153. Google Design Sprint and you - Part 2

April 21, 2020

It’s Tuesday morning at the Google Design Sprint. We all have our Crocs, our snacks, and our playlists... For part two of our series on the Google Design Sprint, we had Kirsten Nordine and Stephen Meriwether join us again to share all their experiences about day two, three and four!  We discuss how all the participants were introduced to each other's ideas on Tuesday morning using Post-it Notes and a dot voting process. From there we get into the way the winning idea was chosen and then fleshed out using a storyboarding process. Our conversation moves to day three which was devoted purely to prototyping, and Kirsten and Stephen talk about some great apps they used to get a version of their product working quickly without using code. They tell us about day four next, a phase devoted purely to user testing, and why it ended up being their favorite out of all the days. We wrap things up with some thoughts on the pros and cons of the experience, how it might run during social distancing, and where to learn more about the workshop’s model. The Google Design Sprint is a great way to get your team together and capture all the ideas that they may have if your organization is ever planning to introduce a new feature. Tune in to hear all about it!


Key Points From This Episode:


  • How the dot voting concept sketch game works to find a winner on day two.
  • Phase two in fleshing out steps between the three sketches of the winning idea.
  • Day three: task management and building a working prototype using different apps.
  • How non-participants were involved in the user testing task on day four.
  • What happens after the Sprint depending on how user testing went.
  • Favorite and worst moments from the experience.
  • How Stephen and Kirsten went about finding their target user audience to interview.
  • The rare joy of being able to see users test your product as a software developer.
  • Thoughts on how programs like this might be run during social distancing.

Transcript for Episode 153. Google Design Sprint and You - Part 2



[0:00:01.9] MN: Hello and welcome to The Rabbit Hole, the definitive developer’s podcast. Live from the boogie down Bronx. I’m your host, Michael Nunez. Our co-host today.

[0:00:09.3] DA: Dave Anderson.

[0:00:10.3] MN: Today is day two, episode two of the Google Design Sprint.

[0:00:15.5] DA: Starting with Day two of the Google Design Sprint?

[0:00:18.0] MN: Yes, exactly. Last week, we had Kirsten Nordine and Stephen Meriwether on the show to talk about the Google Design Sprint but the episode was jam packed with information so we’re delivering day two, three and four and episode two right now. If you haven’t heard the first episode, feel free to go back to listen to it because you’re jumping right into the middle of the Google Design Sprint and there’s a lot of information in the previous episode.

[0:00:44.4] DA: Yeah, there’s a lot of good context with history, how the Google Design Sprint was formed and there are so many activities on Monday that sound like a lot of fun – lot of doodling, Crazy Eights, heavy metal music and lunch, Crocs, you know, all that stuff.

[0:01:02.3] MN: All that good stuff. If you heard the previous episode and you got your Crocs and you got your snacks and you got that heavy metal playlist, listen on.

[0:01:13.8] DA: Yeah.

[0:01:13.9] MN: Tuesday morning. How does Tuesday go?

[0:01:18.8] SM: Monday ends by everyone doing,  it ends by this exercise called a three part sketch and so everyone’s sketching out their ideas and we actually don’t talk about those sketches before we leave. You finish sketching, you set it down and then you leave for the day and then on Tuesday, you come back and the first thing you do is you look at everyone’s sketches. You do this thing called an art museum.

You sort of act like you’re at an art museum, there are tapes on the wall, you walk around, you’re quiet, you’re not talking about it, you have Stickys with you and if you have any questions, you write your question down on a Sticky and stick it next to one of the concept sketches. The idea here is you just get a sense for what everyone else’s ideas were because you were so focused on your idea, you’re not really sure what everyone else is doing. You take some time to go around, pretend like you’re in an art museum and then you do some dot voting.

Which is a popular exercise, we did dot voting on Monday with how might we use in sprint questions, we’re going to do dot voting again with the three part sketches and so you spend some time again on your own, without saying much, putting dots on sketches or ideas that you really like.

And then, once that’s done, we sort of go around the room and we point out which of the features got the most dots. You're sort of doing a heat map and so you talk about – “I see a lot of dots on this particular feature, I think it’s because of XYZ, did anyone else vote for it for any other reason?” You go around, you look at all the three part sketches and ultimately, the decider with their huge dot puts their dot on the feature or the sketch that they like best that we’re going to eventually turn into a prototype.

