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How does a design sprint solve design challenges

Discover the significance of design sprints in creating exceptional products. Explore the extended advantages beyond product design on our website.

Written by

Robert Hufton

Director & UX Consultant

As a leading UX and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) agency, we've successfully conducted numerous design sprints, yielding invaluable insights that empower us to create superior products for our clients. Based on our collective expertise at Higher Ground, the primary goals of a product design sprint are to:

  1. Foster team alignment: Unite the team around a shared vision or concept through an inclusive, collaborative process.
  2. Map user journeys: Envision all potential user paths within a new app or service before it exists.
  3. Solve problems swiftly: Tackle challenges and reach decisions efficiently through rapid problem-solving techniques.
  4. Validate with prototypes: Develop a prototype for testing assumptions and gathering feedback from targeted users.


Is your team and product ready for a design sprint? Ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Problem Focus: Do you have a specific problem that needs a solution?
  2. Complexity: Is the problem complex with no clear or immediate resolution?
  3. Collaboration: Do you need a cross-functional team to collaborate on this problem?
  4. Investment Value: Is the problem worth investing time and resources in to find a solution?
  5. Innovation Need: Do you need to be innovative to keep up with a changing market?

If you answered "yes" to all 5 questions, a design sprint could be the perfect solution for you. At Higher Ground, we tailor design sprints to your specific needs, helping you solve complex problems, foster collaboration, and drive innovation.

Get in touch with us to discuss how a design sprint can unlock your team's potential and create groundbreaking products.

Design sprints are a powerful tool used by teams worldwide to tackle complex challenges head-on. Whether it's creating a new product, transforming existing systems, or developing innovative business plans, design sprints offer a structured and collaborative framework to drive results.

Why Design Sprints Work

  • Flexibility: Design sprints are adaptable to diverse environments, even amidst the challenges of remote work. You don't need a fancy agency or a state-of-the-art office to conduct a successful sprint.
  • Customizable: There's no one-size-fits-all approach. At Higher Ground, we tailor each design sprint to meet the unique needs of your project and industry. For instance, we adapt techniques like "Crazy 8s" to suit specific software design scenarios.
  • Proven Success: As a leading UX agency, we have a track record of running successful design sprints that deliver tangible outcomes for our clients.

What You'll Learn

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the following:

  • The Fundamentals: Understanding the core principles and structure of design sprints.
  • Adaptation: How to customize design sprints to fit your specific goals and challenges.
  • Real-World Examples: Case studies showcasing the power of design sprints in action.
  • Building Lean Teams: Strategies for creating efficient and collaborative design teams.

Unlock Your Team's Potential with Design Sprints

Whether you're a seasoned professional or new to design sprints, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools to harness their power. Discover how design sprints can transform your approach to problem-solving and drive innovation within your organisation.

“The ‘greatest hits’ of business strategy, innovation, behavioural science, and more: packaged into a step-by-step process that any team can use.”

Jake Knapp: Sprint


“The sprint gives teams a shortcut to learning without building and launching”

A few design sprint falsehoods

“I don't need a design sprint - we know what this new app needs to do - just give it to the designer to work out.”

This statement, I believe, is incorrect and misguided. Collaborating on new ideas in the world of digital design is essential. But the process doesn't need to take up huge amounts of team members’ time and resources.

While some large agency design sprints can take 5+ days to carry out, often the more effective design sprints can be performed in only 1-2 days with a lean team of 4-6 people. You might think that sounds a lot. But believe me it’s time well spent, helping you to decide which direction to go. defining core ideas and safely testing new or adapted products, services or apps without fear of failure or attracting any negative business impact.

What are the main benefits of running a design sprint?

  1. Gather and harness amazing ideas from brilliant people
  2. Develop something new and unique… don't copy... create!
  3. Eliminate bias with focused, collaborative decision making
  4. Discover better solutions to complex business challenges
  5. Solve a whole range of problems using a versatile system

Gathering amazing ideas from brilliant people

One of the biggest benefits of holding design sprints are to uncover amazing ideas from brilliant people. During most design sprints we hold short 30 min sessions for HMW (How Might We) & LTG (Long Term Goals). These initial discovery sessions are to glean ideas from people. Using key stakeholders from different business areas helps to take in and consider a wide section of the target audiences.   

