The Design Sprint – Another Discount Method?

Introduction

I first came across the Design Sprint when a colleague sent me an article about how the Phoenix Museum selected the process to reimagine their visitor’s guide. The Museum had just underwent a rebranding, and the staff wanted to find a way engage the visitors in a more informal way. The sprint was run because it brought more voices into the room (diverse staff), produced a working prototype quickly, and provided user feedback, all in one week. Working in a Museum myself, I wanted to know more about the Design Sprint.

 

History

The Design Sprint was developed by Jake Knapp, who was working for Google at the time. He wanted to figure out a way to make his time more productive and developed the Sprint. It  was then tested on Chrome, Google Ventures and Gmail. Having success, the Design Sprint was moved to Google Ventures. Google Ventures invests about 300 million dollars a year to help startup companies develop products and test those products. To save money and make money, startups could use the Design Sprint to launch new products and ideas, and determine if on the right track with little risk involved. Knapp states in his book: “Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear data from a realistic prototype. The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments.”

 

Method

The Design Sprint has been used with many companies such as Slack, Blue Bottle Coffee and Savioke. The Sprint typically takes five days and is run by Google Ventures, but is also adaptable for anyone to run at any company or organization. Knapp states: “Sprints offer a path to solve big problems, test new ideas, get more done, and do it faster.”

The first step is creating a team or group of people to start a sprint. This team should consist of no more than seven people. In a group there should be a “decider,” someone who makes the difficult decisions. It is recommended that this person be the CEO, Chief Designer, Manager, etc. The group will also need a facilitator. The Facilitator gives the group positive encouragement, keeps time and the group on track. The other five members should come from different departments within the company or organization, to offer a diverse perspective. Once the team is established, everyone must clear their calendar for five days and commit to the Design Sprint.

 

Process

Assuming the Sprint is being conducted over a five days period your week will look like this:

Monday: Map out the problem and pick a place to start. At this stage, the team will be tempted to start solving the problem(s), but this must be avoided.  It is essential that all parties come to the Sprint with an open mind.

Tuesday: Everyone will sketch solutions on paper and these ideas will “compete”. During this phase,  teammates work  independently to brainstorm. Knapp absolutely discourages the “group brainstorm” as it deters problem-solving, whereas “solo brainstorming” encourages answering big problems.

Wednesday: As a group, a decision will be made on how to solve the problem. This will come from the sketches that were illustrated the day before. During this phase, the group must be discouraged from thinking of new ideas. However, ideas from the sketches may be combined and unused ideas may be recycled for a later date or project.

Thursday: Create the prototype. For this step in the process the team should all be given jobs to create an effective prototype. The prototype does not have to be over designed but should be convincing to the User being tested on Friday.    

Friday: User Testing. Knapp suggests interviewing users while they use the product. The rest of the team should watch on in another room and take notes. These notes should then be categorized at the end to see what trends emerge. Changes should be made based on user feedback.

 

Why Use the Design Sprint?

Much like the Cognitive Walkthrough and Heuristic Method, the Design Sprint could be considered a “discount method”.  A sprint does not require much financial support, and can be done rather quickly. However, acquiring solutions to big problems does require staff to allocate a large amount of their work time to the process. This may place other important projects on the back burner. Thus like many user testing and evaluation methods there are pros and cons to the Design Sprint. Employing the Sprint would have to be at the discretion of the organization based on how many other important projects are currently being worked on.

Design Critique: Apple Watch Series 2

This is an in depth critique of the Apple Watch Series 2. Before owning my Apple Watch people (acquaintances or random people in everyday life) would often comment on my engagement ring. People would see my ring and ask a spectrum of questions ranging from the personal, “How old are you?!” to the superficial “How long have you been married?”, based on this one piece of jewelry.  After purchasing my Apple Watch five months ago, people have started looking past my fingers to ask about the object on my wrist. I usually tell people how much I love my device, answer their questions and advise them to purchase one themselves. However, after reading The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, and using his design principles to jot down notes for this post, I may have a different outlook now.   

When looking at the Apple Watch it is important to note that there are four affordances for communicating with the watch.

  1. Touching – the face of the watch has a screen and affords touching.
  2. Side Button – the long flat button on the side of the watch, affords pushing
  3. Digital Crown – round button that based on cultural aspect of watch design signifies rotation. This crown can also be pushed unlike a conventional analog watch, in which the button is pulled.
  4. Speaking – the watch will respond to voice when in certain situations (apps and Siri).

Discoverability begins when I first lift my arm and turn the watch towards me. The watch senses this motion and instantly lights up. The time is now displayed on the touch screen providing feedback that the watch is on. To launch an app on the watch. I must first push the digital crown in and then select my app. To select an app I can either click on it using my finger, or centralize the app on the screen (using my finger) and rotate the digital crown to zoom into the App. I rarely use the zoom feature as it takes longer and the digital crown rotation is not intuitive, based on cultural constraints. Before owning my Apple Watch, I wore an analog watch. I utilized the crown on my analog watch twice a year on average, during daylight savings time. If I used the crown any other time of year, I would off set the time on my watch having negative effect on my every day life, usually being late for an appointment.

As a result, I view using the digital crown on the Apple Watch as something to be used infrequently. I do not classify this a bad design.  I think later generations will adapt to the digital crown especially if this would be their first watch, and then cultural constraints would not apply. If something were to change, voice command built into the app to state the time and omit the need for a digital crown. There could also be a plus and minus sign on the touch screen display, and pressing these symbols would increase and decrease the time.

If the digital crown were not omitted from the design of the watch, I would change the placement of the digital crown. The digital crown and the side button are adjacent to one another. They both afford pushing but perform different functions. The side button when pushed brings the user to a dock of frequently used apps, and the digital crown brings the user to all the apps. Often times I mistakenly “slip” and push the side button when I mean to push the digital crown. It is definitely a nice design to have both buttons on one side, but does not lend itself to the functionality. I would move the side button to the opposite side of the watch as conventionally, one can find the crown on the right side of most watches (smart or not). 

Lastly, mapping on the watch is consistent. When I swipe my finger to the left the apps follow, same with the right. When I scroll my finger up in an app to expose the rest of the page the page moves upward. This is also consistent across multiple apps, reducing the use for knowledge in the head.  When setting the time in the timer app, something I do when I am cooking I must rotate the digital crown up to increase time. When using the Nike Running Club app, and I would like to set a time for my run, I would also move rotate the digital crown upwards.  

Overall, beyond the flaws, I still think the Apple Watch is an amazing piece of technology. Although the device tells the time, its scope far surpasses this one function, and thus may be branded incorrectly. I would be curious to know how the device would look if designers were not limited by the connotation of a conventional watch.  It is hard to say if the watch elements give the design cohesion or hinder its capabilities. I am sure there will more Apple Watch generations to come that will answer these observations.