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Design sprint makes problem-solving fast and efficient

The design sprint is an innovative five-phase method that helps to solve complex problems in just a few days. Too good to be true? We don’t think so. Here's an example of how we used it to help our client to define the specifics of their new intranet. 

What is a design sprint?

The basic idea of a design sprint is to use workshops to brainstorm and cultivate a preliminary idea into a prototype and test it – all within mere five days. Each day will revolve around a specific topic: map, sketch, decide, prototype and test. The strict time constraint makes it easier to focus on the most important aspects and get things done.

In our work, we’ve taken the liberty to adjust the method slightly depending on each organization’s needs. The goal is still always the same: use the five steps to solve a problem, make a quick prototype, and test it to see if it’s worth investing in. It’s fast, cost-effective, and engaging – the perfect combination.

Workshopping for insights

Sometimes it’s just not possible or even realistic to clear everyone’s schedule for a whole week to have a design sprint. In these cases, we’ve decided to spread out the sprint for a bit longer time-frame. Even though you may lose some of the momentum, you’ll still gain valuable insights rather quickly and find new inspiration.

Let’s introduce a real-life example: A large-scale, multinational client company of ours had a need for a new intranet for their globally spread-out workforce. For this, they needed to define an outline for the renewal project. A design sprint was a great fit for reaching a solid outcome in a limited timeframe.

Together with the client team, we had five workshop sessions within five weeks. Each session was only two hours long – optimized so that the time and effort required from our client was reasonable.

Due to the pandemic, all workshops were organized as online video conferences using Miro. We had two service designers, a visual designer and a solution architect taking turns in facilitating each week, and up to six representatives from our client in every session.

Mapping out the requirements

In the first workshop, we started out by mapping the goals and expectations for the new intranet. To get the discussion flowing, we had prepared some exercises for the participants on the Miro board. We talked about the target audience and content needs as well as the possible functionalities and content structure.

By the end of the session, we knew that the new intranet should serve as a versatile communication tool that is easy to use and personalize based on everyone’s location and role as well as their own interests and needs. The session helped our client to reach a mutual internal understanding of the priorities of the project.

Ideating on the look and feel

The second workshop was all about defining the visual style of the service with brand image exercises. All participants could voice their opinions on the brand attributes and discuss how they see their own brand. They also voted for their favorite features on the old intranet service, as well as on examples of possible style directions and new components for the new service.

As the client had renewed their brand visuals only a short while ago, this was a good way to share the information with us. They could explain their ideas and wishes directly to our designers and guide us in the right direction right from the start.

Defining the structure and making it personal

In the third and fourth workshops, we dived deeper into the content structure of the new service and how to customize it for each user’s needs. Based on the previous workshops, we already had a pretty good idea of the requirements and could focus on the actual features and functionalities.

Together with the client, we could iterate on the wireframes and visual style to find the perfect solution to suit their needs. For example, we drafted different possibilities in filtering the content and tailoring quick links to different pages on the site.

Time for testing

Before the fifth and final workshop, we put the new design ideas to test with real users from the client organization. We interviewed five people online and received valuable feedback on the navigation structure and the design decisions.

The findings from the user tests were the main topic in the last workshop, and based on the feedback we fine-tuned the designs slightly.

After that, it was time to wrap up and finalize our deliverables for the intranet definitions: the concept definition, visuals, and prototype of the service. We also provided a compilation of the technical specifications to go with the designs. As a result, our client had a clear picture of what was needed to proceed with the renewal.

Design sprints help you hit the ground running

In this particular case, the design sprint method offered a good baseline for the work and helped to keep the scope concise and clear. It shows that you do not need to follow the methodology on the dot to get good results – it’s perfectly fine and even advisable to customize it for each organization and situation.

Overall, a design sprint is a good way to get ideas flowing and focus on the most important things. It also helps your organization to be more engaged and committed to the work, which in turn often leads to better results and stronger project satisfaction. When working closer together, it is easier to tackle possible knowledge gaps and find new solutions to the problem at hand.

Want to hear more about design sprints and how we can tailor them to your needs? Contact our sales team at sales@frantic.com and we’ll be in touch with you!