How to run a remote design sprint

Junior Strategist

How tos

This guide outlines all of the steps involved in setting up and running a remote design sprint, detailing what is involved or required for each step.

In our previous article, we discussed remote design sprints and outlined why a four-day timeline is beneficial. This guide adheres to that four-day timeline.

 

Stage 1: Setting up your remote design sprint

The following tasks should be completed at least a couple of weeks before the remote design sprint is intended to take place.

How to set up your remote design sprint

You will need five experts from relevant areas of the business, such as:

  • Product/tech expert
  • Design expert
  • Communications expert (marketing manager)
  • Customer expert (community/sales manager)
  • Finance expert (finance manager)

In addition, you need to appoint the following roles:

  • Decider – they must have decision-making authority; they’re usually a manager, team leader or director.
  • Facilitator – they should be a good motivator, well organised and able to keep the group on schedule and focused on the purpose of the sprint. 

Equipment checklist

Each participant needs:

  • Laptop or computer with a webcam
  • Headset with microphone or laptop with a microphone 
  • A quiet environment 
  • Good internet connection 
  • Some table or wall space for sketching and post-its 

The group needs:

  • Video conferencing software, e.g. Google Hangouts or Zoom
  • Google Drive or similar to store and share documents
  • Mural or Miro for visual collaboration, e.g. virtual post-it notes
  • Slack or equivalent for link sharing and conversations

 

Step 1: Define the purpose

The most important first task is to define the purpose and objectives of the design sprint. Create ‘SMART’ purpose and objectives to help ensure that they are relevant and actionable: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

They become a method of measuring the progress, which you can return to throughout the process to ensure that the work you are doing aligns with your desired outcome.

We recommend organising a call with all stakeholders to agree the purpose and objectives. Doing this before the actual sprint means that the four days can be focused on the target outcome and possible solutions.

Step 2: Select participants 

Select and invite the people that you will need to effectively carry out the innovation and decision-making involved in the remote design sprint. The stakeholders outlined above have different areas of responsibility and combined, they hold the majority of decision-making power for that product or service. Find and confirm their availability for the design sprint by cross-checking everyone’s calendars. The most likely cause of delay to the design sprint is participant availability.

Using calendar tools like Doodle, you can invite intended participants to select the days that they can do. The design sprint process is usually carried out on consecutive days but, if this is not possible, you could hold it over a break. For example, Wednesday to Friday, then Monday. 

Step 3: Appoint lead roles

Two lead roles are needed: facilitator and decider. Ideally, they should be separate to the expert participants but if this is not possible they can assume two roles.

The facilitator will have more responsibility for the management of the design sprint in comparison to the other participants. This role should be assigned to individuals in senior roles who will have the time, oversight and understanding to dedicate to the process. The facilitator will encourage progress and maintain the team’s focus.

The decider is responsible for ensuring the group comes to an agreement and where necessary has the authority to make final decisions. Therefore, the decider should hold the role of suitable seniority and authority in the business.

Step 4: Select your virtual tools 

Select the software and tools that you will be using as a team to remotely collaborate and communicate. You will need tools for the following activities:

  • Video conferencing, e.g. Zoom or Google Hangouts 
  • Real-time visual collaboration, e.g. Miro or Mural
  • Instant messaging, e.g. Slack or WhatsApp

Step 5: Create a sprint plan

The sprint plan sets out the purpose of each day. This will inform what needs to be arranged ahead of the sprint. For example, if you intend to conduct user testing with real users you will need to ensure this is arranged before the design sprint starts. We’ve included a typical sprint plan below for reference.

  • Day 1: Define the problem, brainstorm and sketch solutions
  • Day 2: Select one solution (or ‘concept’) and refine it in detail
  • Day 3: Build the prototype
  • Day 4: User testing

Step 6: Define your sprint activities

Further develop your plan by organising the activities, timelines and deadlines for each day outlining objectives and tools used at each stage. Split the activities into those that will be done as a group and those that should be done in smaller groups or individually. Share the schedule with the participants beforehand. We have outlined an example below.

E.g. Tuesday – Day 1

  • 9am- 9.30am: Introduction to the design sprint [Zoom]
  • 9.30am-11am: Expert interviews, sharing knowledge of the product [Zoom]
  • 11am- 11:15am: Short coffee/comfort break
  • 11:15am- 12:15pm: Group brainstorm: define the long term goal and sprint questions [Zoom]
  • 12:15pm- 1pm: Lunch
  • 1pm- 2pm: Map a basic customer journey [Miro]
  • 2pm- 3.30pm: Brainstorm solutions individually or in pairs, sketching solutions [Miro] 
  • 3.30pm- 4.30pm: Present ‘lightning demos’ of solutions and agree on one [Zoom]

Tips for your remote design sprint:

  • Prepare the schedule at least a couple of weeks in advance. This should make it easier to find time in participant’s schedules. It will also help when recruiting users for the testing session.
  • Select suitable virtual tools for your team and clearly outline in the schedule when these will be expected to be used, e.g. Zoom, Miro and WhatsApp.
  • Work in pairs instead of individually, where possible. This will mean that the time allocated for reviewing individual work or and clearly outline in the schedule when these will be expected to be used. (as the number of solutions will be halved) allowing more time for detailed discussion.
  • Stick to the plan of action and be strict about adhering to deadlines.
  • Break up long meetings into sections to keep everyone focused on the task at hand. It will be easy for individuals to drift in and out of focus unless clear objectives and intentions are laid out for each stage, highlighting where people need to contribute.

 

Stage 2: Running your design sprint 

This section outlines key activities for each of the four days of your remote design sprint. This is a guide that you should adapt based on the purpose of the sprint.

