What is the role of a UX agency in a Design Sprint?

Having a crack team of experts in your Sprint set up is step one on stairway to a successful product launch. However, just because the personnel are perfect on paper, that doesn’t guarantee you an easy ride in a Design Sprint.  

Distractions, lack of organisation, poor time keeping, and limited note taking can lead to a chaotic few days which could see you abandon the Sprint altogether. What we’re trying to say is even if you know how to run a Design Sprint (download our FREE guide here to get the ins and outs on running Sprints), having a helping hand can always be a relief.  

Enter UX agencies. A UX agency can be a perfect foil for Sprint teams, enabling the best ideas to come to the forefront while supporting the process at every stage with their own insights. As a result, an experienced design agency in your corner can increase the odds of better results, more UX focused solutions, and an overall smoother process.

Read on to see exactly how having a UX agency can help your Design Sprint race out of the starting blocks.

How can a UX agency improve a Design Sprint?

By Facilitating the Design Sprint 

A misconception of Design Sprints is thinking you can just do them anywhere at any time. That it doesn’t matter how the room (or virtual environment) is set up, what tools you use, or how the day is laid out.

Failing to plan is planning to fail and this is no less true than when running a Sprint.  

If you haven’t established an itinerary of what you want to achieve by set time periods, set rules on phone usage, scheduled breaks, or narrowed down the list of tools to be used (whether that’s sticky notes and whiteboards for in-person or software like Miro for virtual), you’re on track to potentially waste a week’s worth of time.  

Having a UX agency join for a Design Sprint can allow an external party to put in the foundations for a successful Sprint in place. This can be broken down into the following:

  1. Creating a good working environment: The setting for a Sprint matters. Forcing your team to work in a noisy part of the office is the first way to guarantee ample distractions and less than ideal outcomes. The agency could opt to invite teams to a location that fits their brief, or even offer guidelines for the location if occurring onsite.
  2. Bringing equipment: Understandably, there are some tools you just may have never had. You may have never needed a whiteboard or sticky notes before, but we assure you, for a Design Sprint, you will! UX agencies specialising in Design Sprints often provide materials that help present problems and ideas in a way that works best for the group to bounce off of and return to at different stages.
  3. Providing thinking fuel: We underplay its value, but the food and drink you have available affects cognitive performance. Not only the type of food, but also how you eat or drink, with grazing being better than waiting until you’re hungry when it comes to thinking. With this in mind, our team provide snacks with the aim of keeping ideas coming and pushing engagement to its peak.

Maintaining Momentum and Tracking Time

Design Sprints require a lot of progress in a short amount of time, that’s why making sure the team are on track is paramount.

An agency’s role in facilitating a Design Sprint doesn’t just mean setting up and letting the Sprint team go from there. Design agencies often play an important recurring role throughout the week, supporting the team in progressing through each stage, explaining tasks, and keeping an eye on time. This means taking on the role of The Facilitator, a person detailed in Jake Knapp’s book Sprint who is responsible for managing conversations, time and for keeping things moving along.

Companies running Sprints can see the benefits of having third parties in this role from the outset, with a smoother transition between tasks and a solid understanding of their role during each task.

Contribute to Concept Development 

During days 2 and 3, Sprint teams will likely have narrowed their focus on a specific problem and have begun ideating, voting, and enhancing the solutions they’ve found. This is a crucial time, as promising ideas can flounder if fleshed out poorly or fall to wayside if concepts that are better aesthetically are favoured. 

UX agencies can offer some balance and enhance the ideas on offer, bringing their expertise and examples that they have seen before to add further value to early concepts.

For example, during the lightning demo phase, the external agency could point to an existing product or feature they may have worked on or used which can illustrate what the team are aiming for. This ultimately harnesses the third party’s expertise for the betterment of the Sprint overall.

Assist in the Development of the Prototype 

Towards the end of the working week, the concept(s) to test with users will be decided, with Thursday starting the prototyping phase of the Design Sprint.

This day is particularly intense. With user testing the next day, the prototype needs to be as realistic as possible and cover all the areas required to address the Sprint question in just one day. Tight turnaround, right? 

The advantage of having a UX agency play a role in the Design Sprint is access to an expert extra set of hands to pick out a piece of software, build the components and assist in meeting the deadline. This involves taking the storyboards, brand assets and concepts, and stitching them into a realistic working prototype that your target audience can navigate around the next day.

This is not only beneficial to organisations without a dedicated design team but can also come in handy with supporting the existing team if time scales are tight.

Conduct User Testing 

With 5 days of intense work, you may wonder when you get time to find valid members of your target audience for the user testing phase. Typically, this is done before the Sprint if you have a very well defined audience that you’re looking to get feedback from.  

This can mean extending your Sprint week to accommodate recruitment, establishing rewards and ensuring everyone is happy post-test.  

You may be happy to know that in many cases, the UX agency can tackle the user testing phase of a Design Sprint. Not only does this save time outside of the Sprint, but it also frees up some of your team’s time on the Friday with the UX agency conducting the questioning you’ve provided. 

The end result is a completely managed approach to user testing with the feedback produced into an easy to digest report.   

Looking for specialists in Design Sprints? 

You’re in the right place! PixelTree specialise in delivering world-beating UX insights through Design Sprints and have run them for everyone from innovative start-ups to global brands.  

If you’re interested in rapidly building your next website, app, or digital experience, get in contact via our form below to tell us more about your next big project.

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