Introduction to Design Sprints: Accelerate problem solving

Sometimes it's difficult for companies to quickly and effectively make sense of big problems, generate different design ideas and then gather feedback to help validate a direction. Design sprints are a great way to accelerate solving big problems through understanding, ideating and testing in just 5-days.

Here are our top reasons as to why you should conduct design sprint(s):

  • To understand a big problem and quickly help shape a potential solution.
  • Validating a proposition, quickly.
  • Provides a time pressured structure to increase clarity and focus.
  • Looking for different innovative ideas to improve an existing solution.

Who’s involved in a Design Sprint?

No-one understands the exact problem affecting your business more than you and your people, which is why a design sprint team (between 4-7, held at your premises), is typically made up of your:

  • Product owners
  • Designers
  • Senior stakeholders
  • Customer service experts
  • Developers

Another key role is that of a Facilitator, who are responsible for running the design sprint. Due to the expertise required to run a Design Sprint and ultimately be responsible for ensuring activities are completed within the specific time-boxed phases, we at Answer Digital provide our clients with this expertise.

Our facilitators are Senior or Principal Experience Designers that also:

  • Form part of the idea generation phase to solve problems, based on exposure to working with many clients across many sectors
  • Design prototypes used to gather feedback
  • Facilitate the user feedback sessions

What does a Design Sprint look like?

  • Day 1: Map the Problem

    Day 1: Map the Problem

    It’s about people discussing openly and honestly about the problem, why it exists, what has been done previously, why it may have failed and relevant users being targeted. Remember, this is not about judging what’s gone on before... this is a safe space!

  • Day 2: Generate new ideas

    Day 2: Generate new ideas

    This is where we start focus on new ideas. Everyone in the team will start to sketch ideas to solve the key problems identified in the previous day. This is not about seeing who the best drawer is... it's about everyone contributing to come up with many different ideas, from many different angles.

  • Day 3: Critique & Decide

    Day 3: Critique & Decide

    Each idea is placed on the wall, where people take it in turns to review, critique and understand more about the proposed idea, and which ideas would be most suited to solving the identified problem. Then it's about shaping the best ideas/features into an agreed storyboard for what will be prototyped.

  • Day 4: Prototype

    Day 4: Prototype

    Build the prototype to represent a true reflection of a real experience. Typically, we as the facilitator build the prototypes due to our many years as Experience Design professionals. Some of the team will be responsible for creating test scripts too, used for gathering relevant insights during day-5.

  • Day 5: Gather feedback

    Day 5: Gather feedback

    Test with 5 real users. This is either in a lab or onsite at your premises. Typically, we facilitate the user testing sessions due to our expertise of being Experience Designers. The rest of the sprint team are viewing and structuring the feedback, through post-it notes (of key feedback, what’s working, what’s not etc).

When should I use Design Sprints?

It's not about the size of project but where you are in the lifecycle and how close you are to the next milestone. Whether your project team are still months from go-live, recently gone live and want to accelerate focus for the next release, or whether you want to quickly shape focus for a new proposition, a Design Sprint is for you.

  • Revalidate


    Let's say your project has been ongoing for 9 months (with another 6 months to go before first release), but a competitor has just launched into the market with a new proposition. A design sprint(s) would be a great way to quickly help validate the relevancy of your proposition, and decide if you need to modify before launch.

  • Accelerate direction

    Accelerate direction

    Help accelerate the shaping of a new proposition you may have for a new digital or offline product or service. A design sprint is a great way to help you understand a little more and accelerate learning about how the problem could be solved, as well as provide a suitable design direction for any new formed project team what success could be.

  • Focus on one area

    Focus on one area

    A Design Sprint is a great way to focus on a specific problem within an existing website or app (or even in-store experience) you're continually noticing, such as people abandoning the shopping cart or not interacting with product pages. The week will help you to rapidly create new ideas and gather feedback to improve the key problem.

Top 3 key things to running a successful design sprint

Based on our experience, there are a number of key things to ensure a Design Sprint runs smoothly, to time and provides the agreed objectives / outcomes at the end of the 4 or 5-days.

  • Commit


    Getting people to spend 4-5 days in a row may seem a large ask but it’s imperative people clear their diary and commit to the design sprint. That’s why the bigger problem, the greater the chance people will fully focus on solving key issues impacting the business.

  • Prepare


    It’s vitally important to choose a big problem – identified with senior stakeholders – and is the right problem to tackle. Some people in the team should fully understand the problem and why it exists. Also, line up suitable users for day-5.

  • No devices

    No devices

    This is probably the hardest challenge! It’s about everyone giving their full attention and focus for the week… we recommend a time of 10am-4pm each to allow people time at the beginning and end of the day to focus on other areas / check emails etc.

Let's start a conversation...

If you want to hear more about Design Sprints and how our facilitators can you help to accelerate solving key problems your business has, contact our Experience Design Principal, Andy Wilby, at or on 07595 878876.