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Design Sprint Learnings with a Physical Prototype!


Starting the first design sprint for 2019 with Lapp Mobility, we already knew that the scope of the sprint was the development of a Generation-2-product. Until then, we always produced a digital prototype and used one of the standard software tools such as Adobe XD, Invision, Keynote or Webflow. We had already been prepared to use Photoshop as a composing tool to simulate this new product, however this sprint offered up a big surprise...


Some adjustments were indispensable, such as an extended expert interview exercise and an enlarged storyboarding – where we figured out that our original idea of digital prototyping shifted to the need of a physical prototype. I must add that this wouldn't have been possible without a "Bob the Builder" type designer in the team. So the storyboard exercise turned out to be an evolution of the concept and how to turn it into a physical prototype to be held in the hand.


The discussion (yes, in this case, I allowed discussion) took us some overtime, but in the end, we were all happy and excited with the results.


We started right after the session by buying some material for the next day to save time, and we were aware that creating the prototype we would need two days instead of only one. At the beginning of the third day, we started similar to a typical prototype day with a quick get-together of the team (we are three designers) and checked our prioritisation, which we voted on during the user flow exercise. We had to be very focused on the main points we wanted to test with the users for not getting lost. It took several iterations to get the prototype right. And on the evening of the first day it happened that our main piece, which we bought to integrate into the product, "exploded" while cutting out the case. After some hustle, we were able to repurchase this (rare) piece.


To make a long story short, we ended up after the iteration week with a second and evolved prototype for the second user interview, when we realised that our main idea failed.


Since this happened while the interviews were using our product in reality, this couldn’t be detected testing with a virtual one.

We added a third week to the sprint knowing that we were that close to a great solution regarding usability and business strategy. We quickly arranged another workshop day with 13 participants – purely experts and highly skilled – but too many for a standard sprint. Nothing was standard anymore, and since we were already on a deep dive, we decided to adjust the process. We began with the report of the interviews highlighting the tested weaknesses of the current concept and prototype. In the next step we built three teams with similar skillsets, and each group got the task to elaborate a new concept building on the existing prototype regarding the failures. Then each team had 3 minutes to present their ideas and, after a break, we started to evaluate the concepts.


We skipped the voting and started a discussion within our big group on a combination of the different concepts to create a striking one. We ended up with a clear decision and began a third prototype and user testing. This time we focused more on the B2B user to get a broader perspective on the results.


With this decision we accomplished a big step – not only regarding the usability and the B2B perspective but also (and this is special about the design sprint) regarding the business needs.


Our learning from the current design sprint was that as a facilitator you have the responsibility to create a situation where the user is able to answer the crucial questions. Whether you create this situation with a physical or a digital prototype – a service or a certain environment and whatever you are able to create in one day (or two days). One piece of advice I can offer with confidence is to make sure that your focus is on the experience you create for the user interview - the results of this might surprise you too!

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