on each variation along the way.
  1. Notes. Twenty minutes to take notes about the goal, opportunities, and inspirations.
  2. Ideas. Twenty minutes to draw ideas from these thoughts.
  3. Crazy 8s. Everyone chooses the strongest solution and sketches out eight different variations of it in eight minutes.
  4. Solution sketch. Thirty minutes to draw a detailed solution to the problem.

Day 3: Wednesday

You start the third day by looking at each other’s solutions, talking about them, and voting which one is the best.

Then, it’s time to create a storyboard that details the customer journey. You want to simulate how a potential customer would engage with the chosen solution. The goal is to have a plan for tomorrow's prototype.

Goal

Decide which solution is the best and prepare for prototyping.

Tasks for the day

  • Using various techniques to choose the best solution. 
  • Storyboarding to create the full user journey through your product.

Result for the end of the day

  • The best solution for the problem is chosen. 
  • You discovered the whole customer journey and decided what a prototype should include.

Activities and tools

Various techniques can be used to analyze the solutions you’ve ideated yesterday and select the best one:

  • Art museum. Put all the sketches on a wall to create an anonymous art gallery.
  • Heat map. Each team member admits three dot stickers to the sketches or parts of the sketches they find interesting.
  • Speed critique. Each member selects a sketch, walks through it, and captures the big ideas using sticky notes.
  • Dot voting. Each team member has one vote to choose the best solution and justify their decision.
  • Supervote. The decider makes the final call with three votes.

Besides that, your team will create a storyboard:

  • Storyboarding. The team lays out the full user journey through a product.

Day 4: Thursday

On the fourth day, your team will create a realistic prototype of the chosen solution to test it with users. The key is to build it in one day, but users should perceive it as real as possible.

To tackle the task, you need to assign roles to each team member. Everyone should be clear on what their roles are. 

The roles for today are:

  • Makers. Two designers or engineers responsible for creating the individual components of the prototype.
  • Stitcher. A designer or engineer collecting the components and combining them.
  • Writer. A product manager writing realistic text in a language that makes sense to a user.
  • Asset Collector. Responsible for providing photos, icons, and content.
  • Interviewer. Writes the script for tomorrow’s customer interviews .

Goal

Create a rapid prototype of a chosen solution, which will allow you to visualize your idea.

Tasks for the day

  • Building a prototype.
  • Writing the interview script for tomorrow’s interviews.

Result for the end of the day

A prototype ready for tomorrow’s user testing.

Activities and tools

  • Prototyping. A low-fi, paper prototyping allows to visualize the idea quickly. Interactive, digital prototype takes more time to create, but allows to test more realistic interactions.

Day 5: Friday

On Friday, you proceed to testing a prototype with real users. You need to interview five users who fit in with your target customer profile. 

During the interview, you ask users questions and they perform chosen tasks. In the meantime, the sprint team watches the recordings.

After gathering all the information and watching recordings, the whole team should gather together and analyze user feedback by the whiteboard. You can create a table divided by the number of customers interviewed and a row for each area or task, and fill the table with information received. Analyze the table and derive conclusions from user feedback.

Goal

Gather feedback after testing a prototype with real users. 

Tasks for the day

  • Testing a prototype.
  • Interviews with real users.
  • Watching recordings as a group and driving conclusions from feedback.

Result for the end of the day

Conclusions derived after analysing user feedback.

Design Sprint activities and tools

  • User testing. You perform an interview and a prototype demo. The team observes the feedback sessions. After all five user tests, you discuss patterns in the responses and make conclusions.
  • Whiteboarding. Draw a table on a whiteboard divided up into five columns for the five customers and rows for each area or task of the prototype they addressed. It helps to analyze user feedback.

Apps and software for Design Sprint facilitation - cheat sheet

These tools will be especially helpful to facilitate Product Design Sprint workshops conducted remotely.

Design Sprint tools for whiteboarding

  • Miro
  • Stormboard
  • MURAL
  • Invision

Design Sprint tools for prototyping

  • Figma
  • JustInMind
  • Fluid UI

Design Sprint tools for remote usability testing

  • UserZoom
  • UXCam
  • UserTesting.com
  • Maze

Ready to solve a problem with Product Design Sprint workshops?

Time to kick off your Product Design Sprint workshops. Start with choosing a challenge and gathering a team. Then, reserve a 5-day period that suits all. Your next step will be to start gathering all the necessary data.

Focus on users, collaborative approach, and the right tools are a way to succeed with Product Design Sprint workshops.

Need help with conducting workshops?

Our experts got you covered. Tell us about your challenge and we will organize a workshop tailored to solve it.

After the whole process, you’ll receive a report and all the materials used during workshops. Our experts will also suggest next steps for your product.

Olga Gierszal
github
Editor

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