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Google Design Sprint: How to come up with a viable idea in 5 days

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Startup Jedi

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Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kovitz at Google Ventures developed Design Sprint to test ideas quickly and efficiently back in 2012. The goal of the methodology is to get as many viable ideas as possible in the shortest possible time without spending much money. Sprint can be applied in different areas in order to assess the potential and risks of decisions at the initial stage of idea formation.


Sprint is a short distance competition. The word “sprint” has a similar meaning in IT, referring to a small, fixed amount of time during which a team does a certain amount of work.

One of the creators of the methodology, Jake Knapp, noticed that people are more efficient at work if there is a clear short time frame for its completion. When time is limited, they do not have time to get distracted and only concentrate on the task at hand.

Design Sprint is based on design thinking. The idea is to understand the needs of the end-user and find the most appropriate creative solution to the problem. Unlike standard brainstorming sessions, in a sprint, the team must create a working prototype and test it on real users in five days.

There can be about eight people in a team who will then be implementing the task. It is important to invite the person who is authorized to make decisions in the company, most often it is the CEO or product manager, since they have the right to implement the invented solutions. Also, the team should have a Facilitator who will control organizational issues: establish communication processes between participants and keep track of time. The team should also include specialists from different areas that impact the sprint topic, like a business analyst, a designer, a developer, and a marketing specialist. If there are more than seven to eight participants, they can be invited as “experts” to evaluate the work that has been done.

  1. Make sure you have five free working days (Monday-Friday).

  2. Prepare coloured stickers, A4 sheets, Whatman drawing paper, scotch tape, markers, magnets, a timer and two whiteboards.

  3. Prepare small round stickers and star stickers for voting — the decision maker should have them in a different colour.

  4. Consider in advance who to invite for an interview to test the prototype.

  5. Don’t forget about snacks!


What to do?

Defining the goal, creating the roadmap

  1. It is worth starting from the end and looking at the favourable future. What result does the team want to achieve? The team writes a list of questions that it wants to be answered and marks the desired result.

  2. It is important to determine who will be the key stakeholders to achieve the result. For example, if a team wants to launch a new product, the best outcome will be the purchase of this product, and the customer would be the key stakeholder.

  3. Participants draw a so-called roadmap with points B and A, where point B is the desired result, and point A is the characters who will get to point B.

  4. Make sure to address the following questions: “How would the customer find out about the product? What should they do to purchase a product?” Team members step by step draw the character’s path to the goal on the board, listing all possible steps and the relationships between them. The map doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

  5. Now you can invite “experts” to advise on which steps to add to the map.

  6. Further, the participants must imagine what would happen if after some time the development of the project proceeded according to the worst scenario. What problems would the company face? The team transforms the problems into questions like “How could we?” on stickers. The purpose of such questions is to turn potential problems into opportunities for solving them. For example: “What needs to be done to bring the company more customers?” — “It is necessary that customers believe in the high level of quality of the company’s products” — “Will customers believe in the high level of product quality?”.

Participants then sort all the questions by topic and vote for the most important ones using stickers. The advantage of such voting is that it is non-verbal and prevents the participants from putting pressure on each other.

The winning question stickers are placed on the appropriate stages of the roadmap and, thus, the weakest point in the map is determined — the key task of the sprint. The idea behind the sprint is for the key character to get safely to point B and sort out all the questions.

Have a look at the list of initial questions for the sprint from point 1. The problem must match at least one of them.

Generation and visualization of ideas

  1. All team members work individually. Everyone makes a list of ideas that might help solve the problem.

  2. The team members then conduct a quick demo of their ideas for a few minutes, and the facilitator notes the key ideas on the board.

  3. Everyone should try to figure out how to combine ideas and make simple sketches, and then, choosing the most successful one, sketch out as many options to implement it as possible. Then make a detailed thoughtful sketch of 1 option that should consist of three parts. For example, three consecutive web pages that the end-user will see or three actions that he will have to perform.

  4. The team also needs to start looking for five candidates for the upcoming Friday interview and prepare the venue. For a productive result, you can install a camera and a microphone in the hall so that other participants can watch the interview online or in a recording. It is important to warn respondents that they will be recorded in order to avoid conflicts.

Discussing and selecting the most suitable idea, creating a storyboard for a prototype

  1. All participants distribute the sketches prepared on Tuesday on the board and “vote” for the sketch they like best. You can glue stickers with questions and comments to each of them. No one knows who created what sketch to avoid subjective judgments.

  2. The facilitator discusses the pros and cons of each idea with the participants for three minutes.

  3. All participants need to vote again for the idea that they like the most. The decision-maker can choose the three ideas they like best.

  4. The team starts building a storyboard. A storyboard is a detailed, step-by-step visualization of an idea. We need to try to ensure that all the selected ideas are included in the storyboard. It usually consists of ten to fifteen frames.

In the first frames of the storyboard, you need to reflect the moment the user first meets the product. For example, they first interact with it in a messenger, where they get a promo message about a product, or it can be a flyer in a supermarket. The team depicts the entire journey from user to product step by step. The more detailed each step will be, the fewer questions will arise the next day when creating a prototype.

Creating a working prototype and preparing for testing

A prototype can consist of layouts, web page templates, applications, videos, presentations, and brochures. To do this, you can use resources like FigmaCanvas, PowerPointt, and the like.

You need to distribute the roles in the team: decide who will deal with the text, content, design, materials, who will put everything together, prepare a script with questions and conduct an interview on Friday.

After lunch, the participants analyse all the prototype pages, compare them to the storyboard, and check all the steps. Has everything been taken into account?

End-user prototype testing and feedback discussion

According to research by Jakob Nielsen, a renowned usability expert, five users surveyed can identify about 85% of existing problems. This will be enough for a prototype idea.

A prototype is presented to the invited users followed by an interview, which should include questions about what the user likes or dislikes about the product, what should be changed, and most importantly — why?

It is advisable that the questions are related to each step of the storyboard, so it will be easier to evaluate each step. During the interview, you need to make notes that can be attached to the storyboard or roadmap. When the interview is over, make sure to thank the respondents and, if possible, present them with a small souvenir from the company. After the interview, the team discusses the results, comparing them with the original sprint questions, and the decision-maker decides what to do next.

The sprint method always brings a useful result to the team. An unsuccessful prototype will help you refuse to invest in a product, and a successful one will encourage you to refine and implement it.

The sprint can be carried out in a shorter time, depending on the complexity of the issues that need to be resolved. In this case, the time to complete each task is reduced.



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