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Alion | Design Sprint: from idea to tested result in 5 days

Design Sprint: from idea to tested result in 5 days

Alion blog author

Stephen Carnay

11 March 2019

min read

Alion blog intro image

Want to go live as soon as possible with your new site or app? Pitching an idea to management to get a budget? Do you have a hundred ideas for your platform, but no idea which one will add the most value?

With a Design Sprint, we can solve design problems in just 5 days and test a working prototype with your target group. In this article, we explain how we do it and when a Design Sprint is useful, and when it is not.

What is a Design Sprint and how does it work?

Putting your nose to the grindstone for 5 days

A Design Sprint is a five-day process in which a (design) issue can be solved by working according to fixed steps. The principle was devised and developed within Google Ventures and has quickly become a very popular method for innovation. If you want to know more about the background and its origin or want to organize a Design Sprint yourself, read the book 'Sprint' by Jake Knapp.

Not just for visuals

Although the name may suggest otherwise, Design Sprint is not only used to create visual designs. Above all, it is a method for teams to investigate a problem and get answers quickly and effectively. At Alion we use Design Sprints for a variety of issues:

  • Solving your biggest business challenge
  • Test how promising a new idea is
  • Improve existing solutions

For 5 days we work on the design issue according to a fixed step-by-step plan together with our client.

Results every day

During a Design Sprint, we work according to a fixed step-by-step plan. All activities are aimed at creating focus and speed, reducing politics and increasing cooperation between different areas of expertise. The emphasis is on getting answers and outcomes.

"As a team we generate ideas, we outline solutions, build a prototype and test it with users. This way, valuable results are achieved every day."

Dag 1: Defining the problem
We define the design problem and, if necessary, choose a focus area.

Dag 2: Explore ideas
The possible solutions are devised and recorded.

Dag 3: Decide
The best solution that will be further developed into a testable prototype is picked.

Dag 4: Prototype 
A prototype is built as realistic as possible.

Dag 5: Validate
The prototype is tested with users and conclusions are drawn from the results.

Gain or Lost?

The end result of the Design Sprint can vary. Sometimes you end up with a great promising idea, sometimes with a new insight / new direction, and sometimes with the conclusion that an idea does not work. In all cases, however, you get valuable insights in a short time. Insights that otherwise would consume lots of time and resources ( large investments) and would only be gained after a long time by traditional processes.

And that is precisely why we are fond of the Design Sprint. The high efficiency of it makes it a fast and cost-effective way to create ideas and concepts and to validate invented applications before investing in development.

What makes a Design Sprint so valuable?

The Stakeholders

During a well-organized Design Sprint, stakeholders are connected to each other whom which otherwise would never have come together. Management, operations and/or marketing are linked to design thinkers and developers. They sit together with undivided attention in one room and work together on a joint outcome.

The deadline

Facilitating focus and decisiveness ensures that decisions are made, so that the project always ends with an outcome.

The prototype

A Design Sprint not only ends with a visible and testable result, but also the testing itself takes place within the 5 days of the sprint. The result of your Sprint is really a validated insight into the feasibility of an idea.

"Sprints are most successful with a mix of people: the core people who work on execution along with a few extra experts with specialized knowledge."
Jake Knapp

When is a Design Sprint useful?

We generally recommend a Design Sprint in these situations:

✔️ If important choices have to be made, on which much depends.

Consider, for example, validating the viability of an idea before major investments are made in development.

✔️If little time is available.

A validated result within 5 days. Does that ring a bell? 😉 A Design Sprint can be a great way to kick start a project. For example, we started the development for the CEAD website with a Design Sprint.

✔️ When you get stuck with your idea.

...and it is time for a fresh look from multiple and / or other people.

When is it not useful?

A Design Sprint is not always the best approach. In these cases, other methods may be better suited:

❌ If the need is already met.

Can you feel on your clogs that your idea is good? Then a Design Sprint will no longer offer you many new insights. If only the feasibility or user-friendliness of the product needs to be tested, other methods are better suited.

❌ With insufficient capacity

If not all stakeholders are available, or if you expect that there is no capacity to continue with the results of the Design Sprint, then a Design Sprint is not the way to go.

Need help with your Design Sprint?

We think it would be nice to discuss that together! We are happy to help you solving your design challenge. Please contact us!

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