The Difference Between Design, Product, and Development Sprints

The Sprint approach has come a long way. Once looked as just a part of the Agile methodology, Sprints have become an even bigger part of how companies approach various organisational challenges, from marketing to design and development.

This has meant Sprints have had to adapt to different situations and tailor to solving different problems, with Sprints now taking on more shapes and sizes to accommodate different objectives.

But with more Sprint variations, it’s easy to make the mistake of running or asking for the wrong type of Sprint for your goals.

In today’s PixelTree blog, we demystify the differences between a Design, Product and Development Sprints so you can select the best option for you.

What Types of Sprint Are There?

As mentioned, Sprints can be used for various purposes from streamlining internal processes to formulating a marketing strategy, but for UX and software/app development teams however, the three core Sprints are DesignProduct, and Development Sprints.

Each Sprint has it’s own purpose, timeframe and relevancy depending on where you are in your product development lifecycle. That means it’s not necessarily a case of using one over the other, but using each when it’s needed.

For a quick overview of what each Sprint’s about, check out our chart below. For more on each Sprint, continue on!


Table displaying differences between Design, Product and Development Sprints

About Design Sprints

Design Sprints are UX orientated workshops designed to recognise big design challenges the organisation faces and to ideate ‘realistic’ working prototypes in as little as a week.

Sprints of this kind don’t aim to create fully coded, apps, websites or digital experiences within their timeframe, but craft design templates or processes influenced by expert insight and user research and to arrange that into a testable MVP by day 5. Prototypes don’t even need to be developed in something like Figma or XD, if necessary, a PowerPoint with areas to click for different screens can suffice.

Of the Sprint types, Design Sprints often play the first role in new projects. This is as Design Sprints are the quickest to implement, lowest in cost, and don’t commit to a long term project like Product or Development Sprints do. It’s a time to experiment and think about the pressing issues that can be resolved.

One of the major benefits of having a Design Sprint as part of your process is that it validates your core concept at a limited cost. Before embarking on hiring developers or fleshing out every page in granular detail, having the core concept tested by users and validating it’s either good or bad can save thousands in product development later down the line, reducing risk of failure dramatically.

They can also be iterated until you’ve found the sweet spot. If at the end of your Sprint your feedback says it should have x feature, or it doesn’t completely resonate with your audience, you can always start fresh with a new Sprint to refine the idea further quickly. If it’s a success, you’ve just turbo-charged your timeline. If it has failed, you have failed fast enough to have lost little but gained a lot.

Design Sprint Timespan:

Design Sprints typically last 5 days, though more condensed Sprints do exist (see PixelTree’s 4-day Design Sprint here). These Sprints are particularly quick as the timescales are pressurised to produce pain points, solutions, prototypes and feedback fast.

As this approach only focuses on the core functionality, the limited scope enables the realistic prototype to be delivered quickly and to minimise cost and wasted time.

An in-person Design Sprint in action
A snapshot of an in-person Design Sprint we’ve run before

About Product Sprints

If Design Sprints focus on the core concept of the app/website or how a new feature would look and feel, Product Sprints (not to be confused with Product Design Sprints) aim to cover the entire digital experience.

Once you’ve completed enough Design Sprints or have successfully tested out your core concept with your audience, a Product Sprint would see you design the rest of your app/website’s pages and interactions until you have every part of the product outlined, ideal for hand over to developers. For an app, this could be the settings menu, while for a website, this may be the about us or case studies.

Product Sprints are ideal for a number of reasons. Firstly, they give you time to fully polish off your core design concept. A Design Sprint was never designed to get an experience ready for development, but to replicate the experience in a way that felt real enough to test. As Product Sprints have more time and work as extensions of the original Sprint, this is the perfect time to refine and put the finishing touches on your product to make it consistent throughout.

Secondly, it provides a structure for designing the remaining pages fast. By narrowing focus on areas or specific parts of a feature in scheduled weeks, it makes the wider task more manageable and creates timescales for delivery, minimising the chances of parts dragging on without solution.

Lastly, it works off the back of your existing momentum. Think about it, you have just completed a Design Sprint validating your idea and your whole team is energised. Designing out the rest of the product feels a bit easier, the biggest risk of failure isn’t weighing down on your team anymore, and you can visualise your idea reaching the hands of your target audience.

Product Sprint Timespan:

Product Sprints can last between 4-6 weeks, but highly depend on your staff’s skills, internal resources and the scope of the project. Huge apps can take vastly longer, while a new onboarding area could feasibly require less time.

About Development Sprints

Development Sprints take the Sprint approach of tackling big problems by set deadlines and applies this to the multiple tasks required to deliver on the product’s template and interaction specification. This type of Sprint is found after the Design and Product Sprints, particularly as Development Sprints are the creation of the work before it.

Encompassed as a SCRUM, Development Sprints focus teams on smaller bite-sized tasks, preventing sweeping changes being implemented only to require hours of debugging, patches and solutions being installed once in the hands of customers, while also ensuring sufficient time is dedicated to the task, no matter how small.

Development Sprints also benefit from reducing backlog. Through regular team meetings, expertise can be shared,  progress can be reviewed, issues or concerns can be raised, all contributing to a better end product.

Development Sprint Timespan:

Development Sprints are the hardest to attach a timespan to due to the dependency on a scope. Codeacademy, a leading education platform for software development, state that Development Sprints can last around 2 weeks, with room to grow to a month depending on scope and your resources.

Ready To Get Sprinting?

PixelTree have years of experience delivering Sprints for innovative start-ups all the way to global companies. Check out our Design Sprint and Product Sprint pages for more details on what we offer, or contact us directly to discuss your next big project.

Looking to run your own Sprints? Download our FREE guide on running your own Design Sprints here.

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