Before the sprint 

We recommend organising a call with all intended participants or interested parties to agree on the target outcome, or the ‘problem’ to be solved, in the remote design sprint. Doing this before the actual sprint means that the four days can be focused on that target outcome and the solutions. 

Day 1 – Focus on the problem and solutions

This day should be used to identify the challenges and opportunities related to the problem being addressed and the target outcome.

As you have defined the problem to be solved in the four days beforehand as a group, spend the first portion of the first day sharing your knowledge about the product and sketching solutions both as a team and individually. This day should be used to identify the challenges and opportunities related to the target outcome.

Check out this article for advice from Google Ventures library (and one of the co-writers of the book ‘Sprint’) on the first day. The article includes a sample checklist and schedule.

Tasks for the first day:

  • Introduction to the design sprint. 
  • Expert interviews; invite experts from the organisation and outside to share their knowledge on aspects of the challenge. 
  • Map the customer journey and identify the area for focus in the Sprint.
  • Brainstorm solutions individually for 20 minutes.
  • Present these as ‘lightning demos’ to the team.
  • After this, each team member sketches three frames of one concept anonymously.

Day 2 – Select one solution and refine it in detail

The second day is focused on reviewing concepts and voting on a solution. The chosen solution will be prototyped as a team on Day 3.

The team should review and refine the solutions previously discussed in order to improve upon the prototype and agree upon one solution.

Check out this article for advice from GV library on a plan of action.

Tasks:

  • Facilitator presents the concepts and voting is held for the chosen solution.
  • The facilitator chooses the solution to prototype.
  • Each participant creates a User Test Flow of that solution in pairs: a 6 step flow of the customer experience (from discovery to problem solved).
  • The team reviews the User Test Flows together; creating one master line or User Test Flow that groups the main steps and excludes excessive ones.
  • Using the master line, the team sketches the storyboard in pairs, drawing in detail every step of the user journey, including:
    • Drawn wireframes for digital products
    • Exact copy of messages and texts
    • Colours
    • Positions of elements

The user test flows and user journeys can be drawn with pen and paper and presented to the group via a photograph, but it is better if they are created using Miro or Mural as it will mean easier sharing and amending during the review stage.

Day 3 – Build the prototype

This stage is best managed by dividing the task according to the existing skills of the individual team members. Typical assigned roles and responsibilities for members of the design sprint are outlined below, but this is flexible according to the members of your remote design sprint.

As outlined in the design sprint 2.0, for the last two days you do not need the entire day from your decider or management, they can leave it to the designers and user testing interviewers.

Check out this article to learn more about the tasks for this day.

Tasks:

  • Create a prototype of the solution that is suitable for user testing but with minimal functionality. Focus on testing the hypothesis.
    • Makers: A few people work with sketching software, if it’s is a digital product, to create the wireframes.
    • Collectors: Others search for design assets, such as pictures, photos, backgrounds, logos.
    • Writers: Responsible for messaging and text.
    • Stitcher: Someone that stitches the whole flow together and performs quality control.
    • Interviewer: Someone prepares for the user interviews and recruits testers, drafting questions and developing a screening survey to identify the target audience; arranging time-slots and checking with responses.

Day 4 – User testing 

This day is focused on open-ended user interviews where real or intended users will try out the prototype and give feedback. You should aim to recruit for five to eight interviews and this must be done in advance. The feedback from these interviews will hopefully surface new information and considerations. Adapt the solution based on the feedback received.

For more information, check out this article.

Pre-interview tips:

  • For consistency, it should be one sprint participant’s responsibility to contact, recruit and organise these interview sessions.
  • An email should be sent asking the recruited users to confirm their attendance at least the day before so that any last-minute recruitment can be completed before the day of testing.
  • Remember to confirm what software you will be using and check that they have access to it.

Tasks:

  • Arrange the user interviews for the morning of thelast day and confirm the attendance with each participant.
  • Ask each interviewee the same questions:
    • What do they think of the concept?
    • Does it solve the problem?
    • Is it clear enough for them to use?
    • Does it have the functions they need?
    • Would they be willing to pay for it?
    • Would they use it?
  • Each team member should take notes using post-its in each interview.
  • Notes are gathered after lunch and consolidated to form a user journey, like in the User Test Flow.
  • Based on the feedback, conclusions and actions are noted for the future. You will know from the interviews whether the solution will work for the audience or not. The solution should be adjusted to reflect any comments from users and the prototype should be almost market-ready.

If the solution receives negative feedback, remember that just four days were spent making this mistake. Something that would have had more time and money spent on it, if not for the sprint.

If the solution has positive feedback, you’ve saved a huge amount of time and communication getting to this stage.

If the solution has mixed feedback, you’re on the right track – keep going!

Either way, the process should surface some questions or development areas that can be implemented as soon as possible for the product.

As a final output of the design sprint, produce a report detailing findings of each day and the sprint as a whole. This should include recommendations for next steps. The report acts as a reference and can be shared with relevant parties.

 

Optimise your remote design sprint

We’ve outlined our top tips:

  • Organise everything well in advance and cater for every possibility, ensuring you have a plan B.
  • Host a quick chat at the start of each day to warm everyone up and set the objectives.
  • Check mics, software and internet connections at the beginning of each day.
  • Keep the energy, focus and momentum up.
  • Host a quick call at the end of each day to summarise the actions and resolutions of the day and outline the activities for the coming day.
  • Consider hosting an end-of-sprint social, e.g. quiz, to celebrate the completion.

What can we do to help?

Make it Clear helps global organisations achieve clarity with data-driven design. 

Our research-led approach to creative solutions, from marketing campaigns and event support to user experience design and brand strategy, helps our clients address fundamental communication challenges, whilst improving engagement, driving revenue and reducing costs. 

If you’re interested in running a remote design sprint, get in touch today by emailing: freya.wallace@makeitclear.co.uk

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