[0:03:03.5] MN: Does the big dot like equal X amount of regular dots, supposed the decider really like one feature that got two votes over one that has five? Would the decider choose to vote two dot voted, sketch or a concept be the winner?

[0:03:23.1] KO: Whatever the decider puts a dot on is the winner.

[0:03:27.4] MN: Snap.

[0:03:28.1] DA: What a twist, what drama.

[0:03:32.0] SM: Yeah, the heat map is a way to show the decider like what the whole group is thinking but it doesn’t mean the decider has to do that, the decider still gets to decide.

[0:03:42.3] MN: “I like this one, I want this one.”

[0:03:46.9] DA: The power.

[0:03:48.3] MN: That’s the power of the decider right there.

[0:03:50.8] DA: Do they get to decide lunch too?

[0:03:56.2] KO: No, lunch is consensus.

[0:03:57.5] DA: Okay, yeah. You see where my focus is.

[0:04:01.4] MN: On the food, when do we eat? The decider has decided on a particular three-part sketch, is that correct? Because everyone’s gone around the room to talk about their particular sketches and everyone has voted on why they chose that sketch based on the features that may appear on the sketch and what not.

What happens after the decision is made?

[0:04:23.7] SM: Yeah, that’s a great question. On Monday, we aligned on what we want to do on Tuesday, the idea is that you align on what the product is and so you should be able to end the day Tuesday and everyone understands what it is that the product is going to do, how it’s going to look, what buttons are there going to be on the page, what copies on the page, what’s the interactions between the various different pages.

How will this product behave to let the user achieve their end goal. The next step is you do this thing called the user test flow and the story board. You take these three part sketches and you sort of dive into it a little bit more. You draw, you go up to your white board, you draw six big squares and you take whatever feature idea or whatever product idea, whatever. Sketch one.

And you try to figure out all the various steps in between. How exactly does a user find your product? How exactly – what is the first thing they see? How does that initial page drive them to an action? What’s the CTA.

If they click on the button, what’s the next page look like? And then, what’s the page after that and then ultimately, what’s the checkout page or what’s the final page that lets them achieve their goal. That’s what the storyboard is. We do this exercise before the storyboard to help us get in the mindset called a user test flow and so again, using as principle of working together alone, we each get six stickies and we sketch out what we think the six steps are.

Six to eight steps are, that we will eventually turn into a story board. The primary idea here and the storyboard takes the entire afternoon, it’s basically the entire day because it’s a pretty big exercise. The basic –

[0:06:18.9] DA: Sounds very detail oriented.

[0:06:20.4] SM: Yeah, definitely. But the idea is you turn your three part sketch, now you’ve aligned on how you might solve this particular problem and you break it up and actually go pretty detailed to solve it.

[0:06:35.5] MN: Man, that sounds intense. Tuesday is just as intense as Monday, a lot of stuff is going on. So you end the day with the storyboard and filling out in ways to – for this concept that has won the vote earlier that day. Tuesday, 5:00, you leave the office. Wednesday, I got my Crocs, got my snacks, I got music playing, preferably in AJ&Smart playlist that was on Spotify. Wednesday morning. What does that look like?

[0:07:07.9] KO: Wednesday is all about building a prototype.

[0:07:11.7] MN: We’re in, we’re building.

[0:07:13.4] KO: Well, it doesn’t have to be – involve coding. It can be something like a no code prototype that you’ve build using a tool like InVision which is what we use but it’s the whole team collaboratively working on that. So that means like actually doing a little bit of design, wiring up the prototype in whatever tool you’re using. Some people might be researching copy or writing copy for it and the whole day is spent getting that ready and it’s important to kind of give people tasks and decide what activities everyone’s going to be doing because otherwise, it’s easy for people to kind of check out.

[0:07:47.8] MN: I see.

[0:07:48.0] DA: You mentioned Invision was one of them?

[0:07:51.9] KO: Yeah, that’s what we used.

[0:07:53.7] SM: Yeah, the most recent project that Kirsten and I worked on together, we were actually building out a mobile app. The idea of the prototype, it is as realistic as possible so when you eventually do user testing, the users think they’re actually clicking around on a real mobile app so you can validate you idea and not some idealistic version of your idea and so, how do you get the most realistic prototype possible in only one day.

Well, you can’t write code, what we ended up doing is we used a combination of Figma which is a design tool and then InVision. What you can do is you can design screens in Figma and designing screens is actually isn’t that hard because we’ve already designed them Tuesday afternoon. Now it’s just turning those ideas into design.

