Customer feedback is at the heart of every product I build and the digital teams I work with. Design sprints in agile teams have been my answer to most of the questions that come with getting fast, qualitative customer feedback in an agile environment. Perfecting the process of prototyping, building an MVP and iterating is more of a trial and error process to most teams across the South African market practicing agile in the real world. It is still challenging to get qualitative feedback within the time constraints of an agile sprint, even though other usability testing methods like gorilla testing and facilitated usability testing.

What is the design sprint?

The Design Sprint is a proven methodology for solving problems through designing, prototyping, and testing ideas with users. Design Sprints quickly align teams under a shared vision with clearly defined goals and deliverables. Ultimately, it is a tool for developing a hypothesis, prototyping an idea, and testing it rapidly with as little investment as possible in as real an environment as possible.

So how do design sprints solve everything? Well not everything but quite close. There are different variations of design sprints that teams can adapt to find a fit in how they want to work and how their agile sprints are structured. The different variations of the design prints below can be tweaked to accommodate time constraints and availability of stakeholders.

The 5-day design sprint

is the original and most used across most user-centered product design teams in the South African market? This, however, is a week long and usually takes too much time to fit in the 1-2 week agile sprint structures that are most commonly used. The 5-day sprint was modified by Jake Knapp (author of Sprint) and Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart into a shorter 4-day design sprint that they call Design Sprint 2.0.

This will save time and fit in with some agile teams, however, I still find that it is a bit too long for the majority of the agile teams running 1-2 week agile sprints. The Design Sprint 2.0 can be used by any team that really wants to answer challenging questions in their design process and can help with spending more time unpacking the solution.

The 3-day design sprint

is a more flexible and the shortest version of the design sprints that I have facilitated and got to test out and experiment within a 2-week agile sprint. I’m my view the 3-day design sprint help answer usability questions fast with enough detail to have actionable next steps on the product build. Design sprints require good planning and buy-in from stakeholders because you will need to get people out of their working hours and sit in a room for a day, two or even three. Design Sprints can be used to solve all kinds of challenges.

Best known for injecting speed and innovation into product development, the methodology can also be used to develop new processes, create or update a brand, or even define the vision for an organization’s strategy and impact in the market.

Do you do design sprints? How do you run your design sprint and which version of the design sprint works for you? Please leave your tips and methods below.