Visual design language + Design Sprint

Agile frameworks have completely re-structured the business world. 71% of businesses interviewed by the research firm Capterra had adopted some form of Agile methodology, as of 2018. That numbers bound to be even higher, now.

Agile methodologies are usually heard about in regard to technical fields like software development. You can find Agile strategies in every kind of modern business, however. Tech leads the charge and other industries follow.

The “sprint” is one of the core principles of Agile and Scrum. It’s designed to get the most out of your team while diminishing downtime and improving collaboration. This approach is tailor-made for the design process.

But what does a sprint look like for design and development? We’ve compiled a deep dive into the design sprint, to let you know how you can implement Agile principles into your own design process.

Your Guide To The Design Sprint

Design sprints are essential for design and development teams who are working with limited resources. They help you to make the most out of all of your assets (including your team.) They ensure that your development process is continuously optimized and efficient by blocking off very short chunks of time.

Let’s start by looking at what a design sprint is. Then we’ll show you can how you can integrate the design sprint process into your mobile app development process.

What Is A Design Sprint?

Sprints are the active component of the Agile framework. To put it simply then, a design sprint is a short burst of concentrated effort from your design and development team to create or redesign a product. Design sprints are perfect for when you’re trying to get a new product to market!

The design sprint is an adaptation of the methodology from the Agile framework. It was first adopted by Google Ventures, Design sprints can be conducted in person or by remote teams.

If you’re doing a design sprint with a remote team, however, it’s a good idea to have an experienced Sprint Master lead the process. Design sprints typically last between 2 to 5 days.

The reason for the range of dates is due to the different types of projects out there. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of investing a full five days in a design sprint. That’s one of the reasons for adopting an Agile approach to development in the first place, as it allows you to be more flexible than top-down business configurations.

Teams that are experienced in design sprints can often complete the tasks in as little as 48 hours. That means that if you’re pressed for time and need something done as quickly as possible, you should put not only your best developers but also those who are most comfortable and familiar with Agile to ensure the work is completed on time.

The most important part of adopting Agile frameworks is discovering the process that works best for you. Give yourself some extra time when you’re first starting to conduct your own design sprints. Maybe allocate the full five days and use that time to really analyse what works and what doesn’t. This will help you refine your process for design sprints in the future.

Benefits Of Design Sprint

Before we begin to delve into how to conduct your own design sprint in earnest, let’s stop and take a look at some of the advantages of doing so.

Problem Solving

Every design project begins with a problem. It could be a problem with the market – that there aren’t enough turkey timer apps, for instance. Or it could be a problem on the company side like not enough people knowing of your existence.

Running a design sprint ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal. Designing an app is a collaborative effort by nature, involving many different aspects of your organization. Getting every on-board and working towards the same goal not only increases efficiency and productivity, but it also boosts morale by facilitating a team-building mentality.

Reduces Risk

Let’s face it – our businesses need to be as competitive as possible if we hope to stay afloat in today’s saturated business world. It’s not the right time to take big gambles on releasing untested products and services out into the world.

Agile methodologies help you and your design team really think through projects before taking them to market. They also sub-divide time into small, manageable chunks. This means you’re less likely to waste a lot of time and money on a project that isn’t going anywhere.

Speed

Design sprints are organized around short, fast bursts of intense concentration and productivity. This kind of output isn’t sustainable in the long-term as you’d burn out your design team in no time. They only need to keep up this intense level of focus, discipline, and productivity for 2 to 5 days for a design sprint, though.

This can boost your organization in other ways, as well, some of which might be rather unexpected. No one likes to feel like they’re wasting time or working towards meaningless goals. A feeling of meaningless can rot your company’s morale from the inside out.

Sometimes, it can be preferable to work hard and really push for a set amount of time. Perhaps you might reward your design and development team with some paid time off when the design sprint’s over and done with. It can also help your team to feel more capable and confident when they see what they’re really able to achieve.

Flexibility

The ability to be flexible and adaptable is one of the biggest benefits of running a design sprint. It’s literally in the name. It’s called Agile, after all.

Running design sprints helps to foster an attitude of collaboration and capability among your design team. You might consider rotating the teams that members work with, for instance, if that’s at all possible. This can even lead to some unexpected revelations, at times. A database administrator might think of something that just might not occur to your sales or marketing teams, for example.

Definitive Solutions

Even the most pragmatic, business-minded person doesn’t always think things through. What might seem like a concrete, thorough idea on the whiteboard can turn out to have more holes than a golf course when we sit down to write the code.

This is due to the fact that even the most analytically-minded person might not always think like an engineer. Engineers have a way of breaking things all the way down. Laying things out for a design sprint will help everyone on your team get on the same page and thinking like engineers.

