28 Oct Phase 1: Understand
Phase 1: Understand
In the Understand phase, you will create a shared knowledge base across all participants. Using the Lightning Talk method, knowledge experts across the business are invited to articulate the problem space from business, user, competitor, and technological angles.
All Understand Methods
The “How Might We” Note Taking Method
The “How Might We” or HMW method is an essential Design Sprint methodology. At Google, we use it to capture opportunities during lightning talks and throughout the Understand phase. This method allows your team to take the insights and pain points they hear and positively reframe them. HMWs create an active framework for resolving the challenges.
It’s important to explain to your team how the HMW process works before Lightning Talks begin. Make sure the team understands they are looking for opportunities rather than solutions. Each word of the HMW phrase puts team members in the right mindset:
- “How” guides team members to believe the answer is out there.
- “Might” lets team members know their HMW statement might or might not work, and either possibility is okay
- “We” reminds team members that the Design Sprint is about teamwork and building on each others’ ideas
Do not spend a lot of time crafting or perfecting HMW statements. Instead, encourage your team to come up with as many HMW notes as they can, with as little self-editing as possible. This is an exercise in expansive thinking aimed at preventing the team from arriving at premature solutions. Here are a few examples of good HMWs:
- Use a thick Sharpie to write your HMW notes
- When you hear pain points, reframe them as opportunities
- Write only one HMW idea or opportunity per sticky note
- Aim for a quantity over perfection
Lightning Talks are a core Design Sprint method and a powerful opportunity to build ownership in the Design Sprint challenge. Plan and set up Lightning Talks before your Design Sprint begins. Depending on your goal or Deliverables, you may spend up to half a day on these talks. After all the Lightning Talks are finished, hold a HMW sharing session to capture and share all the opportunities your team has come up with.
Each Lighting Talk should last 10 to 15 minutes. Topics should cover the business goals, research, and a technology review, if relevant, and as well as anything else that may be pertinent to your challenge such as legal considerations, material reviews or a competitive analysis. Subjects vary depending on your industry or field
- Determine which topics are relevant for your challenge
- Identify speakers from your team for each topic and explain the scope and length of their presentation
- Consider creating a slide template for speakers to use and incorporating the content into your Design Sprint slides
- Follow up with each presenter to be sure they are prepared in time
HMW Sharing and Affinity Mapping
Affinity Mapping is a Design Sprint method that frequently follows Lightning Talks and is used to categorize HMW sticky notes into themes. This is a way to share the opportunities the team has identified thus far in the Sprint.
Before the team shares their HMWs and categorizing the sticky notes into themes begin, remind everyone that HMWs are intended to look for opportunities, not problems or solutions. At this stage in the Design Sprint, encourage the team to think broadly and explore as many angles as possible. It may take a little while for solid affinity categories to form as HMWs are shared. You may adjust categories as the HMW sharing session continues.
Keep mapping until you are satisfied that there are enough ideas in each category or theme. And don’t forget a miscellaneous category; some things just don’t fit, and these opportunities are important to consider along with all others.
- One at a time, each team member reads all of their HMW notes and places the sticky notes on the board
- Give each person three minutes to finish so they’re encouraged to be concise
- Team members can write down more HMW notes if they get inspired by what others share
- Wait until the third person has finished presenting before grouping HMW notes into categories. From there, add notes to the categories as each person reads. Tip: Do not wait until everyone has finished sharing to do this. You will have a big, unwieldy task on your hands”
HMW voting is a Design Sprint method used to prioritize identified opportunities. The exercise typically follows Affinity Mapping.
Once the team has completed Affinity Mapping and defined useful categories, the team votes on which opportunities they feel are most important. The main goal of voting is to highlight the most compelling opportunity areas for your users and help the team focus on the best ideas. The team is not trying to narrow down to one idea, but rather to quickly prioritize across all opportunities. Do not spend too much time on this activity.
- Each team member gets three votes, represented by dots they will add to the sticky notes they like
- People are allowed to vote on their own sticky notes
- It is okay to put more than one of your dots on the same note
- Vote on the individual notes, not categories
- The team will pay more attention to the sticky notes with multiple dots
- You’re not trying to narrow down to just one direction or category. Instead, you’re highlighting areas of emphasis to consider as your Sprint moves forward”
Experience Mapping is a common UX method where as a team you map out step by step the experience a specific user has within a problem space or context. This is slightly different then a Customer Journey Map. It is a helpful exercise to get the entire team to build empathy with the user’s motivations, needs and pain points.
An Experience Map is helpful if you are developing a new product, or if you have an existing product that you want to look for opportunities to improve. The important thing is that you stepping above your product flow and looking at the larger context a user is operating in.
- Start with the first moment the user has a need for example “I’d like to get in shape” or “I think I might want to make a job change”
- Then list out each step that they go through to try and fill their need currently
- Include descriptions for each step and highlight pain points
- You can also add in layers for platforms (Mobile, Desktop) or environmental factors (In the car, at home)
Time30-50 minsActivityGroupSprint TypeNew Product, Existing Product
Some Design Sprints may include user interviews in the Understand phase to inject first-hand user perspectives into the Sprint. User interviews rely on stories to explore emotions,understand user goals, and assess needs. The goal of the interview is to gain empathy for the user’s experience. Through that empathy, we can shape the design solutions to fit the use better.
For example, if you are working on a new project on digital watches, you might want to know how people currently keep track of time. What do they use? What do they like? What is a pain point?
Two other, similar interview types to consider for your Design Sprint are Expert Interviews and Stakeholder Interviews.
- Recruit the users in advance of the sprint and prepare interview questions
- Allow extra time depending on whether the interviews are in-person or over a video conference
- Craft a strong introduction for the user to clarify the context of the interview
- Concentrate on the user’s experience with your product
- Ask about their likes and dislikes
- Ask questions that will elicit user stories rather than yes or no responses
- Make sure ⅔ of the interview is devoted to the user talking with your team listening”
Time30-45 minsActivityResearcher & ParticipantSprint TypeNew Product
Empathy Building Exercises
Empathy Building Exercises are a Design Sprint method to get the team further into the user’s mindset by using the product on which the Design Sprint focuses. This helps the team develop ideas that better meet the user’s needs.
For example, if the Design Sprint is for a mobile app, the team might use the app to complete a specific task. Then, the team reflects on their experience in writing, paying particular attention to any pain points encountered, as well as any moments of delight.
- Choose a critical task for your product
- Set aside 30 min
- Break into groups of 2 or 3 people
- Complete the task and record observations
- Share all observations with the larger group
Time30-50 minsActivityGroupSprint TypeAll
User Journey Mapping
User Journey Mapping is a common Design Sprint method that maps out a user’s experience step by step as they encounter your problem space or interact with your product. This method enables the team to get into the mindset of the user and illuminates pain points, identifying opportunities to create new or improved user experiences.
Journey maps are often for a specific type of user, also known as a persona. If there many users or players involved in the Design Sprint’s problem space, multiple journey maps may be required, one for each user type.
How to start a journey map depends on where you are in your product cycle. If you’re doing a Design Sprint for a new product and/or you are in the early stages of the product cycle, you may want to explore a certain use case for your product and start your journey map with the user’s initial entry point into that use case. If you have an existing product and are further along in the cycle, you may start your journey map when the user is first introduced to your product, when they’re searching for your product, or when they are onboarding and/or setting up an account.
- Start with the user’s first step or entry point into your product experience
- Add each step in the journey until the user’s goal has been reached
- Include descriptions for each step and highlight pain points along the journey
Time30-50 minsActivityGroupSprint TypeAll