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. 😅



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Madhav Malhotra

Madhav Malhotra

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