The Design Sprint Team

Part of what makes design sprints so effective is that everybody taking part knows exactly what their role is and what they need to be doing.

Design sprint teams work best when they’re relatively small. Between 5 and 8 members is the preferred size to get the most out of each member. For maximal results, seek out a mixture of experience levels, skills, and personality traits.

The most important trait of a design team member is their adherence to the system itself. You need every member to be 100% engaged and on-board for the duration of the 2 – 5 days of the design sprint. Anything less could theoretically derail the entire process.

These are the roles that make up the common design team.

Sprint Master

In Agile, this role would be the Scrum Master.  The Sprint Master is the one that’s responsible for overseeing the entire design sprint. They’re the ones who create the overall goal we discussed earlier.

Ideally, a Sprint Master should be at least familiar if not an expert in user experience (UX). They should also be conversant with project management which is possibly the most essential skill for implementing a successful design sprint.

Sprint Designer

If the Sprint Master is the architect and engineer of the whole design sprint, the Sprint Designer would be the foreman and construction leader. They’re the ones who will take the bird’s eye view of the Sprint Master and break it down into small, actionable steps that individual team members will implement.

Sprint Engineers

To continue on with our construction metaphor, if Sprint Designers are the foremen of the design sprint world, Sprint Engineers are the electricians and HVAC technicians. They’re the ones who are going to be doing the bulk of the work to bring your design project to life.

Coders are going to be Sprint Engineers on your design sprint team. So will front-end developers as well as graphic designers.

Product Managers

Product managers are the liaison between your design team and your customers. They’re the ones who will translate the input and desires of the general public to more technical language for the design sprint.

Experts

Experts could be seen as mentors or gurus for your design sprint team. They should be masters or trusted leaders in one of the disciplines your project is engaging with. Perhaps they’re seasoned coders or maybe they’re marketing masters.

Experts will be the ones to help lead and guide your design team to safer waters should they happen to get stuck in the shoals.

Preparing For The Design Sprint & Defining Your Visual Design Language

Since the design sprint itself is so concentrated for such a short period of time, you should do as much preliminary work as possible before the sprint begins in earnest.

The good news is that defining your visual design language achieves this same result. Let’s take a quick look at the visual design language before diving into preparations for your design sprint.

What Is Visual Design Language?

Visual design language is your brand’s visual identity. It encapsulates everything from logos and icons to the colors you’ll use on your website. Think of it as the style guide for your company’s visual components.

Visual design language is especially important in today’s business world when customers expect such a consistent experience across all of a company’s channels.

The good news is that this can play into your design spring strategy, as well. Considering that you’ll be using the elements in your brand’s visual design language for a while, you should set apart some time to focus exclusively on these elements.

Once they’re done, though, you’ll be able to re-use those elements in all of your design projects, including your design spring.

Now let’s dive into how to prepare for your design sprint!

Phase 1

The first phase of your design sprint should be creating a template. Think of this as the outline for your design project. The Sprint Master will fill in individual steps of the template as you go.

Phase 2

The second phase of the design sprint process is assembling the team. If this were a heist movie, this would be where the Sprint Master goes to each member’s respective village to ask “Are you in?”

This is also the phase where your experts will deliver “lightning talks,” which are short, focused presentations on what the design project is about.

Phase 3

The third step in the design sprint process is known as the “design audit.” This is where someone – often the experts – will conduct all of the preliminary research and due diligence before the design sprint begins in earnest.

This is where all of the market research needs to happen. This is also when you’ll want to confer with your customers and clients to get an idea of how they feel about your potential project or idea. You need to gather all of this data ahead of time as you won’t have time for research or gather data once the project begins in earnest.

Phase 4

The fourth phase of preparing for your design sprint is to prepare the space. If it’s at all possible, it’s a good idea for your entire design team to be working in the same room. This facilitates greater communication and collaboration between various team members. This is extra important since you’re working with such small teams for such a short amount of time.

Congrats! You are now ready to begin your design sprint in earnest. To go back to our construction metaphor one last time, doing all the preliminary work as thoroughly as possible is like lying the foundation for your new building.

If handled correctly, the floor will be smooth and level and nothing will be warped or out of place. You’ll be able to lay down your posts as soon as the ground is dry, and have a bright new shining building – in this case, a new app – faster than you ever thought possible!

Are You Looking For Mobile App Development?

We don’t all have the time to master every skill. This is especially true of today’s business world when new disciplines are emerging faster than anybody can keep up. You might have a killer idea for a new app or digital tool that you’re sure will catch on like wildfire but just don’t have the technical skills to realize your vision.

If you’re looking to work with a development team well-versed in the latest tools and techniques, like how to run a design sprint, get in touch with us today and let us know how we can help you realize your vision.

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