Blog 53

Hiring an agency to design and build your product can be an incredibly daunting experience. We’re very much aware of this when dealing with new clients. We take time to reassure them and to help them make the best decisions for both their product and for their customers.

One way that we help companies develop their products is with a Product Design Sprint. It’s a tried and tested process initially created by Google Ventures. We’ve found it to be a highly effective way of shaping new products and redesigning features of existing products. We have successfully carried these out for clients such as Betfred and Sofaworks.

"We had quite a complex problem to solve across multiple functional boundaries; ultimately we wanted to create a great experience for our customers. By following this process, we will have saved a lot of time, money and resources by only working on the right things. Degree 53 did a fantastic job steering us through this process and I can’t wait for our customers to enjoy the end result."

Jonathan Cleaver, CTO at Sofaworks

Group of people around table discussion

Crucially, a Product Design Sprint helps remove elements of risk from client projects and therefore can avoid costly redesigns or change of directions down the road.

So, what is a Product Design Sprint? Sometimes also referred to as simply a "Design Sprint" is an intensive five day process where our team of UX experts work alongside a client to help gain an understanding of what the product is (or should be), to brainstorm ideas and features, to decide on which ideas/features to explore, and then finally to prototype and test these concepts with real users.

Group of people actively jotting down own ideas

A breakdown of the 5 day process is as follows:

Day One - Understand

The Degree 53 team and client stakeholders work to gain a shared knowledge of the problem & business goals, review existing analytics & competitors and map out the primary user journey to be focussed on.

Day Two - Diverge

Here, we focus on smaller aspects of the user journey and as a group, brainstorm ideas and concepts that solve the problem identified in Day One. This is a very engaging, satisfying (and sometimes tiring) day.

Day Three - Decide

With dozens of ideas and concepts for how the product will solve the key problems, the focus of this day is to, as a group, decide what elements are going to be carried forward and be tested. When the decisions have been made, the initial user journey is now redrawn including concepts and UI features identified the previous day.

Day Four - Prototype

The Degree 53 team goes back to the office to create a prototype and a test script based on the user journey from Day Three. The prototype is typically in a wireframe format with little to no branding, as its purpose is to validate concepts and assumptions from earlier in the process.

Day Five - Test

Real users are brought in and the entire group observes the tests taking place. This day is always informative and can be extremely insightful!

People stood up and sat down working on ideas

For us, some of the standout features of a Product Design Sprint are as follows:

1. Working closely alongside stakeholders in a fast, intense and productive three day period is extremely beneficial. It’s not a case of the client sitting around and watching our UX team work – instead it’s a case of all hands on deck. Everyone gets involved. Every voice has a say and every idea is considered and critiqued. This means that when we’re making decisions on Day Three, there are no surprises. Everyone is on-board from the beginning.

2. Great ideas can come from anyone. It’s not uncommon for the most shy stakeholder, the one who feels he’s not “creative”, to have a great idea that is rolled forward into the final product - these groundbreaking ideas would have been lost using more traditional processes. Part of the process of the Product Design Sprint is to help everyone generate ideas. Note taking exercises, “crazy eights” and mind maps all combine to help everyone focus on the task at hand.

Group of people watching a man present his idea

3. There is no substitution for real user testing. The final day of the Product Design Sprint involves putting the prototype in the hands of real users and testing it. It is hard to stress just how valuable this can be. The purpose of the Product Design Sprint is to test and validate assumptions. Long gone are the days of launching a product, based on assumptions of what users might want and then having to make costly amendments once it launches and fails.

People gathered in a room monitoring a user testing experiment

4. There are no bad outcomes of a Product Design Sprint. It might be that the ideas generated are then carried into the prototype and then tested on the last day are flawless. Users might love them and we then take that forward into a full design and development project. However, it might be that the results are less encouraging. Some of the ideas might not work and the users may struggle to understand the product. This is called “failing fast” and – crucially – “failing cheap”. It’s only taken a week and a basic prototype to realise that amendments are needed, rather than a full design and development cycle with significant financial investment (and potentially loss…).

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