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Design Sprints: A Complete Guide

Jake Knapp, a former design partner at Google Ventures, came up with design sprints, which are a unique five-day way to understand, come up with ideas, decide, make a prototype, and test a product. Its goal was to speed up the process of making, implementing, and putting products into customers' hands. During these five days, the teams work together to validate ideas and solve all major product problems through prototyping and intensive testing of all ideas directly with customers. Lastly, it uses customer feedback to improve and roll out the best product results. Even though there are different versions of the design sprint, such as Google's sprint framework, this article focuses on the traditional design sprint and how to use it to create the best product design that meets growing customer needs.  

Why is it important to have design sprints?

Problem-finding, defining, and understanding are not the main goals of development sprints. Instead, dev sprints are usually done after these assessments have been done first using the design sprint method. Design sprints are an approach to product development that is based on design thinking. They act as sprint zero in the product development cycle, where teams start the sprint by doing all the research they need to get started. Using the research derivatives, teams can come up with their own hypotheses to help with high-level design and information architecture. It's important to remember that the work done in sprint zero is important and makes it possible for the next sprints in the design lifecycle. During the early stages of the sprint, all of the low-level design and asset creation takes place. Most of the time, all assets are made at the same time as developers and are kept ready to help development teams. Design sprints are very important, especially when you consider that they happen one or two sprints before dev sprints and other sprints.  

What do you need to organize a design sprints?

Even if you follow the design sprint method to the letter, you won't get the results you want if you don't put together the right team to do the role-specific tasks that need to be done in the five days.   Depending on the needs of each project, the best team is made up of people who are experts in the following important roles:


The people who make decisions are the ones who make things happen. The main job of a decision-maker is to make decisions and push the design team to reach all goals so that the project turns out well. Usually, a CEO, top-level management, or managing directors make the final decision.


For the design sprint to work, it needs to be done in a very short amount of time. The facilitator keeps track of time and makes decisions that are fair and hard to make sure the design team stays on track to meet the day's goal within the allotted time.

Marketing expert

The marketing expert is very important to the value and reception of a product. A product is useless if it doesn't get enough interest from people who might buy it. They do this by making a plan to figure out the best way to design something that will reach the most customers. Experts in the marketing plan and come up with the marketing strategy while keeping the brand and product's image with customers.

Customer service

Today, customers judge brands and their products based on how well they treat their customers. Customer service teams help the design sprint process by getting feedback on how the product works in the real world. They are important to getting great results and figuring out where customers are having trouble with your product.

Design expert

Design experts are an important part of the design sprint. Their designs are a big part of turning the business's vision into something that can be measured. They make the product so that it best meets the needs of the customer based on what other roles, like marketing experts and customer service, tell them and what research they do.

Tech expert

For the design teams to be successful, they need to know what the technological limits and limits of their designs are. Tech experts' main job is to figure out what the business can do in terms of design and tell the designers who are planning, building, and putting products into action.

Financial expert

In the end, it all comes down to money, no matter how well a product is made. In most business situations, the success or failure of a product gives companies ideas for new products or ways to improve the ones they already have. The financial expert figures out how much it will cost to make and implement products and gives the stakeholders projections of their return on investment (ROI). Many times, financial experts have helped figure out that a product design needs to be redone or costs cut when the costs don't match the returns.  

The five-day design sprint process

  The success of the sprint depends on setting clear goals, tasks, and targets for all five days and meeting them on time. If any of these steps run into problems that make them take longer than planned, the design sprint will not be able to reach its goal. Let's look more closely at the first five steps of the design sprint to see why they are so important.

Day 1: Understand

On the first day, you should figure out what problem the product is meant to solve. To do this well, it is important to set a clear long-term goal for the sprint. When design teams know the goal of the project from the start, they can do three important things:
  • Plan exactly which parts of the design to put your attention on.
  • What things should be put on hold so that the long-term goal can be reached best?
  • Aligns the design teams and the people who have a stake in the project so that they can work together and try to reach the same goals.
After deciding on a plan, teams must turn all problems and assumptions into sprint questions to figure out how to deal with and solve each problem quickly. For example, if the goal is to make a platform where customers can easily log in and share their user experiences, you can turn this goal into a sprint question by asking, "Are customers running into any problems between logging in, typing their feedback, and clicking submit?" When putting your goals into questions for the sprint, think of every problem as a chance for the design team to solve it. A great way to understand the problems and the customer is to map out the path to the result, taking into account your target customers and other important players. By imagining and mapping the end result at the beginning, teams can work together better and understand all the steps that need to be taken to make the vision come true. If there isn't a clear end goal, it can slow progress and put deadlines at risk. The decider is very important for moving this stage forward and making sure that time is used well.  

Day 2: Brainstorm

Now that the problem is well understood, the second day of the design sprint process is all about coming up with design ideas that can solve the problem and give the customer something of value. It is very important that these plans be written down so that people involved in the design can see where they are going during the sprint. Usually, the day starts with a "lightning demo" or a group session where everyone involved in design shares their ideas and inspirations. Through visual representations of each person's opinion, this timed exercise helps design teams bring out their collective creativity. Remember that the power of the human brain of each of your design stakeholders can help you make the best decisions if you use it right. Most lightning demos last between one and two hours, but longer ones are reserved for products that are more complicated. Start the exercise by giving each group member 20 minutes to write down all the possible goals and opportunities for product development and sketch out some rough ideas. In the next ten minutes, everyone should work on making multiple versions of their favorite product. During the last thirty minutes, the designer's best solution should be used to sketch a full, end-to-end solution.  

Day 3: Make a choice

On day three, the key decision-makers look at the different solutions and decide on the direction of the product before prototyping can begin. During this design sprint, it's important to know that not all ideas can be used to make a working prototype. Here, the person making the decision needs to make hard choices and pick the best solution for prototyping, dropping the others. During this stage, it's a good idea to put all designs and sketches on the walls so that good ideas don't go unnoticed when important decisions need to be made. Allow your teams to vote on their three favorite sketches to show that you care about what they think. The final tally of this voting system makes sure that the person making the decision has a clear picture of what the teams as a whole think. This can be very helpful in making data-driven decisions that can make the project more likely to succeed. Giving team members the unique chance to critique all sketches except their own gives them a deep look at the pros and cons of each solution, which helps with the decision-making process. The final decision about the product is up to the person in charge, and it shouldn't be made quickly.  

Day 4: Prototype

On the fourth day of a design sprint, the final solution and its design plans should be ready to be turned into a working model. On the fourth day, the team's goal is to make a prototype that works and is a good representation of the final plans. At this stage, all of the information and plans that have been laid out in the storyboard so far are drawn to make an early beta version of a product that a customer might want. The prototype must look good and be interesting to the user. This visual success can be achieved by hiring the right designers, asset collectors, engineers, and writers whose job it is to find or make all the different parts and text and put them in the right place on the product's user interface (UI). Lastly, it's up to the customer interviewer to come up with questionnaires with the right questions that can give actionable information about how to get the best result.  

Day 5: Test

The last part of a design sprint is testing, where customers get to try out the prototype for themselves. Even though it's a small focus group, the customer is asked the planned interview questions from day four. These questions are very important for finding out how the product is working and how people feel about it. Before a product is released to the public, this stage gives teams a chance to work out all the bugs and fix them. With the help of the feedback from the focus groups and the successful completion of this step, teams can smooth out all of the rough spots and design flaws in the product, bringing it closer to its final version and getting it ready for the official launch. It's a good idea to record the interviews and show them to the sprint team so they can see what's working and what big problems are getting in the way of product performance.

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