How a Design Sprint can Accelerate Your SaaS Product Development Process
by Nicolas Jacobeus, on 14 March 2019
For a startup, timing is everything. If you spend too long formulating your ideas, you run the risk that your competitors beat you to market - or worse, your idea becomes obsolete. Alternatively, if you spend too long developing your product before launching, you risk running out of money, and crippling your business right from the start.
Fortunately, it's possible to speed up your SaaS product development process - and mitigate the risk of being outpaced by competitors - without burning through your cash reserves.
What is a Design Sprint?
The concept of a design sprint was developed by Google Ventures. This five-day process is designed to answer critical business questions through design, prototyping, testing, and getting feedback from users. On the first day, you start by developing your understanding of the problem you're trying to solve, and by day five you've built a prototype and are sharing it with real users.
A design sprint is a fast way to test out your fundamental hypotheses, and receive feedback from real users that can help shape the next stages of development, accelerating the SaaS product development process by minimising time spent discussing and debating different options and approaches, and maximising time spent testing and learning from real users.
How a Design Sprint can Fast-Track Product Development
A design sprint offers a real opportunity to fast-track your startup's product development process by incorporating user feedback and insights right from the start. It offers four key benefits:
1) Test Key Hypotheses Quickly
Rather than developing your product in your own personal bubble, a design sprint enables you to test out the assumptions that are at the core of your startup idea. You'll be able to get an understanding of whether the problem you're trying to solve is worth solving, and whether the solution you're developing is a good way to solve this problem.
2) Develop a Clickable Prototype in Just 5 Days
Instead of spending months developing the first usable version of your product, you cut that time down to just five days. Granted, it will only be a prototype rather than an initial version, but it's ideal for testing your assumptions quickly so you can move forward with product development.
3) Get Customer Feedback After Just One Week
By developing a prototype in just a few days, you have something tangible to share with users before you start actually developing your product. This customer feedback can be used to guide and shape your product roadmap, even before you've written a single line of code. This approach ensures you're building a product that meets users' actual needs, rather than one based around what you think users want.
4) Learn as Much as Possible
A design sprint creates a structured process for soliciting feedback from users, giving you the opportunity to learn loads about their perceived problem and how your product will solve it. This keeps your focus on the user - rather than your product - at all times, ensuring you're building something that users actually need, rather than something you think you should build guided by little more than emerging trends and your gut feeling.
What's the Alternative?
Some founders won't see the value in running a design sprint, preferring to jump straight in to building the first version of their product. In practice, this means spending 3-6 months working hard to develop your product, based only on your untested assumptions.
While it may initially feel more productive, as you're building the product rather than simply talking about it, this approach is much riskier than a five-day design sprint. You run the risk of developing a product that doesn't solve a real-world problem, or one that's packed with features that deliver minimal value to the user - at a cost of up to 6 months' worth of development time and money.
When you reach that point, it becomes clear that a five-day sprint incorporating feedback from real users would have been a valuable use of your time and money.