Immersive Design Sprints

Posted 2017/09/08 02:38 PM

Last week, my colleague Pete and I were able to go to New Haircut's "Immersive Design Sprint" Workshop here in New York, to learn about how we can start using design sprints at Arazoo.

From the workshop description:

The workshop is fast-paced, hands-on, time-boxed, and immersive. We'll move from an initial product idea to a hi-fidelity prototype that we'll use to test on live customers. In 2 intensive days, you'll learn and practice different ideation techniques and the best methods to empathize with your customers like Lightning Demos, Sketching, User Story Mapping, Prototyping and Customer Interviews.

[...] By the end of the workshop, you'll have the right knowledge and process to drive hi-impact innovation inside your organization.

Compressing a week-long process into two days is already pretty fast-paced; but we were also squeezing in learning about the process, talking about it as we did it, and evaluating after each step. It was about two weeks' worth of work in just two days!

The Teams

There were ten people in the workshop—mostly product managers and designers, but we had at least one developer (Pete), a healthcare tech specialist, a startup founder, and a project manager. There were even three folks from who flew in from Seattle to take the workshop so they could start a design sprint this week.

The facilitator, Jay, split us up into two five-person teams. Besides me, my team had Sonali, a healthcare tech specialist; Maria, an office manager and future design sprint facilitator from Geocaching; Kristine, a freelance UX Designer; and Ben, the product manager at Geocaching.

The Assignment

At the beginning of the first day of the workshop, Jay gave us a little exercise: he had us look through some photos from his friend's apartment, and try to pick out some things that gave hints about the person's life and preferences. This was sort of a warm-up in doing careful observation and user empathy. It turns out it was the apartment of Jay's friend Markus, in Romania.

Doing some (canned) user research with my team. Ben and Kristine (top), Kristine, Me, Sonali and Maria (bottom)

We watched a video of Markus being interviewed about gift-giving, and this is where we learned what the rest of the workshop would be about: Jay told us that our assignment would be to design a better solution for gift giving.

While we watched the video, we jotted down on sticky notes all of our impressions of what Markus was thinking, saying, doing, and feeling in the interview video.

Markus, in sticky note form

Design Sprint Day 1 - Mapping

On the first day of a design sprint, you gather your stakeholders (in this case, they recommend 7 or fewer people; for us, of course, it was the 5 people on our workshop teams) and talk through the problem you're looking to solve with this design sprint. Key questions are "Why are we working on this" and "Where do we want to be with this in 6-12 months?"

"Why are we working on this? Where do we want to be with this in 6-12 months?"

The biggest takeaways from the Mapping day are sprint questions and customer journey maps.

You make sprint questions by asking as a team, "what are the conditions for success on this project?" and then turning each of those conditions into a question. For example, if one of the conditions for success is that the user is able to go from first encounter with the app to a purchase in under 5 minutes, one of the sprint questions would be, "did the user get from first experience to purchase in under 5 minutes?"

The sprint questions are the checklist of items you test against at the end of the week.

You make a customer journey map by taking the end goal you want your users to achieve and mapping out the high-level steps between their problem and your solution. This becomes the rough framework for the sketching you do later.

At the end of the first day, you bring in "the experts," i.e., the people whose experience and input is important on this, but who couldn't be in the room for the rest of the process. As a design sprint group, interview each of them one at a time about what you've come up with, and capture some "how might we"s (cf. Refine and fill in the customer journey map by identifying the top "How might we"s and adding them to the map at the appropriate steps. This will help target what step in the process should be the focus.

Design Sprint Day 2 - Sketching

The team breaks out to do some individual look and feel research and brings it all back to the group. We used a slack channel for this, just binging images and links that seemed at all relevant to what we were doing, and then we all worked through them together to see what we could glean from it.

Sketching with my team. Ben, me and Kristine (back), Sonali and Maria (front)

Then we all individually took notes on what aspects of the research seemed most useful to us, doodled ideas and tried to come up with as many possible (and even not-necessarily-possible) solutions to the problem as we could. (See for details.) The ending part, with the voting and stickers, we actually did as part of "Day 3" in the workshop.

Design Sprint Day 3 - Deciding

The way we did the "Deciding" day started with the voting process described in that link above, in "Day 2". Everyone got a few stickers to identify interesting points in the sketches we had come up with, and then The Decider had sort of the overall vote for what we we would go.

Votes on our customer journey map

In all honesty, we sort of sped through this part of the process in the workshop. In my team in the workshop, I think in part because this was a low-stakes environment, so there wasn't really as much conflict as you might expect in a real team where a real product and real career decisions are in play. I think the conflict gathering thing mentioned in the GV blog ( is an interesting one, I'd like to try it on my team.

My three-screen idea

At the end of the deciding day, you should have a clear direction that your prototyping will go, and have the buy-in of the whole design sprint team.

Design Sprint Day 4 - Prototyping

This is, unsurprisingly I think, the day that was the most straightforward to me. Take the ideas that the team has come up with so far and make a prototype!

We recapped the decisions we had made the previous day (i.e., about 20min previously) and started sketching out our ideas on the board.

An early sketch of our team's prototype

After we figured out what screens we would need, we split the team up into different roles; the marketing person wrote copy, someone went and googled around for stock images to use in our design, the Decider in the group sort of acted as the project manager here, floating between people and keeping an eye on the clock.

It was a real mad rush to build the prototype, as we only had 2 hours total! Obviously there would be a lot more time in a real design sprint.

Design Sprint Day 5 - Testing

Since the workshop was compressed into 2 days of teaching and trying, days 3-5 were all on the same day for us. Day 5 was the culmination of everyhing?when we brought in some folks to user test our prototype. We were able to get some people from Alpha Experience to come in to test our prototypes for us.

My team's prototype

We each only had time for 2 users to test the designs, though of course you'd have more in a real design sprint—ideally, 5 or 6. One person conducted the interview, while the others observed and took notes. We took notes on stickynotes and placed them on a "scoreboard" ( At the end we worked through what worked and what didn't.

And that's the end of a design sprint! The next step is a smaller iteration on the findings from the user testing, and then ideally it goes to development. Or, not as ideally, you've figured out that the idea was bad—so back to step one you go.