If you are looking for a proven way to test any new product or platform ideas, a Google Design Sprint can hold the answer.
This highly collaborative system of focused exploration, prototyping and testing can produce incredible results within a week. We know this because leading software company Table XI has done it. A lot.
What Is A Google Design Sprint?
A design sprint is a multi-day workshop developed by Google Ventures that helps businesses find the answers to important growth questions through design, prototypes and consumer testing.
Essentially, a design sprint helps brands cycle through their business strategy quickly. They pair that strategy with design thinking, development, innovative ideas and more to bring a new product to market faster than normal.
Design sprints enable brands to find a shortcut between idea, learning and launching.
What Can A Design Sprint Accomplish — And When Can You Use One?
To get the most value from a design sprint, you have to know what it can do.
Design sprints are most useful when your team is trying to define new products or services, re-design current projects, bring new user experience to an old platform or simply increase conversions for your current project.
All you have to do is get your skilled and experienced teammates in a room and trust that they’re ready to build something better, in a way that’s faster and cheaper.
A design sprint will hyper-focus your team on one aspect of your business or product that you want to improve or re-design all together.
To force that focus, a sprint shrinks the product timeline to a week, the decision makers to a few people in the room and the testing down to a day.
You have to make quick decisions to keep up, so endless speculation can’t hold down the rest of the process. Your job isn’t to answer for every possibility, but to vote go or no-go on the feature, product or service you’re testing.
How To Pull Off A Google Design Sprint
Planning your teams’ schedule for the design sprint is crucial. Once you start, you’re all in — there’s no time to press pause. The basic layout below is a general primer, but you can adapt it to fit your needs.
Day 1 — Understand: Start by building a shared understanding of the problem, the business opportunities and the target audience. Then, use this research and sharing to map out an ideal user experience based on the current information.
Day 2 — Diverge and Converge: The facilitator will guide your team through hands-on exercises designed to spark ideas around the central problem.
Day 3 — Decide: The team will assess the ideas generated on Day Two and pick the one most likely to solve the central problem. This involves a lot of discussions, dot voting and occasionally a Decider, which we’ll discuss more below.
Day 4 — Prototype: We have one day to prepare for user interviews by creating a realistic model of the proposed solution.
Day 5 — Test and Learn: Get the prototype in front of actual users, and gather their reactions. This is what you’ll ultimately use to decide whether to pursue the idea further, or change course.
Know this going in: you are not building a fully functional prototype during your design sprint. What you are doing is building a facsimile that will give users the general idea while allowing them to fill in the gaps with their imaginations.
You will be surprised how insightful your users can be even without all the features. By building something that imitates the real thing, you can get the most useful insights from your customers in the shortest amount of time.
Who Do You Need For A Design Sprint?
You won’t need all the people for a design sprint, just the right people. Much like the short timeframe forces results, a small team forces close collaboration and avoids death-by-committee.
The most important person to bring is The Decider. Design sprints were developed in part to fight back against groupthink.
When everyone falls in line, it limits individual creativity and independent thinking, because no one wants to raise controversial issues or alternative solutions.
This is how you end up with “innovations” like changing the color, making it smaller, making it bigger, or adding a ball.
The Decider is given the privilege (and burden) of breaking up a tie. While everyone will get input into the decision-making process, ultimately, it’s on the Decider to make the final call.
As such, it falls to a particular type of person.
Things to look for in a Decider:
- Someone with experience considering every aspect of the business when making decisions, and who has a broad knowledge of what’s happening within the business and within the industry.
- Someone whose decisions are the least likely to be reversed by other members of the organization
- Someone who’s available for the first and third days of the sprint. While you can elect a proxy decider for days two, four and five, you absolutely need the Decider in the room for days one and three.
Other valuable team members:
- Subject matter experts such as technologists, department heads, customer support representatives, sales team members, or writers. They should number no more than five.
- Outside moderators who are experienced in running Google Design Sprints
What Problems Can A Google Ventures Design Sprint Test?
Design sprints are just a framework — they can be adapted based on the problem you’re trying to solve and the team you have in place.
That said, here are four occasions when we recommend a Google Design Sprint.
- When you're trying to reach a new audience.
Because design sprints start with user research and end in user testing, they’re a great way to reorient your thinking — and your product — toward a new audience.
- When you're looking to add a feature.
A sprint can tell you whether it’s worth pursuing a full build around a proposed feature — so you don’t commit only to find out the market isn’t interested.
- When you know there's a problem, but you don't know what the solution is.
A sprint will give your best minds the space to explore possible solutions, and a deadline to pick one and run with it.
- When you’re trying to improve a specific feature or flow.
By focusing on one element of the user experience — onboarding, checkout, signup — or a function of the product or service, a sprint creates clarity around what works and doesn’t. That clarity can be hard to come by, and sorely needed, in the middle of a big project.
Examples Of A Google Design Sprint In Action
Table XI worked with Tyson to create a snack that could reduce food waste while appealing to traditional consumers. To do develop and test the initial idea for Yappah, they used a five-day Google Design Sprint.
Throughout the design sprint, Table XI worked with the brand to:
- Understand the consumers and brand objectives
- Identify problems
- Develop user journeys
- Create solutions to the problems
- Prototype a package design and protein crisp
- Test the prototype on consumers
- Analyze findings and user feedback
Rice University enlisted Table XI to build a platform that captured their students’ attention to the Doerr Institute for New Leaders.
To figure out how to really connect with busy, distracted college students, Table XI worked with Rice University through a five-day Google Design Sprint. The integrated team interviewed students, tested solutions and landed on an idea that would better meet the needs of Rice students.
The end result was a mobile chatbot that could interact with students on a personal level, and connect them with programs at Rice’s new institute.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Product Design Sprint
The five days of a design sprint will go by fast. It may seem cut-and-dry on paper, but once you are up and running — and have a deadline in the form of real users on day five — the adrenaline rush to finish an entire design will keep everyone buzzing.
Whatever the results of your Google Design Sprint — trust them. If you find out your surefire idea for improving your company’s product didn’t end up satisfying users, that’s great!
Now you don’t have to waste time and resources chasing a path that won’t help anyone. If it did do the trick, now you have a ton of information to build out the real version and bring it to market.
Ready to begin your own sprint? Contact Table XI here to get started with their expert help.