Creating cohesive technology solutions for complex challenges is one of our specialties at Nansen—and design sprints are among our most powerful tools for getting to those solutions. Put simply, a design sprint condenses the long-term process of developing new products or features into just a few days.
Design sprints center around a specific problem to solve, which should be defined at the very start of the process. The design sprint team then fast-tracks through brainstorming, prototyping, decision-making, and user testing to gather feedback and validate whether the basic prototype can solve the initial problem or if it needs further refinements.
At Nansen, we model our design sprints on the Google Ventures template. By mandating that the sprint team moves from one step to the next quickly, GV’s process makes it so that “you can shortcut the endless debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week.” That’s music to our ears—because in today’s fast-changing business world, our clients need to be able to design and implement technology solutions and platforms much faster than ever before.
So what does a design sprint look like in practice? A great example comes from our team’s work with a client partner in the financial services industry.
This customer came to Nansen at a time when their intranet system was set to expire. They wanted to take the opportunity to evolve how the platform functioned so that it would better serve their team members across all departments. Given the need for a quick turnaround—the new intranet designs needed to be complete before the old one was retired—this project was a perfect candidate for a design sprint.
On day one of the design sprint, our Nansen team defined the problem to be solved. Our client needed an intranet design that was both scalable and consistent so that all team members could easily navigate the platform. Then we hit the ground running to develop a solution.
The design sprint team, working remotely, used digital whiteboards to workshop with key client stakeholders across different teams and to brainstorm rough concepts. From page layout to look and feel to content and components, the team began to outline where specific improvements could be made to the company’s intranet user journey.
Based on that set of findings and ideas, we used the same collaborative design tools to sketch out and put in place a handful of initial solutions. We suggested a number of templates for the master landing page, FAQ page, search results page, and several more.
Then we had some tough decisions to make. From our set of concepts, we needed to pick the strongest couple of ideas to carry forward into the prototyping phase. We worked hand-in-hand with client stakeholders to select the best concepts through a voting exercise.
Next, it was time to build our prototypes. The Nansen team created the test designs using Sketch (shown below) and Figma, bringing to life in a “quick and dirty” fashion the more seamless intranet user experiences that had been sketched out earlier in the design sprint.
Finally, we invited actual members of the customer’s team to try the platform templates we created, the key step in validating the assumptions and ideas underpinning the new designs. Each team member had three unique tasks to complete using the prototype intranet. The ease with which they could navigate the platform and achieve those three goals told us how successful our templates actually were—and helped define our marching orders for actually creating the client’s new intranet platform.
In addition to the successful intranet reimagining, we have used design sprints to short-cut decision-making processes for a number of other innovative projects with this customer.
One was a critical website UX improvement. Seeing that forms across the client’s site presented a barrier in the user journey, we leveraged the design sprint formula to overhaul how those forms functioned, eventually re-launching them in a new style that better served the website’s end users.
The other, a dashboard proof of concept (POC), stitched together two processes—a Google Ventures-style design sprint and a hackathon—to put together a draft product for the customer before going live with the dashboard.
These projects are just a few examples of the way that design sprints can answer pressing business questions by producing strategic and battle-tested new ideas quickly. In our ongoing mission to explore and conquer digital, the design sprint process is a key tool in creating cohesive and human-centered solutions that help our clients innovate, evolve, and grow.