People invited to contribute should be highly relevant and useful to the project. Attendees should be a mix of process experts and end users. We usually invite or suggest the attendance of the following people to our design sprints:

  • The Decider. They call the shots. Whether that’s the CEO or business owner, they should be involved in the discussions since their decision will influence the design sprint objective and the final product outcome
  • A Facilitator. The time keeper who will keep track of progress during the design sprint and ensure that everyone is playing their part. They need to remain unbiased when it comes to final decision making 
  • Marketing & Sales. The person most skilled at crafting your company’s messages and who will be responsible for selling the product solution
  • Customer Service. The person who interacts with your customers regularly and truly understands who your users are and what they need
  • Design Lead. They design the product and help to realise the vision
  • UX/UI Designer. They are in the best position to explain what can be built and delivered and act as a conduit between ideas and technology
  • Financial expert. They can explain how much the project will cost and how much the company can expect to receive in return (ROI)

By using a broad range of participants you get the best chance of gathering great ideas and achieving solid, usable outcomes from people with differing views and objectives. Often this leads to additional design solutions because in complex apps there is always a huge range of end user areas to consider.

What’s the LTG goal or objective?

At the start of the sprint, you need to set a long term goal or LTG. This should keep everyone moving in the same direction. Once established, it’s important to turn the goal into actionable items by rephrasing problems into questions.

What are your users’ pain points?

After you’ve defined your long term goal and sprint questions, start by mapping out your customer journey. It’s important to understand who your customers are, so conducting user research in advance is vital.

What is empathy mapping?

Empathy mapping helps to identify any key themes and problems affecting your users based on their actions, behaviours and feelings captured throughout the user research and expert interviews.

What is a customer journey map?

Customer journey mapping helps to visualise a customer’s end to end experience with your product or service. This allows the design sprint team to narrow down a broad challenge to specific targets for the sprint outcomes.

What is a swim lane diagram?

Combining the Empathy map with the Customer Journey map will create a Swim Lane diagram. This diagram serves to create a heat map of the problems that exist within each step of the customer journey.

How might we turn problems into opportunities?

The ‘How Might We’ or HMW method is used to turn existing problems into opportunities. For example, if the problem is that “users struggle to know what service option to choose”;  then the ‘How Might We’ could be “how might we help a user better understand the differences between our services and which service would most benefit them?”

Develop something new and unique… don't copy... create!

As a User Experience Agency we know another huge benefit of a design sprint is creating something unique rather than copying other projects or designs. It’s too easy to steal from another app, rename it and copy the whole thing… but it’s far more likely to fail as the original company that designed it has far much more knowledge about the specifics and moreover it’s been tailored for a different, specific audience. 

Stakeholders and owners of the project need to understand that making a bespoke product for their particular user-base is the only way to go and by commissioning a design sprint they will be distilling the long-term goals of the project and these create specific user stories which help it become a unique and desirable product with a valid target market and clearly identified user.

A further benefit of running a design sprint is that the collaboration process is great fun! It brings people together to explore ideas that would not have happened in isolation.

What is the 4 step sketch?

The four-step sketch method encourages a design sprint team to create solutions in an effective manner whilst iterating on each variation along the way.

  • Notes. Start with twenty minutes to take notes of the goal, opportunities and inspiration you’ve collected earlier on.
  • Ideas. Spend another twenty minutes drawing out rough ideas to form your thoughts.
  • Crazy 8s. Take your strongest solution and sketch out eight different variations of it in eight minutes, known as the ‘Crazy 8s’ exercise.
  • Solution sketch. Draw a detailed end to end solution for the problem in the next thirty minutes or more.

By bringing people together we can explore all the ideas and prioritise which ideas are the most important. Collaboration helps to nurture a unique, brand-specific, inclusive platform which also creates a sense of community.

Collective decision-making processes enable happier, healthier and more productive teams, creating a stronger direction going forward. Quite often you will find that in the design sprint many interesting and important notes arise which can be saved and used for later purposes such as sales messaging, customer support or help tips on the resulting app.

Solve wide ranging problems using a quick, versatile system

There are many benefits to using a design sprint: from animating a promotional video to restructuring a project team. For example, you can use them to sketch out a new project; design a prototype; create a marketing strategy; develop a shared vision or plan a product development process. All improving your Conversion Rate.

When traditional efforts and brainstorming sessions run out of fuel and the results prove tame and ineffectual, a design sprint may be the boost you need to surge ahead of the pack and carry you past the finish line in pole position.

If you would like to find out how a design sprint could help you discover a product's potential or even work on a new solution for your website or existing app, talk to Higher Ground today.

We apply lean, effective and innovative UX & CRO, designed for success.

Useful resources

Here are a few design sprint links we think are excellent.

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