You’re not actually doing much thinking, you’re just doing some – just actually creating the designs and then you export those designs from Figma, you put them in InVasion which is a tool that lets you build interactions between various pages, you wire up your interactions and so if you have a button in your design, you can in InVision say, if someone clicks on that part of the screen, take them to this other screen and so we built out – I think it was like seven or eight different screens for a mobile application.

Using InVision, using Figma and you could pull it up on your phone, you could download the InVision app on your phone, pull it up and it feels and looks just like a normal mobile app.

[0:09:27.6] DA: Are there like libraries of components that are like a little vanilla that you’re kind of cobbling together? I imagine it’s probably not like the most bespoke, pixel-perfect design.

[0:09:40.7] SM: Yeah, that’s a good question. The way that we actually did it at our last client was we had two designers around the team. The first designer was there to just put the buttons on the page and put the labels and pictures and the second designer went back and actually made it as pixel perfect as he could using the brand guidelines out of the clients.

[0:10:04.7] DA: Interesting. Okay, they may already have brand guidelines kind of like under their belt at this point.

[0:10:12.4] MN: You’re building the prototype, using tools like InVision, you mentioned Figma, that’s all of Wednesday. Okay. 5:00 on a Wednesday, we’re done, we did our prototype, everything’s looking spiffy. Thursday morning, 10 AM, I got my Crocks, I got my snacks, I got Spotify playlist playing right now. What does Thursday consist of? How does Thursday work?

[0:10:38.6] SM: Thursday is my favorite day out of the entire week. It’s user testing. Super fun. You spent this entire week aligning on a vision for your product, you’ve sketched it out and then you’ve built a prototype. Now, you get it in front of users and see what they think. They might love it, they might hate it, the whole purpose of the design sprint is to validate your business objectives.

This is where the actual validation happens.

[0:11:08.7] MN: Okay, then you’re getting user feedback from this design, the prototype that was built the day before and you then can use that, write some notes, figure out what could be done and that kind of stuff.

[0:11:22.2] DA: I remember walking on the Stride office and almost getting hooked by Kirsten at some point.

[0:11:28.8] KO: Yeah, I think I tried to grab you. I remember that.

[0:11:36.1] DA: What have happened if you did grab me successfully? I was kind of excited, I was like, “This seems cool, wait, something else happened.”

[0:11:44.2] KO: You would have had to go in a small room with Steven and he would have handed you his phone which had the InVision app on it and would have asked you, given you like a little bit of background for what you were doing as a user and then asked you to kind of use this prototype app that we had built, talking about your experience as you used it.

What was confusing to you, what you liked, what you were thinking at various points and then the rest of us, we’re in another room, observing all of this and taking a bajillion notes.

[0:12:18.2] DA: Interesting. You actually had like a video going?

[0:12:23.7] MN: Would you record the user as they used the app to kind of get their – like to capture like the emotion when they use the app?

[0:12:30.9] KO: Totally, yeah. I believe we were recording them actually using the app on the phone and then recording their kind of facial expression reaction to it as well.

[0:12:42.5] MN: Right because then you can see the interaction of the actual user when they use the phone to see like, “Oh they may have missed this button,” and that interaction and be able to take those notes and use them for later.

[0:12:53.0] KO: Yeah.

[0:12:53.4] MN: Oh man that’s awesome.

[0:12:54.5] DA: Was it like recording their actual clicks and like the things that they are doing.

[0:13:01.2] SM: So we were actually using Zoom on mobile, which lets you do a screen recording and so that’s how we recorded how they were interacting with the application and then we had a camera set up a few feet away from the actual interview that was recording the conversation and their facial expressions and whatnot.

[0:13:20.2] DA: Cool.

[0:13:20.9] MN: Oh man that’s awesome. So then that throughout the whole day you’re just inviting all sorts of users to use the app capturing their movements on the app physically on the phone, you are capturing their body language, you are asking them questions as this is happening for all of Thursday. 5:00 we all leave the office. Friday, I got my Crocs, I got my snacks and I am the only person in the office because it only takes four days to run this, is that correct?

[0:13:49.9] KO: Kind of.

[0:13:53.0] MN: So I guess throughout this whole process, what comes after the design sprint when we got all of this information now and how the user would interact with this product that we spent the past couple of days building up. What happens next?

[0:14:07.3] SM: Yeah that is a great question. So the whole purpose of the design sprint was you have some business objective that you need to accomplish and you have a product idea for how you might solve that. We want to validate whether that idea was useful or not and so we get that validation on Thursday, we understand – did our users find this solution intuitive? Did our users think that this was a problem worth solving at all?

