When it comes to fintech product development (whether that's an app, site, or anything else), businesses often get bogged down in the details. Sure, design methodology classes exist where you can learn how to think about the design process. But, what about actually executing your product design?

This is where many fintechs get lost. They spend weeks, if not months, trying to rally their team around a simple product execution. Here's the thing. It doesn't matter if you've baked the fanciest DevOps methods or agile app infrastructure into your design processes, without the proper design execution framework, you're going to be wasting time and money.

To combat this, some companies decide to use Design Sprints. So, what is a Design Sprint, why is it important, and what are the differences between the major Design Sprint frameworks?

Great question! Let's answer it.

Image result for meme great question
I was invited to that party in the back. Epic night!

Understanding Design Sprint

The main purpose of Design Sprint is to reduce risks associated with product launches. Born out of GV (Google Ventures) and popularized by Jake Knapp's book, this rapid testing model leverages UX to glue forward thinking to basic design principles.

Of course, there have been 3-and-a-half quadrillion variations of Design Sprint since it was first bred into the business world. No surprise there. A Google thinktank strategy that's adopted by the masses and twisted around. Mind-blowing!

But, the principles guiding Design Sprint are solid. Picture your typical product roadmap. It's probably roughly thrown together by a web of semi-related team members over the period of weeks, months, heck, I've even seen FinTechs that are sitting on a year old roadmap. Yikes!

With Design Sprint, you get through your entire product framework in ONE WEEK. Yeah. One. Week.


Let's take a look.

But, before we jump in, it's important to note that this is the first Design Sprint strategy that hit the market. There are some different versions out there — one of which we'll cover in a moment.

The 5-Step Design Sprint Process

Design Sprint is useful for a variety of business needs. It could be used for product launch. But, it could also be used for new platforms, adding new features, updates, or even to tackle issues (e.g., low engagement, low CTR, etc.). In fact, some businesses use it to form completely new business models.

Here are the 5 days pioneered by Google.

  1. Day 1 (Map): This is where you start to figure out your core metrics, your value prop, buyer's journey, target audience, etc.
  2. Day 2 (Sketch): Next, you start thinking about how you're going to create that product or fix that problem. The great thing about this phase is that you're not looking for feasible solutions. You're just brainstorming anything-and-everything. Could you actually create a card that has 10% cashback on all purchases? Probably not. Are 50-foot tall "super chickens" the answer to world hunger? I'm guessing that's a miss. But, hey, you tried! Sort out the vitamins and candy — keep the painkillers.
  3. Day 3 (Decide): Sure, the super chickens are out. But, all of the ideas that were decent get shoved into this phase. This is where you start storyboarding them all and group thinking capabilities.
  4. Day 4 (Prototype): Now you can design the actual prototype. Since this whole process is one week long, you're prototypes probably going to be a pile of garbage. That's not the point. You can bring it back to the workshop for fine-tuning later. Or, you could always Design Sprint it again. Just don't get trapped in some kind of crazy cycle.
  5. Day 5 (Test):  It's user testing time. In this phase, you take that prototype and throw it at a bunch of users, ask them tons of questions, and figure out if you have a winner. Using Facebook ads for this can be a killer move.

That's it! This whole thing takes place in a week! I'm pretty sure this started out as a phase-per-day. But, since the middle phases take about 10x longer, it's been adjusted a few times.

The Variations

Now that you know the Google steps, let's take a look at one of the newer Design Sprint programs —Design Sprint 2.0 developed by AJ&Smart and approved by the one-and-only Jake Knapp.

Well, obviously it has one less day. But, there's a little more to it than that.

I'm going to warn you. A&JSmart's version is more like a hackathon on crack. So, if you decide to go this route, you're team needs to be ready to get collaborative and intense.

Let's split this up by days.

  1. Day 1: On the first day, you're mapping out the week's framework and you're sketching down some potential solutions or ideas.
  2. Day 2: On the second day, you're going to pick the best solution. Plus, you may want to prototype some features of your other ideas. For instance, one of those solutions that didn't make it into the prototype phase may have a good component. You can certainly prototype just that component.
  3. Day 3: Now, you're prototyping. Again, this is a prototype. You're not creating an entire app; you're building a prototype framework that you'll actually design once you're with your team.
  4. Day 4: All that's left is to find users and test the prototype out.
  5. Day 5: Drink beer. Lots of beer.

While the differences here may seem minuscule, the two programs are actually quite a bit different. AJ&Smart's Design Sprint is faster, more aggressive, and probably better suited to the modern rapid app cycle. The problem, of course, is that you have to have the right kind of culture to take advantage of it.

This isn't 1990s IBM stuff. We're talking 2019 disruptive app cycles. So, you already have to be onboard with some of the more progressive work mentalities to get the most out of anything that's going to speed you to a prototype.

But, if you have the team and culture to really take advantage of a 4-day sprint, you can get a prototype out-of-the-door FAST. Plus, you can always repeat a sprint — or even do both versions — to hyper-polish your framework.

Honestly, AJ&Smart's solution is usually better for FinTechs, simply because losing out on your team for a week is a pain. Plus, most FinTechs are well suited to faster sprints, since they've got so many things on their plate.

Final Thoughts

If your FinTech is struggling with designing customer-centric solutions — whether that's products, updates, or even problems — the Design Sprint is a great way to light a fire under your business. It will get the ball rolling and then shoot it out of a cannon. Not only does Design Sprint help you rapidly solve problems, but it puts those problems under the microscope of your target audience.