Micro design sprint - end

Drawing conclusions that a design sprint may not be the tool necessary for this exercise. But we learnt a lot along the way.
March 18, 2017

In the final stretch of what is now being loosely called a ‘design sprint’, we are now seeing some agreeable progress.

Granted, it’s not worked out how I thought it would, but then what does?

The idea was to pack a design sprint of 3-5 days into 2-2.5 days. Whilst the time scale has been blown wide open, so has the method. But I’m not worried. We’ve got some quality work out of it and I can’t wait to get it into production.

So what happened?

The design sprint wasn’t the right method

In the Define/Understand phase we identified user needs, matched it with some evidence and plotted a user journey. So far, so good.

BUT, as stated in the previous post, we came undone because we conflated our audiences. After starting again and getting some prime stakeholder feedback we steadied the ship. We whipped through some ideas in the afternoon and left Friday feeling pretty positive about things. On Monday morning, we presented the ideas in isolation and immediately felt we had hit another brick wall. Over the call, it felt like the ideas in isolation just felt too disjointed. A creeping feeling washed over me as I realised there wasn’t buy in for any of the ideas, no matter how much I pitched. This was the precise moment I felt that a design sprint, in it’s strictest form, probably wasn’t the best method for us at this moment, for this project.

We couldn’t go through another round of Understanding - Defining - Ideas to essentially wind up at the same spot: disjointed, isolated, tid bits of ideas that didn’t make sense out of context.

The design sprint was the right method

Previous design sprints I’ve had a hand in at other companies were done at the very beginning of the lifecycle of a product or a component. We were designing a new on boarding process that is already two years live, that works in most places already, with an audience that has complex needs. If we were creating a new feature that existed outside of the current ecosystem, or that the system could feed into what we already have, then we would’ve been fine. However, with the current state of our on-boarding, there was too much overlap.

However, going back and readdressing our audiences needs, then remapping their journey and coming up with top line solutions that we could effectively plugin to what we already had, helped us immensely. No joke, this was possibly the most useful exercise we could’ve done. In recent design phases I would’ve worked in isolation, presented some flats, taken feedback and we would move forward together with a design and build. Having everyone (or at least, most of everyone) get involved in the early phases really helped us understand our proposition from a holistic point of view and got everyone on the same page.

Notifications for the nation

The next phases of the design sprint methodology is to Diverge, Prototype and Test. Well, we er… diverged from that. We ended up creating a brand new user journey using what we already have live and what needs to be improved with a sprinkling of the ideas we came up with in this process. Taking a step back and looking at this new new journey, a thunderbolt hit us. The thing we were missing through the whole on-boarding journey is something we were looking at implementing months ago. This was a notification system, that gently gave the user feedback about processes that are happening behind the scenes and what to do next (but that’s another blog post - We didn’t implement it at the time because it felt it wasn’t needed, and we felt like we were crow barring functionality in). We used the notifications to fill in the gaps of the journey and the whole thing came together. Winner. Winner.  

To be honest, the end of Monday left me deflated a bit. I felt I had failed to push on through the design sprint to reach it’s conclusion. But what I soon realised was that if I had done that I was just ignoring the elephant in the room (notifications), skirt around it and get to that result anyway. The design sprint methodology developed by google and IDEO is just another tool to get a result. Maybe, I got bogged down in the method, not the result. That’s a hard thing to admit.