Design Sprint Facilitator, Designer, Usability Testing Moderator.
Project Manager, Product Owner, Creative Director, Digital Marketing Manager, Project Coordinator, 2 Copywriters, 2 Web Designers, 2 Developers.
In April of 2019, Glidewell Dental kicked-off an ambitious project to rebrand the company, starting with the website and related digital properties. One of the largest challenges of this initiative was bringing together individuals and teams that did not typically work together - how could some 30-odd people collaborate and agree on a single solution?
I had been a big fan of Jake Knapp’s Design Sprint ever since his book came out. I had run a couple of design sprints in the company already, primarily to evangelize for good product thinking and to show the value of rapid prototyping and feedback from real users. In this case, it seemed like the ideal activity to bring everyone together and focus on a singular goal. Coincidentally Jake had recently run a condensed version of his design sprint with the New York Times which usually takes a week in only two days.
Stepping in as the design lead on the project, I proposed the idea of the design sprint to the rest of the team. In one of my previous attempts to run a design sprint, I had been given a single day to do it. I asked Jake Knapp at the time for advice on how to go about doing this:
Thankfully for this time around, I was able to split the sprint across a few days. To start, I pulled out a smaller group for three hours the day before the sprint to tackle the mapping activities. To further speed along the process, quotes and research from customer interviews earlier in the year were brought in to help with the “How might we” portion.
By lunch we had come out with a map, goals, and questions for the rest of the sprint team to tackle tomorrow.
For the day of the sprint, I was able to narrow the group down to about 20 people stretching all groups - developers, copywriters, coordinators, product owners, product managers, and designers. I leaned heavily on the book as well as AJ&Smart’s Design Sprint 2.0 - a lot of the activities in 2.0 are more specific and not as vague in terms of what participants need to do.
The sprint day covered the activities from sketching to deciding. Thanks to a well-prepared slide deck and Spotify playlist for focusing on tasks, the sprint ran smoothly and on time. At the end of the day, the deciders chose two concepts to pit against each other.
To finish off the prototype, I ran a story mapping session with the two creators of the concepts along with a decider and subject matter expert. After the first pass of mapping the steps, we noticed that the two concepts were complimentary and merged them into a single concept. I put together an interactive prototype to work with our testing scenarios and then prepared for user testing.
Due to a couple of no-shows, we ended up with only three usability test participants. We did our best to have everyone that participated in the sprint view the tests and then came together afterward to share our findings with some affinity mapping.
Ultimately while the final concept was one that everyone supported and loved (and tested well), the feedback we gathered from our testing was even more valuable.
We realized that the concept itself needed to support much more complex scenarios - scenarios that would require more research and understanding and not something that would be able to be executed within the timeframe of the website redesign effort.
The time I put into organizing and running the sprint was worth it. In the beginning, one of the bigger problems was getting away from job titles and just focusing on solving the problem. The design sprint seeks to put everyone on equal footing with their ideas. The use of dot voting really helped emphasize this when it came to decisions and making sure that everyone feels heard.
The one change I would make would be in the final testing portion. We waited a couple of weeks after the sprint was completed to do the testing, and most of the momentum was lost by then. It was also difficult to get all of the sprint participants to observe the testing, which is where the "a-ha" moments come when you see people's reactions to your ideas.
Sprints are not easy to organize or facilitate, but it’s really something to see people working together on a common goal and seeing their ideas come to life in such a short amount of time.