This is part three of a series on design sprints. This post will cover the second and third stages in the design sprint framework: Sketch and Decide. It’s an overview, not an exhaustive explanation. I’d recommend reading parts one and two before reading this post.
The design sprint framework has five main stages: Understand, Sketch, Decide, Prototype, and Test. Each stage has activities from which you can pick and choose to tailor the sprint to your needs.
Stage two: Sketch
In the Sketch stage you take what you’ve learned in the Understand stage and use that knowledge to create solutions. It’s where the fun really starts.
Before jumping into the first sketching activity, it’s good to take a few minutes to mentally prepare yourself. This is especially helpful in multi-day sprints. Give everyone 10 to 15 minutes to review their notes from the Understand stage and get themselves ready to sketch.
A fun and helpful activity to do before sketching is Comparable Problem. It’s pretty straight forward. As a group, spend some time looking at examples of how other companies or organizations have attempted to solve a similar problem. You don’t have to find examples in the same industry—in fact, looking at different industries is better.
Share and discuss the examples—what’s successful, what isn’t, what ideas do they inspire? The goal is not to find something to copy, the goal is to find inspiration—and to avoid repeating the mistakes of others.
Crazy 8s is one of my favorite design activities, and one I use outside of design sprints too. It’s a great way to get the ideas flowing. The purpose of this activity is to move through ideas quickly. Sketches should be low fidelity—just enough to communicate the main ideas. It helps you get past the not so great ideas and on to the good ideas.
Start by handing out 8.5” x 11” pieces of paper that have been folded into eight rectangles, and something to write with. Next, everyone has eight minutes to sketch eight ideas, one for each rectangle on the page. Make sure everyone knows what they should be sketching (ex: home page design).
At the end of eight minutes the sketches are hung on the wall and everyone has three minutes to share their sketches with the group.
You can do this activity multiple times if you want to do a lot of iteration. With sharing and discussion, each round usually takes around 30 to 45 minutes.
The solution sketch activity helps you think through your ideas in more detail, to see if they are worth pursuing in the Prototype stage.
Everyone gets a few pieces of paper and the writing instrument of their choosing. We’re still analog at this point—no computers please.
The group has 30 to 40 minutes to focus on an idea and sketch it out in more detail. They can focus on a new idea or an idea that was shared during Crazy 8s.
The sketches should show multiple states (hover, on click, etc.), how people will move through the interface, how things work on mobile vs. desktop, etc. Notes are highly encouraged. Solution sketches should be medium to high fidelity, but still analog.
When time is up everyone will share their sketches with the group. Allow three to five minutes for each person to share.
Stage three: Decide
In the Decide stage you’ll choose what to build out as a prototype.
Assumptions and questions
Once the solution sketches have been shared, it’s time to discuss and evaluate using the assumptions and questions activity.
As a group, go through the solution sketches and list out three assumptions that underlie each idea. Rephrase those assumptions as questions. As a group, identify the questions that you’d most like to answer in the Prototype and Testing stages.
For example, let’s say you have an idea for an app that only responds to voice commands. The assumption is that people will want to control an app through voice commands alone. This could be turned into the question “Do users want to control apps exclusively through voice commands?”
This activity isn’t about pointing out flaws. It’s about thoughtfully evaluating the ideas and refocusing potential problems into ideas that need to be tested. It is also a great way to get people to think about the ideas more deeply, which is helpful for the next activity.
Now that the ideas have been presented and thoroughly discussed, it’s time to make some decisions.
There are a variety of voting activities that can be used during the sprints. We use a very simple method that has been successful for us.
Everyone receives three dot stickers. Before any stickers are placed, the facilitator should do a recap of audiences, project goals, UX vision, assumptions, and questions. Once the recap is done everyone has five to ten minutes to vote for the three options that they think best solve the problem. To vote, simply place a dot next to the sketch.
Usually stickers show a clear winner. There are a few ways to handle any ties. You can spend five to ten minutes debating the tied options and then take a vote, you can have the facilitator or decision maker decide, or you can build and test multiple prototypes. It’s really up to you and your constraints.
Ultimately you can use whatever voting technique works for your team. But you can’t move on to the next stage until you’ve made a decision.
Upcoming posts will focus on the other stages of the design sprint. Until then I’d like to leave you with some things we’ve learned from our sprint experiences.
Words of wisdom
- People can feel self conscious about their sketching abilities. Reiterate that you’re not evaluating the quality of the drawing, but the quality of the idea. Also have examples of the level of detail you’re looking for in the sketches, so people know what to expect.
- Participants may want to opt out of the sketching activities because they aren’t designers. Don’t let them. Everyone has something to share and you want a variety of ideas.
- Have participants do pre-work and come to the sprint with some comparable problem examples ready to share.