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 qualify their concept, Design Sprints are being looked to for their credentials as a user-first approach to amazing product design.

But what is it about a Design Sprint that makes it UX friendly? Design Sprints employ 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 use of journey mapping to the 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 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)

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

An simple example of a customer journey flow for an demo process on a website.

As you can see, we’ve laid out exactly the journey we’re going to explore during the sprint, making it easier to find spot problem areas and identify places you could improve user outcomes. For example, you could offer calendar dates in the online form to reduce back and forth and give customers choice upfront.

What’s the advantage of this? Conducting this assessment so earlier means that you begin by focused on the user experience first. Seeing all the moving parts in one place ultimately helps fostering understanding across the team, preparing teams for the week ahead.

It sprinkles in expertise from staff that know the customer

Also on day 1, the team are encouraged to share expertise on the customer journey to better understand challenges, processes, and importantly, customer feedback.

This is a gamechanger. Now you have more context to use. This allows you to analyse your stages with first-hand experiences and get a feel for how your customer currently feels about a stage or predict how a customer may feel.

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
An image of our team discussing the user journey and inputting expertise via sticky notes
Our team discussing the user journey and inputting expertise via sticky notes

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 or draw inspiration from other websites, apps, or other experiences to solve your pressing problem. This could be looking at anything:

  • How a company has implemented chatbots
  • Alternative main menu options on a competitor
  • How an add-to-cart process works on a company outside of your industry

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.

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, ironing out problem areas pre-launch for fewer 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 trailing and further developing solutions, gathering feedback at every stage until an idea 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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