Lessons from my First Design Sprint

1. Wait, What’s a Design Sprint?

  • UX (User Experience) Design: the process of meeting people’s needs/wants by better understanding them.
  • Users: the people you’re trying to understand. 🔎👨
  • User Persona: A hypothetical person that represents your users. You decide your persona’s demographics, goals, preferences, challenges, etc.
Visual made by me.
  • Define: we choose to help a specific group of people with a specific problem (ex: provide childcare during cancer treatments for mothers)
  • Ideate: we find LOTS of ideas to solve the chosen problem.
  • Prototype: we choose one of the ideas we found to make a ‘first draft’ of.
  • Test: we show the ‘first draft’ to the people we’re trying to help. Get feedback on upsides/downsides. And improve the solution. 💪

2. How Did You Learn About Cancer Patients?

I’d never known a cancer patient before, so I started from scratch. I luckily found plenty of online interviews, a cancer survivor, and two caregivers who kindly shared their experiences with me 🙏

  • Also, I only knew nonprofits/survivors in developed countries. But online, I found an interview of a cancer patient in Nigeria. Her stories of cultural taboos and financial barriers were shocking. 😮 But since 85% of the world lives in low and middle income countries — they’re all too ignored.
  • Ie. Online interviews helped me understand the needs of a more diverse group of patients.
  • Still, there was one issue: a lot of online interviews were blogs/written articles. Written transcripts of interviews just don’t express the same level of emotion as video/audio notes. 😕
  • You can still identify user problems, but it’s hard to prioritise their most important problem. See for yourself (written interview, video interview)
I analysed the overall benefits/drawbacks of existing solutions. (details)
I also analysed the design of digital existing solutions. (details)

3. Which Problems Did You Find?

With all that research, I was able to make a user persona for my target group: mothers that had been newly diagnosed with cancer.

Again, this is a fake person meant to REPRESENT the real mothers whose interviews I saw (details)

4. Which Solutions Did You Think Of?

So now, the fun part! 🎉 Finding solutions to help the mothers with cancer!

  • Still, I think I should‘ve reminded Sasha to focus on quantity of ideas over quality. I noticed she was often filtering ideas before writing them down. But this is for later in the process, not now!
  • I could even start by intentionally asking my team-mates to come up with stupid ideas. 😁
Details if you want to read them
Details if you want to read them

5. Which ‘Rough Drafts’ Did You Make?

Now that I had 3 types of solution to pursue, which one to go deeper into? As before, I needed more secondary research to prioritise! This is an example of how issues in earlier parts of the process cause problems down the line.

After answering 4 questions, the site gives patients a personalised resource collection. (Source)
  • So far, I’ve created some quick ‘mockups’ of how a solution could look.
Logo from the Cancer Support Community.

6. Key Lessons

So that’s the overview of my process! I’m grateful to have explored such a ‘human’/vulnerable problem while also learning about design sprints.

What Went Well

  • Looked for people to interview early
  • Found existing interviews online to get more diverse perspectives
  • Did a competitor analysis to understand what’s been tried
  • Made a user persona to refer to several times
  • Had team-mates ‘say back’ their understanding of the user persona’s problems and existing solutions’ limitations before brainstorming
  • Used constraints to make the problem more approachable 😤
  • Got diverse team-mates to challenge assumptions on how to solve the problem.
  • Filtered ideas by what’s neglected, feasible, and impactful.

What to do Differently

  • Don’t save learnings from interviews in just written transcripts. Too little emotion.
  • Do secondary research to prioritise one user group, the user group’s problems (and thus, which solutions to work on)
  • Remind team-mates to aim for quantity > quality when brainstorming. Or even ask them to come up with stupid ideas. 😅

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Madhav Malhotra

Madhav Malhotra

Cofounder at The Plastic Shift. Learning how to create a sustainable planet. Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/madhav-malhotra/