How to Survive the Design Sprint and Make the Most of It at the Same Time?

Facing the challenge of creating a new builder for all automation flows available in our product, we felt like we needed dedicated time to dive into it. Someone once said, why not close all our Product Designers together in one place to make them focused on resolving some big problems like this one and, from word to word, couple of weeks ago  we all met in HQ in Szczecin to run our first-ever Design Sprint in Tidio. And here’s how we did it!

What is this all about? 

The idea behind the Design Sprint is to build and test a prototype of a certain solution in just five days within the small team. However, to do so, first you need to spend a lot of time to understand the problem and pick the area to focus on. 

FYI, what we did, wasn’t a textbook example of Design Sprint, but only our interpretation. And with no doubt, we’re happy about it. 

Day 1. Don’t even think about the solution

Plan for Monday:

💥 Kick-off
💬 Expert interviews 
🎯 Long-term goal
🥏 Experience mapping
💪 Use case definition

So it had begun! Monday morning was overflowing with curiosity and excitement but concerns as well. I was a bit afraid that one week wasn’t enough to go through the whole process, Patryk, one of our Product Designers, says. Personally, I was feeling unsure as, despite the detailed agenda, I wasn’t able to predict where today’s discussions would lead us and what tomorrow could bring. But in fact, there was something thrilling about it. 

We started with a kick-off to talk about all these fears and discuss the scope of the whole week and right after that, we jumped into the problem itself. To review it from various perspectives, we had a call with our Implementation Specialists, who are the power users of our current tool, as well as with our Customer Support Specialists, who, in turn, shared with us direct feedback from our clients. 

From problem understanding, we moved smoothly to the long-term goal definition. First, we tried to follow the sentence “In two years time…” to describe what we really want to achieve with our solution, and then, we created lots of “Can we…?” questions to get all the concerns and potential obstacles out of our heads. When I look back on it now, I feel it was the most important exercise that settled us in the context and helped us to pick areas to focus on during the sprint. 

The complexity of the problem and also the thought that we could touch only some part of it was actually a real surprise. Naturally, we all had some initial assumptions about it. However, the more we dived in, the more questions we came up with. That was like opening Pandora’s box! Andrzej, our Head of Product Design laughs.

Highly determined, we wrote down our goal and leading questions on the big board just to refer to them every following morning or whenever felt lost. That was our north star.  

For me, that was a crazy and intense day, which made it the most interesting one from the whole sprint, Andrzej adds. I felt really great when more and more things just… clicked, and hour by hour we knew more and more. 

Day 2. Where we are and where we wanna be 

Plan for Tuesday:

🔍 Current state examination
🧺 Competitor analysis  
🎨 Doodling & brainstorming
🎞 Storyboarding

Tuesday began with tracing our current solution and comparing it with competitors, which took us half of the day. Then we split into two groups to start creating first rough ideas that later were meticulously discussed. 

Group work was a good shot as we started to generate many various ideas. Then I thought wow, it’s really working, Andrzej says. That was also Patryk’s favorite part of the sprint – Benchmarking and further designing was great, but brainstorming was just fun. I loved analyzing all those wild ideas! 

I also must admit I really enjoyed how the discussion progressed. No verbal aggression or outshouting, just calm and reflections. We gave ourselves time to think about each single idea, we asked questions and together looked for answers. And finally, we decided on a direction. 

At first, I was worried whether we could agree on one solution, as people naturally tend to defend their ideas or vision, Karol, another member of our Product Design team, says. And yet we managed to avoid that. Despite moments of heated debates, we really felt we were in the same boat.

Day 3. Fake it till you make it 

Plan for Wednesday:

🎨 Prototype session
⚡️ Feedback lighting round
🎨 Prototype session
🧱 Test planning & scenario 
🚀 Test launch 👉 Corridor testing 

Wednesday seemed to be a key part of the sprint, as we had to transfer previously refined ideas to a working prototype, just to start a usability test later that day. During the design process though, some new issues came up so we had to take the time to review them. As a result, the prototype was ready only by the end of the day and we knew we wouldn’t be on time with the test setup. 

That’s why we decided to change the strategy and in return, to run some rapid corridor tests with Tidio employees. The first one took place in the afternoon and gave us a lot to think about. However, we put them off until the next morning to take a well-deserved rest.

After the end of the day, we felt a big energy drop. Wednesday was extremely intense and exhausting, Andrzej mentions. Luckily the problem we had been working on was still interesting enough to motivate us to further work. And besides that, as Karol points out, in difficult moments, there was always someone who pushed the work forward. That’s the power of the team. 

Day 4. Rules 👉 Plans are meant to be broken 

Plan for Thursday:

🍿 Test watch-party 
🗣 Test recap
🎨 Prototype session
🧩 Prototype assemble ideas
🗓 Prototype recap & action plan

The original plan for Thursday had been to concentrate on watching the test recordings, recapping, iterating on the prototype and running the second round of tests, but as Wednesday turned it all upside down, we decided to run a few more corridor tests. Based on the results, we made some adjustments and retested the flow once again in the afternoon. That’s agile, isn’t it? 😇

Day 5. They say, there is no failure – only feedback

Plan for Friday:

💼 PM feedback session
💻 Technical feedback session 
🎢 Feedback wrap-up
🗑 Spill-off time 

Friday was all about the feedback – starting from a session with our Product Managers and ending with a conversation with our Engineers. In the end, we summed it all up and… breathed a sigh of relief as we reached the finishing line. 

We felt happy, hopeful but also lost and tired at the same time. According to Andrzej, the amount of work that had to be done in relation to the given time made it quite an intense week. On that fifth day we were exhausted, but also extremely proud. We achieved a lot and we have grown as designers in just five days.  

More than just a solution – relation!

We created only a foundation of the future builder and naturally, it will be developed by one of the Tidio product team soon. But the cherry on top is the relationship we’ve built in the team through these five days of working together. 

We had a chance to get to know each other better, both at work and outside of it. I have a feeling it has opened us up to each other and has been paying off until today when we’re collaborating on a daily basis, Karol says. 

What we could have done better 

After returning from the Design Sprint, we ran a sprint retrospective. These are the key points of potential improvements: 

  • more diverse/ interdisciplinary team – having a dedicated facilitator, data specialist and engineer on board would have given us more space to focus on the problem and more background for the decision process;
  • c-level presence during sprint’s goal session we believe inviting stakeholders could have helped us with prioritization; 
  • more time for problem understanding we all have agreed with Patryk that one week isn’t enough to solve such an extensive problem so we should have booked more time for problem understanding during the first days, even at the cost of high fidelity designs;
  • more ELMO rule – no one should feel bad when saying “Enough, Let’s Move On” when the discussion is getting off track 

Planning your first Design Sprint?

Here’s what you should keep in mind (and so do we):  

  • meet offline – remote work is a ‘no-go’ in that case
  • trust the process it’s a normal thing you feel a bit lost on the first day;
  • respect your teammates – everyone has a different style of working and it’s highly visible when you work together 8 hours a day for five days in one room;
  • focus on the main problem – not on the tones of new problems discovered in between; 
  • no distractors – you’re on the Design Sprint so you forget about your product team and daily tasks; 
  • invite stakeholders – their perspective can be essential when defining the long-term goal, so make sure they’re available when you plan the sprint

Summing it up, and also referring to that sarcastic title I used – yes, it was demanding, yes, it was unusual, but after all, it was extremely inspiring, productive and satisfying as well. That’s why now, as we are more experienced, we’re eager to arrange the Tidio Design Sprint 2.0. Can’t wait to make it happen! 

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