Google Design Sprint: A Beginner’s Guide

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The goal of this article is to give you an introductory look at what the Design Sprint represents.


If you’re involved in product management, you’ve probably heard of Design Thinking. We previously wrote an article on this topic, which you can find in our blog.

Design Thinking is an iterative process whose main objective is to deeply understand users. By questioning the assumptions of what we think we know about a user, we can reapproach issues from new angles, in order to identify alternative strategies and solutions that may not be immediately apparent with our initial level of understanding.

However, while you may have heard about it, you probably haven’t had a chance to practice Design Thinking yet. This is where the Google Design Sprint comes in. Google Design Sprint is a process created by Google Ventures that was set up to help businesses accomplish two things:

  • To use Design Thinking,
  • To learn the process without having to build and launch their own product.

1. Introduction to Design Sprint

Google Ventures (GV) launched Design Sprints about five years ago, and have since become a powerful movement that helps:

  • Google’s product teams,
  • Developers,
  • Companies in the IT development sector

… to quickly resolve design problems.

The Design Sprint framework is based on the upstream understanding of Design Thinking. The good news is, it’s still super easy to learn, even if you’ve never been into design.

A Design Sprint is a five-phase, time-bound process that uses design thinking to reduce risk when bringing a new product, service or feature to market. Jake Knapp, Author and Best Seller of the book Sprint, developed at Google Ventures (GV) (source: Wikipedia).

The goal of Design Sprint is for you to be able to present a product to your users as quickly as possible. This concept was born from the pervasive need to be the first and quick in markets where speed is of utmost importance.

As one of the co-founders of Linkedin (in 2003), Reid Hoffman once said: “If you’re not bothered by the first version of your product that you show your users, then that means you launched it too late “. Design Sprint allows you to iterate quickly and deliver more value to your users, reducing waste.

So how does a Design Sprint work? What are the steps to follow in realizing a Design Sprint?

2. First stage of the Design Sprint: the planning phase led by a Sprint Master

2.1 The most critical part of the process is the planning phase

The Design Sprint begins at the planning stage. This is the most critical step. The Sprint Master leads the Design Sprint and is in charge of the team, guiding them to produce high user satisfaction and more meaningful results. Having someone specifically responsible for organizing the sprint is crucial. The Sprint Master can be the Product Manager (PM), CEO, Designer, or even you, whatever role you may have in the company.

2.2 What is the role of the Sprint Master:

Let’s go into more detail on the role of the Sprint Master:

  • Their mission is to clearly identify the challenge that the team needs to solve. After clearly identifying it, they need to be able to explain the project objective in an intelligible and transparent way to their team.
  • Their second mission is to bring together and unite the team around that common goal. Engaging team members will be the main key to success.

2.3 Invite and involve people outside the team

One of the main advantages of the Design Sprint is flexibility: in the event that you don’t have all the IT talent you might need for your project, you can invite someone from another team to join yours for a short period of 2 to 4 days maximum.

So, for example, if you’re a small team pursuing a Design Sprint and are missing a web developer or technical architect, you can ask your colleagues outside the team to join you. Since Design Sprints can be a very entertaining experience, most people easily accept the invitation. They have fun, and can help you reach the goal faster.

2.4 What are the next steps after planning?

First, you have to design the challenge. Then, you need to find six different ways to complete it.

3. The 6 stages of the Design Sprint

A Design Sprint has 6 stages, with each solving an essential part of the design process. They are:

  • 1. Understand
  • 2. Define
  • 3. Diverge
  • 4. Decide
  • 5. Prototype
  • 6. Validate

3.1 Step 1: Understand

In this phase, the team will clarify a set of points, which can broadly cover:

  • Commercial objectives
  • The problem you want to solve
  • Technical feasibility
  • Market conditions and the state of the competition
  • A precise definition of user needs

3.2 Step 2: Define

In this step, you define the objective of the product, or its specific characteristics. This includes items such as:

  • The product positioning
  • The customer journey
  • Metrics related to the product
  • Its characteristics.

An example of a milestone definition: A Spotify user can find podcasts they’ve saved to their list of favorites.

3.3 Step 3: Diverge

At this point, the team can start being creative and have some fun. The divergence stage is when the team is meant to look for several potential solutions to the problem stated in the previous stage.

This phase can be a bit messy. Members reflect on and express their ideas, which don’t necessarily need to be precise or well-formulated. The goal is for ideas to flow without restraint, in a classic brainstorming format.

Finally, under the guidance and supervision of the Sprint Master, the ideas will gradually begin to evolve into more precise and concrete solutions for solving the objective.

At the end of this step, sketches and drawings are made of the most convincing solutions that have been selected by the whole team.

3.4 Step 4: Decide

At this point, it’s time to reflect on the ideas that were developed and selected in the previous step, and to select the best solution among them for meeting the primary objective.

3.5. Step 5: Prototype

Once you’ve settled on a solution, it’s time to create: this means kicking off the web development, calculation grids, models or the prototypes that will be tested on real users. These will be the deliverables at the end of the Design Sprint.

3.6 Step 6: Validate

At this stage, it’s time to test the product on real users. You’ll need to test your web developments, your wireframes, and your models or your prototypes, in order to determine whether the assumptions are relevant and convincing – or not. At the end of this validation step of user testing, you’ll know if the product borne out of the Design Sprint is successful in the eyes of users, or if you need to go back and launch a new sprint from scratch.

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