Maybe they were like, “You know I actually don’t run into this problem,” and so what you do after design sprint really depends on what happens during the design sprint. If you left the design sprint and you found that this was definitely a problem that users were experiencing and your solution was super intuitive, well now you can actually build software and you can write actual code because you have de-risked this product idea.

But if someone, if the users find that the problem does exist but the solution wasn’t very intuitive, well you wouldn’t want to go write software for that. So you would do a modify design sprint and you tweak your prototype and you do more user interviews and then you can do that a couple of times until you arrive at a solution that the team feels really good about.

[0:15:23.5] DA: So you may go back to storyboarding or user test flow and from day two and go forward from there and see where you end up.

[0:15:34.6] SM: Exactly and so the ultimate goal is to arrive at a place where you’ve de-risked this idea and you can start writing actual software. Hopefully that only takes one iteration, it might take a couple of iterations but you sort of continue doing that in a modified fashion until you feel really confident that this is going to work and then you spend the resources to actually build it out.

[0:15:58.4] DA: Then you bring in the big guns. So I am curious, since you have done this a couple of times now in some different situations or even Kristen just doing it the first time, I am curious, what do you think went really well? What was the most fun part about it and what made you try to change or approach differently next time?

[0:16:20.2] KO: I would say the most fun part of it, I totally agree with Steven is the user testing. I think actually watching somebody use something that you have prototyped is like the best feedback you could possibly have and also as a software developer, I don’t get to do that very often. So that was a pretty amazing treat for me that day and you learn so much. You learn so much even from three or four people. Like, we were able to adopt the prototype in small ways that were really helpful in getting people through the process.

[0:16:57.7] MN: Right I think even the fact that you were able to get to the building of the prototype and the user testing so fast in four days is probably like really cool too.

[0:17:07.0] DA: Yeah, it is like a big culmination like all of your efforts finally pay off.

[0:17:13.0] SM: Yeah and I would add things that didn’t go so well. We were in a room that didn’t have a lot of natural light and it turns out when you’re in a room, the same room for a really long time, you need a lot of natural light to feel sane at the end of it and so that is something I would certainly do different moving on.

[0:17:30.8] DA: So was it kind of green tinge like the matrix or something like that?

[0:17:36.3] SM: It was the matrix except like it smelled like Sharpie.

[0:17:40.9] MN: Oh, were you in a small room too? You guys were hot.

[0:17:43.0] DA: No ventilation?

[0:17:43.8] MN: You got hot boxing Sharpies right now?

[0:17:46.9] KO: I would say we were in a room that wasn’t quite ventilated enough for all of us the notes we were taking with Sharpie.

[0:17:54.7] MN: That yeah, make sure you have windows if you’re running this thing because whooph!

[0:18:00.1] DA: I don’t know why but I just remember those like scented markers like the one that smelled like liquorish, the liquorish and cherry smelling room.

[0:18:08.8] MN: There you go.

[0:18:09.9] KO: I don’t know if that would be better.

[0:18:12.8] MN: That is the decider’s marker is probably going to be that cherry flavor one.

[0:18:16.5] DA: The big cherry.

[0:18:17.9] MN: The big cherry yeah.

[0:18:20.3] SM: And then the last thing I would add to what didn’t go so well is so we mentioned we threw all of these user testing on Thursday and the idea behind user testing is you find users that most represent who your target audience is and so if your target audience is waiters at restaurants then you don’t want to find some Joe Shmoe off the street, you want to actually interview waiters who would be using your software.

And so the question is how do you find those users and there is a lot of different ways to do that. We did a little bit of tapping into our own network. AJ&Smart recommends taking an ad on Craig’slist and we also paid people who we interviewed. So we gave them I think 50 or $75 Amazon gift cards and the thing that I would do differently is we didn’t start thinking about who are users were until Tuesday evening and since the week goes by so fast, you need at least five people to interview on Thursday. You need to start sooner than that to actually start finding these people.

[0:19:21.4] DA: So like you interviewed very specifically well thought out people in addition to Stride people or are Stride people also part of the well thought?

[0:19:33.9] KO: There was definitely some overlap, there was some Stride people who were definitely part of the target audience. So that was lucky for us.

[0:19:42.0] DA: Okay they’re like – nice.

