As part of our ongoing work on the new University website, we are undertaking a series of Design Sprints. These are fun and interactive sessions with students, staff and other key members of the public.
Most organizations know what the biggest challenges are. Although, if you ask around, you might find that everyone has a slightly different take on them. And without a shared understanding of a problem, it’s really hard to come up with a solution.
That’s where Design Sprint can help.
What is a Design Sprint?
A Design Sprint is a structured « design thinking » process that translates business objectives into usable insights in a few days.
The goal of each Sprint is to fully understand a problem and generate design ideas as possible solutions. A prototype is then built in one day (a prototype is a working demo of the solution based on the best idea). The prototype is tested with real users, generating feedback at a very early stage without building the full product or website.
We have created a list of challenges that are suitable candidates for a Design Sprint. These are based mostly on our research last year on Top Tasks – a big thank you to everyone who helped us out.
- Staff profiles
- Course pages
- Thematic pages
- Open days
- Course comparisons
- Search pages
- Voice and chatbots
- Room reservation
- Staff and Student Pages (app)
- Country pages
- Location (campus, Dundee, Scotland)
- First page
What does a design sprint look like?
Traditionally, Design Sprints last for five days and require full participation from everyone involved throughout those five days. We’re running a three-day compressed version that only requires people outside of the Web Services team to participate for a single day.
↓ We need your help with this part ↓
Day 1 – Problems and solutions
Morning (« Understand the problem »)
- Discuss the challenge
- Present the results of our customer research
- Review existing solutions (our existing website, existing wireframes or designs, solutions from other industries)
- Capture good ideas from discussions with a quick drawing on the whiteboard
- Discuss the process for sketching
Afternoon (« Everyone is a designer »):
- Draw the first ideas
- Sharing and discussing the ideas of others
- Vote for the best ideas
- Attempt to generate a single solution
↑ We need your help with this part ↑
“The immersive process means that the group agrees and shapes the design, moving away from the old delivery and review process that can be painful for everyone.”
Rebecca Sheasby, Senior UX Designer – The Telegraph Digital Engineering and Product team
Day 2 – Prototype
On day 2 our team builds a prototype from the chosen solution to test the ideas from day 1. The prototype is an experiment to test a hypothesis. Anything can be prototyped in a day if it’s clearly mapped out.
Typically this will be very visual. The functionality will be limited to a few key interactions. However, the prototype will be realistic enough to allow for an assessment of the feasibility of the solution.
Day 3 – User testing
On the third day our team runs user tests to get feedback on the prototype. Watching our users test the prototype is the best way to uncover important issues with the solution, which in turn allows us to start iterating right after testing.
We aim to get a genuine reaction from a potential user. This will either validate the ideas generated on day one or indicate that the problem is more complex than initially thought.
What are the potential outcomes of the Design Sprint?
The most significant result of a Design Sprint is that in less than a week we can;
- create alignment around an issue
- define a basic concept and create an interactive prototype
- validate solutions with real users and get helpful feedback
In terms of the solution itself, a Design Sprint can have the following outcomes:
An efficient failure
The prototypes didn’t quite hit the mark, but we learned something and saved our team weeks or months of work building the wrong solution. We may run a follow-up Sprint.
An imperfect success
Some of our ideas met users’ needs, but not all. We learned something and now we can iterate and test again.
A big win
The concept met the needs of users; they were able to complete tasks easily and engaged with all the features we mapped out. We are ready to move forward!
Following a « big win », there will then be additional work, including but not limited to:
- High resolution design work
- usability studies
- A stakeholder review to get feedback from leadership teams
- A technical review to ensure that the solution can be built
- Content modeling
- Implementation by the development team
How can you help?
We’re reaching out to people like you to make sure we get your input and can make the most of your experience. This process requires participants from diverse organizational backgrounds to diversify creative thinking, challenge viewpoints, and help solve problems.
Research has shown that 5 participants is enough to address 85% of the usability issues that plague 1 in 3 users. If you are a student or staff member, then you can be that participant. In 2017, the University website was viewed over 16 million times by over 2.4 million people from over 200 countries. You can play an influential role in the new website by participating in a Design Sprint.
You can make a big difference to the success of
Ouryour new website.
We welcome everyone with a passion for improving the future website experience to join us in a Design Sprint. Frustrated with something on the website or maybe just inspired by the potential for a fresh start? Then pick a session or two and let us know you’ll be there by registering on Eventbrite:
We will be running design sprints throughout 2018, one every two weeks.
Sign up for our mailing list using the form on this page for updates on new Design Sprints as they are confirmed
What should you do?
The morning session (9:30 to 12:00) will involve a group discussion on the challenge faced in the Sprint. The afternoon session (1.00pm to 5.00pm) is when everyone can sketch their ideas to solve the problems identified in the morning session. Ideas are shared and voted on, with the aim of defining a single winning solution.
What training or skills do you need?
No specific training or skills are required, just a passion to improve the digital experience of millions of people. This is a creative process but you are not expected to create beautiful sketches (although, if you can, great!). All required information and materials are provided on the day.
And the refreshments?
Refreshments are provided throughout the day including lunch at 12pm.
Do Design Sprints Really Work?
Design sprints help solve big problems in a short period of time by exploring and discussing ideas. They help generate a strong and effective solution to a problem. Companies like Google, The Telegraph and the BBC regularly use Design Sprints to solve problems and move important projects forward.
“Bringing people from across the company meant it was really a collaborative effort, everyone had a say and could bring their expertise to the experience.”
Becca Allard, Marketing Manager, The Telegraph Digital Engineering and Product team
Design Sprints help teams like ours avoid making the mistake of building a solution without thoroughly discussing the issue with stakeholders and users. The complete development of a solution typically requires months of complex work. If the fix isn’t effective, it requires more work.
The Design Sprint process is an effective way to quickly generate and test a prototype that can be the precursor to an effective solution. We can do it in just three days.
Is it just about design?
This is where the name Design Sprint is misleading; the challenge may actually be more about functionality or content than design. For example, our course pages currently contain a large amount of content. We will run a Sprint to help us meet this challenge.