What Makes a Design Sprint UX Friendly?

At Pixeltree, we’re big believers in using Design Sprints as part of our UX design methodology. And we’re not alone. From companies like Google and Uber to start-ups looking to validate their concept, Design Sprints are being looked to for their credentials as a user-first approach to better product design.

But what is it about a Design Sprint that makes it particularly UX friendly? Design Sprints bake in activities that try to understand the customer process, their touch points and their feelings at every stage to develop ideas that solve an underlying pain point.

From using journey mapping to harnessing user testing on day 5 (day 4 if you’re like us and use the Design Sprint 2.0 framework), Design Sprint’s never forget to be customer-centric.

Keep scrolling to see exactly how Design Sprints contribute to great UX outcomes for your users.

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Why is a Design Sprint great for creating better UX?

It addresses the current user journey

During day 1 of a traditional Design Sprint, the team put in simple terms the stages in their customer or service delivery journey.

This involves creating a flowchart, detailing:

  • The people involved
  • The actions taken
  • The links in-between the actions and parties involved to reach a pre-defined destination (e.g. order fulfilment; booking an appointment; subscribing to a service. Whatever the end objective is.)

Check out a simple example journey map for a demo booking process below:

A basic sales flow displaying actors, actions and touchpoints towards the objective

Pretty old school right?!

As you can see, we’ve laid out the exact journey we’re going to explore during the sprint, making it easier to spot problem areas and identify places you could improve user outcomes.

In our example’s case, the sales team could try and offer calendar dates in the online form to reduce back and forth and give customers choice upfront.

What’s the advantage of this? Assessing the journey earlier means that you begin by focused on the user experience first.

The visual display of the journey also goes a long way to helping create understanding, allowing you to see all the moving parts, preparing your team for the week ahead.

It sprinkles in expertise from staff that know the customer

With a varied team comprising your Design Sprint squad (see our picks for who should be in your sprint lineup), day 1 also sees your team encouraged to share expertise on the customer journey, filling in the gaps and adding extra context to challenges, processes and user sentiment.

This is a gamechanger.

The extra context allows you to break out of your department’s echo chamber and get the best understanding of how your customer feels about parts of the process.

Now in regular circumstances, this step may be used without the journey map entirely. But the flaws of this approach outside of a Design Sprint include:

  • You will be jockeying to get your problem resolved but possibly miss bigger issues or touchpoints in the journey entirely
  • Lack context ahead of time that may create friction or a lack of understanding in a team
  • You may have too many people close to a particular issue, creating a bias
  • You may have too few people associated with other stages in the process, neglecting their input

Our team using journey mapping to determine the most important challenges and areas of improvement

It encourages looking for inspiration (lightning demos)

Sometimes the best user experiences aren’t driven by innovation but something that already exist. You just need to know where to look.

During day 2 of a Design Sprint, the team will look to create as many ideas as possible. One exercise that’s used in a Design Sprint is ‘lightning demos’, a fast way of finding successful, usable and UX friendly solutions already in use.

Each member of the Sprint team will look for existing solutions, drawing inspiration from websites, apps, or other experiences to solve the pressing problem. This could be looking at anything from:

  • How a company has implemented chatbots (where, how fast do they respond, type of answers etc.)
  • Alternative main menu options on a competitor and how that impacts user navigation
  • How an add-to-cart process works on a company outside of your industry (what are the stages to checkout, what can be taken away?)

By looking at existing options, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and can use established solutions that have been trialed successfully on customers before, iterating on them to get to the ideal outcome.

Tip: To make this exceptional for UX, your Design Sprint’s lightning demo should reflect on how your team feel using the solution, putting yourself in a users shoes.

It gathers customer insight before full launch

If nothing else, access to customer insights is where a Design Sprint can excel as a UX tool.

Now, a user’s experience can be driven by various factors, including:

  • Layout
  • Usability
  • Navigation
  • Content
  • Accessibility

The above can be hard to gauge in a meeting or a brainstorming session because the customer isn’t always there to comment.

A Design Sprint by contrast builds in a full day for gathering UX insights. On day 5 of a Design Sprint, the concept is tested on an audience with characteristics of your end user. This allows you to steer your product’s future by hearing issues, improvements and user sentiment from them directly.

This ultimately helps launch the best product or experience possible (in fact, 85% of usability issues can be found from testing with just 5 people), ironing out problem areas pre-launch for fewer expensive headaches.

It’s iterative

The end of a week long sprint is never the end. Following on from the gathering of user insights, Design Sprints are great for building in those insights quickly.

This means organisations can harness a flexible framework for trialing and further developing solutions, gathering feedback at every stage until an ideal solution is found. This can be:

  • Using your existing positive feedback and building on this validation of customer approval to a fully formed prototype
  • Taking negative feedback and suggestions and refining or shelving concepts
  • Trailing one solution in an initial Design Sprint and trailing a second concept another week for comparison

With enough user insight through iterative sprints, teams can address user pain points in every concept and deliver experiences that aren’t just usable, but ones customers return to again and again.

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