[0:19:45.1] SM: Yeah, so what we ended up doing was we put together some criteria of who our target audience is. We put that in a Google form and then we send that out to a lot of people and we had 30 or so people respond to the Google form for five interview slots and so we were able to really pick who was our target audience based on their answers.

[0:20:05.5] DA: Oh cool, great.

[0:20:07.3] SM: And that’s it. It really is. It is a long week but it is a lot of fun and as Kirsten mentioned I would second – as software developers, we usually aren’t this involved in the product building process and so seeing users click on the things that you are working on that you worked on the previous day is just a super, super fun and exciting experience.

[0:20:30.3] MN: So given the current climate that we’re in, in the COVID-19 unfortunately at the moment, we cannot be in the same room with my Crocs and my snacks and we want to practice social distancing because we want to be responsible individuals. What are some alternatives that one may want to use when they still want to do the Google Design Sprint but cannot be in the same room to do so? Any thoughts?

[0:21:00.3] KO: Yeah, definitely and I’ve been in the middle of kicking off another project where we’re starting every single thing remotely. So a tool that I have been using that works really well for collaborative exercises that involve dot voting or Post-is is called Miro. It is like a virtual whiteboard where you can add Post-its, write things, draw things, create various sections so I think that would probably work well as a stand in for some of the activities. Zoom has been great –

[0:21:31.9] DA: I was poking a little bit about Miro the other day. It looks really cool, I am looking for an excuse to use it. I imagine it might be helpful if there are some templates for some of these exercise to facilitate them.

[0:21:46.3] MN: It’s awesome and you mentioned Miro and Zoom is always good to do the face recording that was mentioned before as well. Well it’s awesome. So you’re not limited to being in the same room if you wanted to. There are many ways to run the Google Design Sprint.

[0:22:04.3] KO: Yeah, I think it is easier in the same room. There is definitely overheads to remote but there is definitely ways around it.

[0:22:11.7] MN: We got some time ahead of us but we’ll – in the future, we’ll be able to be in the same room responsibly.

[0:22:18.9] DA: Build that, smell all the other Sharpies. One day.

[0:22:23.3] MN: Meanwhile I’m good. Where can one learn more about the Google Design Sprint? I mean I am fired up to go to a client tomorrow to want to run this, although yeah I got to wait until Monday though. So I will be sure to do that on Monday, the next Monday I am going into I am just going to say that we need to do a Google Design Sprint but I need to learn more about it first. Where can we get started?

[0:22:47.8] SM: I think a good starting point is Jake Knapp who is the creator of the Google Design Sprint, wrote a book called Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in just Five Days. That book covers the Design Sprint 1.0 and what we talked about is the Design Sprint 2.0 but it goes over the same exercises. The primary difference is that some of them are given more time than in the 2.0 but it is a super awesome resource to really go heads deep into the design sprint.

Just to throw some others out there, Google Ventures where Jake Knapp was working when this process was formalized has a web page that goes pretty deep into it. If you go to gv.com/sprint you can find it there and then AJ&Smart who we’ve talked about a lot in this podcast has an online course that you can purchase. We did that here at Stride, I highly recommend it. It is a phenomenal course.

[0:23:44.7] MN: Awesome. That was gv.com like Google Ventures dot com slash sprint, right? Awesome.

[0:23:52.8] DA: Cool, yeah we will put a link to all of that in the show notes so along with some good tunes that you can blast while you’re coming up with ideas at a responsible volume I guess though.

[0:24:05.1] MN: Yeah, so the next time I guess your organization is planning to introduce a new feature or something brand new, feel free to look into the Google Design Sprint. I feel like this is definitely a way to get everyone into a room, capture all the ideas that individuals within the organization may have and actually come up with a product that users will want to use and figure out ways to make their lives better and be able to use it so that they can go on with their lives. I am actually really excited to see how this affects future product creations in the future. This is really cool stuff.

[0:24:43.3] DA: I appreciate having you all in the show, it’s fun times.

[0:24:46.3] SM: Thanks for having me.

[0:24:47.8] KO: Yeah, thanks so much you guys.


[0:24:50.1] MN: Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a five star review and help developers like you find their way into The Rabbit Hole and never miss an episode, subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast. On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and my amazing co-host, Dave Anderson and me, your host, Michael Nunez, thanks for listening to The Rabbit Hole.


Links and Resources:

The Rabbit Hole on Twitter

The Design Sprint

Stephen Meriwether on LinkedIn

Kirsten Nordine on LinkedIn


Jake Knapp






Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in just Five Days

Google Ventures Sprint Information