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How design thinking and design sprints can help you build the right product faster

Design thinking mindset and design sprints at your company- Part 2.

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In a previous article I wrote about design-centered companies, in this one, I will summarise design sprints and its advantages in building a product.

First, start by defining what is design thinking, let me start with my own definition.

Design thinking is finding the best solution to a problem the fastest way so that we involve the entire team utilising its full potential, which reflects on their diverse viewpoints and empowers them to validate this solution with the target group as quick as possible.

It is a solution designers use during the process of solving a problem. Design Thinking is a mindset, that can improve the success rate of any companies, not just startups.

Design sprints are the practical and time framed implementation of design thinking. It is a time-constrained, five-phase process that uses design thinking to reduce the risk when bringing a new product, service or a feature to the market. Design sprints can help any company tremendously, as usability tests are built into the process. It is basically a framework for designing and validating any product.

Design sprint is basically a framework for designing and validating any product.

It takes 5 days to run a regular design sprint though I would not say that it is a strict rule, I had shorter and longer sprints, that worked just as fine. Google created a well usable Design Sprint Kit, that can help any team run a sprint.

If you would like to read more about real life design sprint stories, sprintstories.com is a great resource

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5 steps of a design sprint:

1. Understanding Phase:
At this, first step, we try to find answers to the most important questions, define the problem we would like to solve. We try to understand the problem and the real need of the users. What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? What assumptions are we making? Who are we solving the problem for? (Determine whether we’re solving the right problem.) This is the time to start research and share knowledge, you also try get all stakeholders on board too.

2. Brainstorming Phase:
Generate as many potential solution ideas as you can with the team, exploring the different dimensions, multiple ways of solving the problem. Remember, there is no such thing as a too crazy idea, anything that can work as a solution in any way can be a good idea.

3. Deciding Phase:
Selecting the best idea or ideas and separating the ones you are going to abandon. Select maximum 2-3 of the best ideas you are about to prototype and create prototype out of these idea(s).

4. Prototyping Phase: 
Create a working version (even if it’s just a paper mock-up) of the best ideas in a plausible design to test the teams assumptions. “Let’s build real, tactile representations for a range of your ideas.” Although a paper mock-up can work well too, I would suggest to create at least a medium-fidelity prototype, because users will get a better feel of the thing you are trying to create.

5. Validating Phase: 
Put your prototype in front of real users and watch them give it a spin. By validating assumptions, you learn even more about the user needs. First test your prototype(s) on a small group of users, 4-5 users will do running the tests individually. Record the tests if you have the chance, and try to interpret the user’s feedback, the best way you can. Let’s have a retrospective after the user testing with your team, as soon as you can.

5 + 1 Implement your validated solution (and start over again, by iterating it :)

The main advantages of having design sprints at your company:

  • We are validating the product we develop, by testing the prototype with real users at the earliest stage possible, we are not developing a product for ourselves, and through our biases.

The earlier, the validation starts and the more often it happens, the more likely the product will be well usable, and successful, because the user aspect is deeply integrated into the development of the product. This is one of the most important aspects of the user-centered design.

  • Development is the most critical part of building any product, regarding time and money. Design is always ahead of development, so with design sprints, by the time the dev team start to work on the solution, it is already validated and the necessary iterations were made, so your team will not burn development hours needlessly. It can really save you months of development time. You will have a broader picture whether an idea works or not, without developing the product and having long and extra production extra-cycles. You find out at the beginning, what needs to be changed.

  • It enables you to give simple solutions to complicated problems within a short period of time

  • It removes your and your team’s biases from the product

  • It helps you build a product that is rooted in a deep understanding of your target audience

  • Decisions are happening real-time, as the sprint has a time frame, there is no room for shelving product decisions

  • It aligns your team to a common, shared vision

In a following article I will write about what to do after a design sprint is done.

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