05. Sketch the right way
Now that we've identified a problem, we want to explore as many solutions as possible. We start on paper, since it's a medium anyone can use. Everyone, including the non-designers, quietly sketches possible solutions. There is no group brainstorming. Loud voices do not prevail, and we avoid compromised groupthink solutions.
We start with very rough private sketching to keep people from zeroing in on their first idea. The final sketches are still rough, but detailed: no one draws like Da Vinci, but copywriting is realistic, user interfaces are plausible, and graphics are indicative. Multi-step sketches are encouraged. Drawing flows ('The user does this, then that happens') are better than isolated screens.
06. Decide the right way
Teams commonly make decisions by arguing over the best solution. We avoid this because loud voices often win. Instead, each person considers each sketch and then votes by placing a small sticker next to the ideas they think are worth exploring in a prototype. After a couple of rounds of voting we have a heat map of the best ideas.
07. Medium-fidelity protoyping
By this point, we have spent three days ideating and sketching, and now have only a single day to build a prototype. But because we weren't faking it earlier, we have most of the copy written, realistic navigation, and plausible UI. Now we just need to up the fidelity.
For this, we choose appropriate tools. We often work in Keynote, because non-designers can contribute, you can easily fake interactions, and because it's at a level of detail where you won't waste time polishing the visual style to perfection.
For mobile, we frequently use Flinto or similar storyboarding-like tools. By the end of the day, we will often have created 10 to 20 screen 'apps'. Always keep in mind you're trying to suspend disbelief, so users are reacting, not commenting.
08. User studies
The user studies are the most critical component of the sprint process – but they aren't sophisticated. You don't need fancy equipment or a professional researcher to get a lot of value from a study.
We schedule four to five people who fit the profile of potential customers, bring them to a quiet room at our office that is outfitted with a simple webcam, and have them click or tap through the prototype while talking out loud.
At the same time, the other design sprinters observe from another room and take detailed notes. At the end of the day, we analyse our notes and look for patterns.
With the prototype and user study done, it is possible to take the lessons learned and build the minimum shippable product with clarity. Alternatively, if the sprint revealed large holes in the product direction we can cut our losses early and start over with a new hypothesis.
09. A lower risk path to launch
Employing a prototyping mentality is all about mitigating risk. At small startups, building the wrong product wastes time on a short runway. At large companies, it costs money and can harm a brand. In both cases, it incurs significant opportunity cost.
As a side effect, teams are happier working this way. More people get involved in the ideation phase, everyone gets exposure to real customers, and the team gets a rush from achieving an extraordinary amount in just a week.
If you're interested in running a design sprint within your business, our handbook should give you enough detail to try one yourself.
Words: Daniel Burka
Daniel Burka is a design partner at Google Ventures, working with the investment firm’s 200-plus portfolio companies on their design challenges. Follow him on Twitter @dburka
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